(j3.2006) (SC22WG5.5650) Interesting history article

Van Snyder Van.Snyder
Mon Jan 25 15:54:53 EST 2016

There's an interesting article by Martin Greenfield about the history of
Fortran 66 and Fortran 77 standard development at


It was presented at and appeared in the proceedings of the 1982 AFIPS
National Computer Conference.

Therein, he quotes from his daughter's college Fortran text:

        After you have learned some of the language, you will show off
        your sophistication by knocking its lack of elegance.  Everybody
        does.  After you learn a little bit more, you will appreciate
        that it is the way to really get your work done.

He continued "FORTRAN has for most of [its] life been the blue-collar
worker of the programming language set.  What it lacked in savoir-faire
and style, it returned in cost effectiveness."

One of the things I hadn't appreciated was that a standard based upon
Fortran II was completed before Fortran 66, which was based upon Fortran
IV.  Although it was the first completed draft of any programming
language standard, it was never published.  It was realized that Fortran
II and Fortran IV were incompatible.  Instead, a subset of Fortran 66,
called Basic Fortran, was developed by deleting parts of the Fortran 66

An interesting point is that the standard was expected to specify
conformance of programs, and thereby specify a minimum of what
processors were required to do.  "Some nonconformance is encouraged."

It's clear, nonetheless, that neither Fortran 66 nor Fortran 77 were
simply standizations of existing practice (at least not in Greenfield's

The birth of the interpretation process, and in particular the arduous
process we still use today, is described.

Altogether, an entirely interesting article.

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