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

Lionel, Steve steve.lionel
Mon Jan 25 16:13:37 EST 2016

This is great! Thanks, Van!  I especially loved the closing paragraph:

    Until this revolutionary development makes its appearance,
    interest in FORTRAN will remain. There is the story of the
    farmer who was asked by OTIe of his eager turks why he didn't
    replace his old burro with one of the younger, sleeker, more
    highly tuned and spirited steeds. He looked at the young hand
    with wrinkled and wizened eyes and said, "When you have
    something yeh gotta be sure gets done, yeh goes with what you
    knows." So be it with FORTRAN.


-----Original Message-----
From: j3-bounces at mailman.j3-fortran.org
[mailto:j3-bounces at mailman.j3-fortran.org] On Behalf Of Van Snyder
Sent: Monday, January 25, 2016 3:55 PM
To: sc22wg5 <sc22wg5 at open-std.org>
Subject: (j3.2006) (SC22WG5.5650) Interesting history article

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 standard.

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 view).

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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