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The History of FORTRAN I, II, and III

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129319D
Original Publication Date: 1979-Jul-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-05
Document File: 20 page(s) / 75K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

JOHN BACKUS: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

This article discusses attitudes about ";automatic programming,"; the economics of programming, and existing programming systems, all in the early 1950s. It describes the formation of the FOR TR`9N group, its knowledge of existing systems, its plans for FORTRAN, and the development of the language in 1954. It describes the development of the optimizing compiler for FORTRAN I, of various language manuals, and of FORTRAN II and III. It concludes with remarks about later developments and the impact of FORTRAN and its successors on programming today.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1979 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

The History of FORTRAN I, II, and III

JOHN BACKUS

(Image Omitted: 1978 Association for Computing Machinery, Inc. Reprinted by permission from "Preprints, ACM SIGPLAN History of Programming Languages Conference, Los Angeles, California, June 1-3, 1978," ACM SIGPLAN Notices, Vol. 13, No. 8, Aug. 1978, pp. 165-180. Also to appear, with added discussion, in the complete Conference Proceedings to be published as an ACM Monograph by Academic Press. Author's address: IBM Research Laboratory, San

Jose, CA 95193.)

This article discusses attitudes about "automatic programming," the economics of programming, and existing programming systems, all in the early 1950s. It describes the formation of the FOR TR`9N group, its knowledge of existing systems, its plans for FORTRAN, and the development of the language in 1954. It describes the development of the optimizing compiler for FORTRAN I, of various language manuals, and of FORTRAN II and III. It concludes with remarks about later developments and the impact of FORTRAN and its successors on programming today.

Key words and phrases: programming language, history, compilers, optimization, language design, compiler design, FORTRAN, programming language manuals CR categories: 1,2, 4.2

1. Early Background and Environment

1.1 Attitudes about automatic programming in the 1950s

Before 1954 almost all programming was done in machine language or assembly language. Programmers rightly regarded their work as a complex, creative art that required human inventiveness to produce an efficient program. Much of their effort was devoted to overcoming the difficulties created by the computers of that era: the lack of index registers, the lack of built- in floating point operations, restricted instruction sets (which might have AND but not OR, for example), and primitive input-output arrangements. Given the nature of computers, the services which "automatic programming" performed for the programmer were concerned with overcoming the machine's shortcomings. Thus the primary concern of some "automatic programming" systems was to allow the use of symbolic addresses and decimal numbers (e.g., the MIDAC Input Translation PROGRAM [Brown and Carr 1954]).

But most of the larger "automatic programming" systems (with the exception of Laning and Zierler's algebraic system [Laning and Zierler 1954] and the A-2 compiler [Remington Rand 1953; Moser 1954]) simply provided a synthetic "computer" with an order code different from that of the real machine. This synthetic computer usually had floating point instructions and index registers and had improved input-output commands; it was therefore much easier to program than its real counterpart.

The A-2 compiler also came to be a synthetic computer sometime after early 1954. But in early 1954 its input had a much...