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Institutionalization of FORTRAN: The Early History of FORTRAN Publications

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000129437D
Original Publication Date: 1984-Jan-01
Included in the Prior Art Database: 2005-Oct-06
Document File: 2 page(s) / 17K

Publishing Venue

Software Patent Institute

Related People

DANIEL D. MCCRACKEN: AUTHOR [+2]

Abstract

During the period of the FORTRAN project, I was programming and teaching programming for General Electric, mostly in assembly language on the IBM 701 and 704. I visited John Backus sometime in that period, at the old 56th Street office, but we have met so many times over the years that I can't remember now exactly when that was.

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THIS DOCUMENT IS AN APPROXIMATE REPRESENTATION OF THE ORIGINAL.

Copyright ©; 1984 by the American Federation of Information Processing Societies, Inc. Used with permission.

Institutionalization of FORTRAN: The Early History of FORTRAN Publications

DANIEL D. MCCRACKEN

(Image Omitted: Author's Address: D. D. McCracken, 160 Cabrini Boulevard, New York, NY 10033)

During the period of the FORTRAN project, I was programming and teaching programming for General Electric, mostly in assembly language on the IBM 701 and 704. I visited John Backus sometime in that period, at the old 56th Street office, but we have met so many times over the years that I can't remember now exactly when that was.

I learned FORTRAN during my brief stay at the New York University- Atomic Energy Commission Computing Center, working from IBM manuals that I can no longer locate. People in those days sometimes sneered at IBM manuals, but I certainly had no problems with that set.

In 1960, after I went out on my own as a consultant, my first major writing job was to prepare an expository manual on the Honeywell Algebraic Compiler. This was a close relative of FORTRAN; the compiler was written by the Computer Usage Company under the direction of Asher Opler. I learned a great deal about FORTRAN and writing from that experience, which made it much simpler and faster to write my own book a little later.

The rest of what I would like to say I think I can best organize by quoting a few sentences from letters I have found in my files from the period.

A letter dated November 1, 1960, addressed to Walker G. Stone, my editor at Wiley at the time, proposes that I write a book on FORTRAN. The sentence that interests me says, "For the proper book, I have no difficulty imagining an initial sale of 15,000 in the first two years, and a steady sale of 5000 per year after that for the indefinite future." There is an undated comment on the side in my handwriting that says: "Well ... ," as though I thought that I had been pulling the wool over Walker's eyes. Part of my recollection of that period is that Walker had a lot of trouble selling the idea of a FORTRAN book to Wiley management. The question was, "Why would anyone pay for a book when IBM gives manuals away free?" In recent correspondence, Walker says it wasn't really that bad. There was simply a feeling that the price would have to be rather low and that there would need to -- be high volume and a lot of promotion to compete in such a market. (The initial price was $2.95. Have you bought a computer book lately?)

The next letter is a copy of a sort of purchase order that I wrote to the manager of data processing at a General Electric department where I ran a couple of programs in FORTRANSIT on their IBM 650. I agreed to pay $46 per hour for the machine time. My most vivid recollection of that occasion is going up to Pittsfield, Mass., with a couple of decks, trying to run them, and getting a message that must have been something...