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Fortran

FORTRAN

FORTRAN (FORmula TRANslating) is a programming language historically used in math, science, and engineering programs. It is recognized as the first high-level programming language. High-level programming languages are much closer to human language than machine language, through which computer hardware accepts commands. High-level languages eventually get translated to a primary, numeric machine language consisting of zeros and ones.

FORTRAN was developed by John Backus at IBM's world headquarters in 1954, and was released in 1957 after three years of development. IBM was trying to make computers more user-friendly to increase sales. FORTRAN achieved this goal because it was easy to learn in a short period of time and required no previous computer knowledge. It eliminated the need for engineers, scientists, and other users to rely on assembly programmers in order to communicate with computers. Assembly code is a form of programming language that is closer to, and more complicated than, high-level languages.

FORTRAN's strength lies in its ability to perform numeric computations. However, in Computer Languages, Backus explained that most people incorrectly assumed FORTRAN's main contribution was that it allowed programmers to replace machine code with algebraic formulas, while in reality the language's main benefit was that it mechanized the organization of loops within programs, a device that became critical to many scientific applications.

After its initial release, FORTRAN evolved through several different versions. FORTRAN II was introduced about one year after the original, followed by FORTRAN III in 1958 and FORTRAN IV in 1962. To avoid confusion, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) issued a standardized version of FORTRAN in 1966. Because this version had some limitations, Canada's University of Waterloo developed a version for students called WATFOR (WATerloo FORtran), followed by an enhanced version known as WATFIV. ANSI later introduced FORTRAN 77 around 1977, which cleared up some of the uncertainties surrounding its 1966 version and improved its compatibility as well as its ability to manipulate nonnumeric data and process files stored on removable disk and magnetic tape. In the early 1990s, ISO and ANSI developed FORTRAN-90.

Although FORTRAN is often referred to as being somewhat of a relic, computer science students were still taught the language in the early 2000s for historical reasons, and because FORTRAN code still exists in some applications. According to Computer-Literacy.com, in 1999 Fortran was still widely used in the aerospace and automotive industries, as well as government and research institutions, utilities and energy companies, and within various scientific communities.

FURTHER READING:

Appleman, Daniel. How Computer Programming Works. Berkeley: Apress. 2000.

Computer Languages. Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books. 1986.

"ComputerLiteracy.com Inks E-Commerce Pacts." BizReport, March 9, 1999. Available from www.bizreport.com/news/1999.

"FORTRAN." Ecommerce Webopedia, March 26, 2001. Available from e-comm.webopedia.com.

"FORTRAN." Techencyclopedia, March 7, 2001. Available from www.techweb.com/encyclopedia.

Leff, Lawrence F., and Arlene Podos. Computer Programming In FORTRAN The Easy Way. Woobury, New York: Barron's Educational Series Inc. 1985.

SEE ALSO: Programming Language

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Fortran

Fortran (or FORTRAN) Acronym for formula translation. A programming language widely used for scientific computation. The first version, Fortran I, was issued by IBM in 1956, to be succeeded by Fortran II in 1958. This in turn was succeeded by Fortran IV, also known as Fortran 66 when it was standardized by ANSI. This became the workhorse of the scientific world until it was replaced by Fortran 77. This version retained the flavor of the original Fortran but introduced some more modern concepts as a gesture towards structured programming. The latest version, Fortran 90, appeared after long and acrimonious discussion, and incorporates a large number of new capabilities. It incorporates most of the concepts and facilities of modern languages, though not always expressed in the most elegant manner.

Fortran programs use a notation strongly reminiscent of algebra (hence formula translation), and it is thus fairly easy for the scientist to specify a computation. Fortran II introduced the important idea of independent compilation of subroutines, making it possible to establish libraries of scientific subroutines. The efficient code produced by the early Fortran compilers did much to ensure the acceptance of high-level languages as a normal mode of use of computers.

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Fortran

For·tran / ˈfôrˌtran/ (also FORTRAN) • n. a high-level computer programming language used esp. for scientific computation.

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FORTRAN

FORTRAN: see programming language.

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Fortran

Fortran (or FORTRAN) (ˈfɔːtræn) Computing formula translation (a programming language)

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