This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Saturday Rave: Fortran.

On this day sixty years ago the new language Fortran was revealed to an appreciative audience for the first time.

It's still being used all over the world today.

So, who are these, er, Forts? Have we been invaded by aliens or something?

Well, yes, in a way. Fortran is one of the very first languages for talking to computers. Now, may I say here that although I've read the whole of the Wikipedia article about Fortran I still haven't got much idea how it works, but Cecil E Leith called Fortran the 'mother tongue of scientific computing' so it must be important. Fortran is particularly good for getting computers to do sums, I understand, and especially those to do with astronomy, weather prediction and things like computational fluid dynamics, which (though this is almost certainly wrong) I assume is something to do with the way some tea pots always drip no matter what you do.

Fortran was developed by IBM, and soon took over from hand-coding because it was about twenty times quicker. One of the developers, John Backus, claims he began to develop it because he didn't like writing programs.

The end of the Wikipedia Fortran article has a section entitled Humor, and as I aim to keep things as light as possible in The Word Den, this is one of the jokes therein:

In Fortran 77 (Fortran has had many versions) variable names beginning with the letters I-N has a default type of integer, while variables starting with any other letters defaulted to the real, although programmers could override the defaults with an explicit declaration. This led to the joke: 'In Fortran GOD is REAL (unless declared INTEGER).

I'm tremendously full of admiration and gratitude for the people who speak Fortran and use it for the public good, but, oh, I'm so glad I gave up working with computers and started writing novels.

Word To Use Today: Fortran is short for Formula Translation.

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