Fortran, a 70-year-old computer language, lands back on the top 20 most popular list

Originally published at: Fortran, a 70-year-old computer language, lands back on the top 20 most popular list | Boing Boing


It’s a sign of how old Fortran is that its name is a portmanteau of “formula translator”, meaning that it’s a programming language named after the idea that there could be such a thing as a programming language.

I studied computer science in a previous millennium, and not only used Fortran but also programmed in Cobol using IBM 129 keypunch machines. I think the preceding class poked their code in a clay tablet with a stylus.


hmm… i wonder if it gets these ‘votes’ in the form of python numerical libraries?

and is gaining popularity thanks to the massive need for (scientific) number crunching. Welcome back Fortran,

It was my first language, Fortran, and it’ll always be near and dear to my heart for all its computed GO TO’ing out and in of the middle of computed DO loops … I[J][K]=42


Lucky you. I started engineering school in 1983, and they had just retired the punch card reader the year before. But we still had to learn Fortran.


FORTRAN was the language of Real Programmers. I was hired right out of high school to port the optical interferogram analysis tool FRINGE from a CDC CYBER 176 to a PDP/11. It had several overlays of both code and data in its various stages of execution. If filled one box of cards, which translated to one 8" floppy disk.
The unnamed COMMON statement was the most intriguing aspect to me. A block of memory that got redefined in every subroutine!


I’m pretty sure Fortran would have been more useful over the intervening time then knowing how to handle a deck of punch cards. (for the record I started CS in 1987, and did learn Fortran, but we didn’t use punch cards…and the Fortran class was actually a cross listed business class! They had nicer labs then the CS labs, so the most value I actually got out of that was knowing which labs to use in later CS classes!)


I worked for years as a High-Performance Computing sysadmin at a university and Fortran was a staple on the clusters. It’s never gone away, it’s just too good at its specific use case and every scientist (at least the ones who use HPC resources) is very familiar with it.

I’m only good enough to fix minor syntax issues myself. Prefer Python for my own use.


From the article:

It isn’t based on e.g., downloads of fortran compilers or libraries so just compiling using numpy/scipy would probably not count. If you were posting questions on stack overflow about how to add python interfaces to other fortran libraries that might count.


First job out of college was maintaining billing software wrote in Fortran.

Not exactly the ideal application for Fortran. It was all spaghetti code and could take days to make even a simple change.


Oh, it’s very code in here.


the turtle VAX!

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I wonder if this assertion still holds water?

“The determined Real Programmer can write FORTRAN programs in any language.”
– Ed Post, Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal , 1982.


What? No FORTH even in the top 100?


Assembly language at Number 8? Up from 14 last year.

What’s everyone writing for that needs such low-level programming - are we back to squeezing the last clock cycles out of a processor?

And does this mean the Amiga is coming back?


This brings fond memories of learning my first language, Fortran, on an Apple II running CP/M. High school in the 80s was so cutting edge. LOL


Mining cryptocurrencies?


I think the Visual Basic that’s on the list is VB.NET.

“Classic Visual Basic” is there because of all the people writing GUI interfaces in Visual Basic to track an IP address.


Loved FORTRAN. Back in the day we used strict F77 compliant FORTRAN that was truly host independent and device independent. Our code would compile and run on any brand machine that our customers might have. Back then it was DEC and IBM and Prime and CDC and Cray. Our code would compile and run on all of them.


I couldn’t stand FORTRAN. Glad it is coming back to punish a new generation of coders.


See the ‘Numerical Recipes in {insert language name}’ series for further examples of this! :rofl:

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