Known as the first successful high level programming language, Fortran opened the way in its domain. With over 40 years of activity, Fortran is still used today, being the top language in scientific and industrial programming. So what made this programming language so special?
Initially named Speedcoding, the software was invented in 1954 for IBM by John Backus and commercially released in 1957. He even received the highest national engineering prize for its invention, the Engineering’s Charles Stark Draper Prize, in 1993. Fortran was the first software language independent from computer hardware, making programmers lives easier and creating new concepts (precedence, commented code, formatted input) still used today in numerous programming languages.
What made the software different and immediately accepted was its design to reduce by a factor of 20 the number of programming statements needed to operate a machine. Furthermore, the constant improvement of the language and its numerous versions, adapted for IBM computers made it highly popular. The software was, as such, widely adopted by scientists who were writing numerically intensive programs.
During the ages, Fortran has been used in more domains, from video games and IT to military applications, research, chemistry or air traffic control systems. Its advantages are still appreciated today, the software being still in use and thought in many universities.