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March 19, 2007 8:49 PM   Subscribe

John W. Backus, creator of Fortran, RIP
posted by alms (30 comments total)
<comment> ::= "."
posted by octothorpe at 8:53 PM on March 19, 2007 [8 favorites]

A computer without COBOL and Fortran is like a piece of chocolate cake without ketchup and mustard.
posted by isopraxis at 8:55 PM on March 19, 2007 [5 favorites]

Bon Voyage creator of mustard.
Good luck with the MCP in the sky.
posted by isopraxis at 8:58 PM on March 19, 2007

Ah, should also have mentioned BNF.
posted by alms at 9:01 PM on March 19, 2007

But his scores on Army aptitude tests were so high that he was dispatched on government-financed programs to three universities, with his studies ranging from engineering to medicine.
When a tour guide inquired, Mr. Backus mentioned that he was a graduate student in math; he was whisked upstairs and asked a series of questions Mr. Backus described as math “brain teasers.” It was an informal oral exam, with no recorded score.
He was hired on the spot. As what? “As a programmer,” Mr. Backus replied, shrugging. “That was the way it was done in those days.”

It sounds like a serendipitous series of events, but how great that the Army and IBM recognized his talent.
posted by Frank Grimes at 9:02 PM on March 19, 2007

c Hello, world.
Program Hello

implicit none
logical DONE

DO while (.NOT. DONE)
10 format('Goodbye, world.')
posted by furtive at 9:03 PM on March 19, 2007

Obligatory Futurama reference
posted by Rhomboid at 9:15 PM on March 19, 2007

He was also great as "The Millionaire" and the voice of Mr. Magoo.

RIP, Lovey.
posted by sourwookie at 10:11 PM on March 19, 2007

posted by mrbill at 10:22 PM on March 19, 2007

<comment> ::= "." | ". " <comment>
posted by orthogonality at 10:31 PM on March 19, 2007

DO 10, I=1,10
PRINT *,'.'
posted by Samizdata at 11:20 PM on March 19, 2007

Ahhhh, FORTRAN... the first language I actually got paid to write programs in. The big iron! Ah, my lost youth! :-D

er, sourwookie, you aren't confusing John Backus with Jim Backus now are you?

posted by lupus_yonderboy at 11:59 PM on March 19, 2007

Long live John W. Backus.

Long live FORTRAN.

Meanwhile, *BSD continues to decay.

Nothing short of a cockeyed miracle could save *BSD from its fate at this point in time.

For all practical purposes, *BSD is dead.
posted by Smart Dalek at 3:43 AM on March 20, 2007

RIP Mr. Magoo. =(
posted by Eideteker at 3:54 AM on March 20, 2007

posted by RussHy at 4:08 AM on March 20, 2007

posted by eriko at 4:24 AM on March 20, 2007


Fortran still amazes me at how flat-out fast the code runs.
posted by scruss at 5:00 AM on March 20, 2007

er, sourwookie, you aren't confusing John Backus with Jim Backus now are you?

ya think? ;)
posted by sourwookie at 5:24 AM on March 20, 2007

10 format('Goodbye, world.')

I once wrote a program with a line like that in Fortran IV. The printer used the first character of the string as a carriage control.

So the printer executed a 'skip to channel G', and since there was no channel G, I ran a whole box of 14 7/8x11 through the 1403.
posted by MtDewd at 5:40 AM on March 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

"God is REAL, unless declared INTEGER."
posted by dragonmage at 8:25 AM on March 20, 2007

“You need the willingness to fail all the time,” he said. “You have to generate many ideas and then you have to work very hard only to discover that they don’t work. And you keep doing that over and over until you find one that does work.”

posted by Skygazer at 8:31 AM on March 20, 2007

1965. My first computer course was based around FORTRAN II. It set my career path.
posted by davebarnes at 8:50 AM on March 20, 2007

I still remember the 1969 thrill of finding a Fortran compiler report, with no errors listed, along with my stack of 80 column punch cards, and my program output listing, in my mailbox in the student computing services center at what is now the University of Memphis. I loathed Fortran, and came, slowly to love it. And I still do, both.
posted by paulsc at 10:03 AM on March 20, 2007

My first computer language was Fortran. Good god that was a long time ago. And look where this has taken me to. Thank you John Backus, may you rest in peace.
posted by seawallrunner at 12:15 PM on March 20, 2007

I took a FORTRAN course in 1980. We would do our assigned programs on punch cards, submit the stack of cards to the computer center, and pick up our resulting printout the next day. Taught me to look really hard for syntax errors, etc.
posted by neuron at 12:32 PM on March 20, 2007

Backus has died, but Fortran lives on. The 2003 revision supports object orientation and C interoperability. The 2008 revision will support the Co-Array Fortran extension, which is about 100 times easier than MPI.
posted by Araucaria at 12:57 PM on March 20, 2007

posted by the Real Dan at 2:43 PM on March 20, 2007

posted by Many bubbles at 6:15 PM on March 20, 2007

I loved my Fortran 90 class in college. Even though everyone said it was worthless and outdated by then (1994). I just reveled in the beautiful logic of it. RIP.
posted by orangemiles at 11:33 AM on March 21, 2007

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