The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, & Iconoclasts

As I pointed in a previous post, I love John D Anderson’s style of mixing history with the technical subject.

Similar thing happened with me in Fortran. When I seriously began Fortran programming, I found this superb historical account of the birth of Fortran. Its available at inventors.about.com, as a book extract from the book “Go To: The Story of the Math Majors, Bridge Players, Engineers, Chess Wizards, Maverick Scientists, & Iconoclasts” by Steve Lohr

The extract explains the beginning of FORTRAN. Takes you back to late 1953 where it all began. It’s a nice read if you are interested in Fortran.

Preparing an engineering or scientific problem so that it could be placed on a computer was an arduous and arcane task that could take weeks and required special skills. Only a small group of people had the mysterious knowledge of how to speak to the machine, as if high priests in a primitive society. Yet there were some heretics in the priesthood, and one of them was a young programmer named John Backus. Frustrated by his experience of “hand-to-hand combat with the machine, Backus was eager to speed things up and somehow simplify programming. I figured there had to be a better way; he recalled nearly five decades later at his San Francisco home, which overlooks the Golden Gate Bridge. You simply had to make it easier for people to program.

History of fortran

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