[TUHS] Happy birthday, John Backus!

Clem Cole clemc at ccc.com
Tue Dec 4 06:37:04 AEST 2018

On Mon, Dec 3, 2018 at 3:21 PM Paul Winalski <paul.winalski at gmail.com>

> Fortran was being devised at the same time that Chomsky, et.
> al. were doing the research on formal languages.  Essentially, Fortran
> syntax was devised before computer scientists knew better.  I suspect
> COBOL has similar issues.
I agree.  I think you nailed about "not knowing any better.'   And it
really is amazing how well it has endured.  Like a lot of things, the first
guys do make errors because they really have not yet eccounter the longer
term issues - they are just trying to solve the problem they had in front
of them.  On another fron, just think the issues in networking that were
made in the 70s.  Same thing.   But IP/TCP works and works really well and
has endured.

You folks in the compiler team and in particular the Fortran crew, did a
great job over the years.   I used to kid your boss asking of there were
Fortran developers than customers in our DEC days; but all kidding aside. And
he knew I knew.  I have always respected those folks.   As I said, they
paid my salary for so many years.

I think it's sad we don't teach Fortran to 'modern' programmers in a
comparitive languages class.   The students should know what is good, why
it has lasted and marvel at what a wonder system people devised in the late
1950s and how well Computer Scientists have over the next 60 years kept it
strong and relevant.  Then you can teach them, Rust, Go or whatever the
cool kids think are hot and important.    Ask them all, why do we think
this languages will or will not last (and the end, it will be economics but
that's another thread).

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