An Overview of Fortran Programming Language

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Fortran, short for Formula Translation, is a high-level programming language that has been around since the 1950s. It was developed by IBM for scientific and engineering calculations, and it's still widely used in those fields today. In this article, we will dive into the history of Fortran, its key features, and reasons for its continued use in specific domains.

A Brief History of Fortran

Fortran was created by a team of IBM engineers led by John Backus in 1957. The main goal was to create a language that would allow scientists and engineers to write programs more efficiently and with fewer errors. Fortran was the first high-level programming language, and its success paved the way for many other languages that followed.

Over the years, Fortran has evolved through several revisions, with the most notable ones being Fortran 66, Fortran 77, Fortran 90, Fortran 95, Fortran 2003, and Fortran 2008. Each revision introduced new features and improvements to meet the changing needs of its users.

Key Features of Fortran

  1. Efficient numerical computations: Fortran was designed primarily for scientific and engineering applications, which means it's highly optimized for mathematical calculations. The language provides built-in support for complex numbers, arrays, and various mathematical functions.

  2. Array operations: Fortran has excellent support for working with arrays, allowing you to perform complex operations on entire arrays without writing explicit loops.

  3. Performance: Fortran compilers are known for generating highly efficient machine code, making it a popular choice for computationally intensive applications.

  4. Backward compatibility: Fortran has maintained a strong emphasis on backward compatibility throughout its history. This means that older Fortran programs can often be compiled and run on modern Fortran compilers with minimal adjustments.

  5. Portability: Fortran code is generally portable across different computer systems and architectures, making it easier to run your code on various platforms without modification.

Why is Fortran Still Used Today?

Despite being an older programming language, Fortran remains popular in scientific and engineering fields for several reasons:

  1. Legacy code: A large number of scientific and engineering applications have been written in Fortran over the years. Many of these applications are still in use and require ongoing maintenance and development. In such cases, it often makes more sense to continue using Fortran rather than rewriting the entire codebase in a different language.

  2. Domain-specific expertise: Many scientists and engineers are proficient in Fortran because they've been using it throughout their careers. For them, it's more convenient to stick with a familiar language, especially if it's well-suited for their computational needs.

  3. Performance: As mentioned earlier, Fortran compilers are known for generating highly efficient machine code. This performance advantage is particularly important for computationally intensive applications in fields like physics, chemistry, and engineering.

In conclusion, although Fortran is an old programming language, it still holds a unique and important place in scientific and engineering fields. Its efficient numerical computation capabilities, support for array operations, and the large amount of legacy code make it a viable choice for many applications in these domains.


When was Fortran created?

Fortran was created in 1957 by a team of IBM engineers led by John Backus.

What does the name Fortran stand for?

Fortran stands for Formula Translation.

Why is Fortran still used in scientific and engineering fields?

Fortran is still used because of its efficient numerical computation capabilities, support for array operations, legacy code, domain-specific expertise, and its performance in computationally intensive applications.

What are some key features of Fortran?

Key features of Fortran include efficient numerical computations, array operations, performance, backward compatibility, and portability.

Can older Fortran programs be run on modern Fortran compilers?

Yes, older Fortran programs can often be compiled and run on modern Fortran compilers with minimal adjustments due to its strong emphasis on backward compatibility.

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