Happy Birthday John Blackus, inventor of FORTRAN

Dec. 3 is the birthday of John Blackus, he was one of the principle inventors of FORTRAN, see the article found at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FORTRAN

In my opinion, John Blackus best quote describing a motivation to continue to create programming systems:

  • · “Much of my work has come from being lazy. I didn’t like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701 (an early computer), writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on a programming system to make it easier to write programs.”

John Blackus received the Turing Award for his work in creating FORTRAN in 1978 and used the award to describe his thoughts on what a formal functional language could look like.  Click on the link to his paper/speech “Can Programming Be Liberated from the von Neumann Style? A Functional Style and Its Algebra of Programs“.

Also, historically, John Blackus, invented one of the first high level languages for IBM machines called “speedcoding” in 1953, and the short article is fun to read and gives a historical perspective on floating point calculations: http://www.softwarepreservation.org/projects/FORTRAN/paper/p4-backus.pdf.

Finally, if you think you could use more memory, read about the memory on the IBM 701 that John Blackus was working with at:

The languages that John Blackus created were powerful and with FORTRAN long lasting, FORTRAN continues to be used in legacy scientific applications today, and was used extensively for 40 years after it’s invention.

My challenge to you: How would you create a new language that helps you solve problems important to your career? 

  • One way to get started on creating new languages would be read the article on Domain Specific Languages
  • You can create programming languages that solve the problems that affect your life. 

John Blackus was a pioneer in creating languages that were used by scientists and engineers to design the systems used by the American space program to reach the moon and beyond.

This is the type of research that drives the current world economy, and you can do your own research in languages using the Domain Specific Languages.  F# was used to create the solver foundation, and example of Domain Specific Languages, check it out at:F# Optimization Modeling Language Utilizing Microsoft Solver Foundation

Have fun, create your own language or try out F#, a functional language!

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