In college, before video games, we would amuse our- selves by posing programming exercises. One of the favorites was to write the shortest self-reproducing pro- gram. Since this is an exercise divorced from reality, the usual vehicle was FORTRAN. Actually, FORTRAN was the language of choice for the same reason that three-legged races are popular.Ken Thompson, Communications of the ACM. 27 (8), 761–763, 1984.
In December of last year, I celebrated the 30th anniversary of my Laurea in Chemistry dissertation. The starting of my thesis dissertation also signed my acquaintance to one of the grannies of the scientific programming languages, FORTRAN. Since then, I have used and (continue to) this language for my research activity by writing several thousands of lines of code. Therefore, I want to share some of my modest programming achievements using this language.
I will concisely introduce this captivating programming language in a series of articles. This is a primer on a programming language with much more to offer, especially in the new versions starting from the FORTRAN 90. Readers interested in deepening their knowledge in FORTRAN can find online many excellent tutorials and discussion groups, as well as plenty of excellent textbooks that have been written.
The FORTRAN language
Fortran (FORmula TRANslation) language was introduced in 1957 and remains the language of choice for most scientific programming. The language was constantly restyled and updated (e.g. Fortran IV, Fortran 77). Recent improvements, recently introduced with the Fortran 90 and 95/2003, include several extensions in more modern languages (e.g. in the C language). Some of the most important features of Fortran 90/95 include recursive subroutines, dynamic storage allocation and pointers, user-defined data structures, modules, and the ability to manipulate entire arrays. Fortran 90 is compatible with Fortran 77 but not the other way around. However, the new Fortran language has evolved in a modern computer language by incorporating constructs from other languages.Continue reading