FORTRAN pilot project

(via Paul McJones)

The FORTRAN pilot project is an effort of the Museum's Software Collection Committee to develop expertise in the collection, preservation, and presentation of historic software. The specific goal of this project was to locate source code, design documents, and other materials concerning the original IBM 704 FORTRAN compiler. The justification for this particular goal is that FORTRAN was the first high-level programming language and the first high-quality optimizing compiler.

Quite a bit of interesting stuff to read here.

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More on the Smithsonian listing and such ...

Around 1968 or so when the Smithsonian set up their Univac I display, they also had a listing of the original IBM 704 Fortran compiler, complete with handwritten notes and changes.  I remember Frank Delaney commenting that it was weird to find something of yours in the Smithsonian in your own lifetime. It would be interesting to know what other materials have already been contributed by IBM.

I was surprised to see Pete Ingerman mentioned in this context, and disappointed to learn that the full listings they have may only be Fortran II.

On the other hand, Fortran II was the first high-level language use of external subroutines and functions, separately-compilable modules, and a linking loader, so in many ways this is a nicer place to start.

The biggie in Fortran I, beside the novelty of having a formula-based language, was the formatting of input and output. I remember how much the engineer I worked for in 1958 lusted after the ability to produce clean output reports from his programs. We still had to plot the results by hand on vellum masters, but that problem is now gone too.