Algol vs Fortran was RE: VHDL vs Verilog

N0body H0me n0body.h0me at
Mon Feb 8 19:19:04 CST 2010

> -----Original Message-----
> From: cclist at
> Sent: Mon, 08 Feb 2010 16:27:50 -0800
> To: cctalk at
> Subject: Re: Algol vs Fortran was RE: VHDL vs Verilog
> On 8 Feb 2010 at 18:58, somebody wrote:
>>> Here, here.  The thing that impressed me about FORTRAN (well, as as
>>> science major, anyway) was that it could do complex numbers as a
>>> *NATIVE* datatype!!  Now, I know for you OOP and C++ guys, custom,
>>> exotic datatypes are a dime a dozen. But in 1980, I was sure glad I
>>> could do complex math without all of the extra baggage that would
>>> have been necessary if I had to use, say, BASIC-Plus.
> Consider the vintage of FORTRAN--mainframes did not universally enjoy
> computation in binary, much less ones' versus twos' complement.
> Character sets were of differing content, collating sequence and
> character length.  Recursion as a permissable construct did not enter
> the language until fairly late (some systems lacked native stack
> facilities; the CDC 6000 series, like the PDP-8, simply stored a jump
> to the return address at the entry point of a subroutine).  I/O
> implementation could be wildly different.

Point taken: There is only so much you can do to facilitate
portability when such fundamental differences exist.  This 
diversity doesn't exist today, and I think we are the worse
for it.  I suspect each of those approaches gave their machines
some advantage or suitability for different tasks.

Today, we just throw more MIPS at our one-cpu-fits-all approach.

> ANSI X3 committee meetings were more like political conventions in
> some respects. I recall that when vector language features were being
> proposed for Fortran 8X (to become Fortran 90), the DEC and IBM
> contingent threatened to walk out of the proceedings because the
> committee decided not to simply assume IBM VECTRAN as its basis.

Sigh.  That's what happens when the focus shifts away from the
science of computing and on to marketing.  I'll never deny marketing's
role in making computing accessible to everyone; but I'm holding
it accountable for seriously messing up good ideas and consigning 
them to oblivion because they don't think it will sell.

> It's really amazing that FORTRAN/Fortran is still around.

I think maybe that speaks more of the solidity of the earlier 
implementations of that language, rather than 'advances' made 
since the PC era.


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