CSE 505 Lecture Notes:


October 10, 1994


Fortran stands for "FORmula TRANslating system". First proposal: 1954 (at IBM) by John Backus. Work continued for the next two years; initial release in 1957. At that time, there was much skepticism about higher-level languages -- Fortran had to be efficient to be accepted.

These notes primarily concern Fortran IV.

Control structures

Control structures are based on IBM 704 branch instructions (Backus initially thought of Fortran as a language for the 704; there would be somewhat different languages for different machines)

Fortran has an arithmetic if statement ...

IF (EXPR) N1, N2, N3 ... which is not that useful (two-way branches more common than three-way).

Later versions of Fortran had a logical if:

IF (A .LT. 5) A=A-1 There could only be a simple statement in the consequent of the IF (but not a compound statement, such as another IF or a DO loop).

Additionally, Fortran has the GOTO statement:

Note that we can build other control structures from GOTO's: Drawbacks of the GOTO: See Dijkstra's famous letter to the editor: E.W. Dijkstra, "GOTO Statment Considered Harmful", CACM, 1968 for more on the GOTO controversy.

There have been countless papers and letters since of the form "X Considered Y" in imitation, e.g. Rick Hehner, "DO Considered OD" (about Dijkstra's DO .... OD control structure)

Structured programming

The Structure Principle:

The static structure of a program should correspond in a simple way to the dynamic structure of the corresponding computation.

Control structures such as WHILE, FOR, and IF-THEN-ELSE support the structure principle; GOTO's do not.

General Features and Problems of FORTRAN

storage layout: statically allocated (hence no recursion)

data types: fixed, built-in set

optional declarations -- if there is no declaration for a variable, it defaults to INTEGER if the first letter is I-N, otherwise REAL

This is no longer considered a good idea, since, for example, it doesn't catch typos in variable names.

declarations local in scope to subroutines, main program

common blocks (anonymous and named) allow sharing among subroutines

common blocks provide a type loophole, since the programmer can have an INTEGER in one subroutine allocated in the same storage location as a REAL in another subroutine -- hence FORTRAN is weakly typed

equivalence statements -- another type loophole

FORTRAN syntax is based on fixed format (punch card influence)

blanks ignored (a mistake)

these statements all mean the same thing:

DO 10 I=1,10 DO10I=1,10 D O1 0I=1,1 0 ... but this assigns 1.1 to the variable DO10I! DO 10 I=1.10 no reserved words (also a mistake) IF (I) = 1 2 3 IF (I) 1,2,3 ... the first statement assigns 123 to element I of the array IF, while the second is an arithmetic IF statement

major win: algebraic expressions

(X*Y+10)/20.4 Evolution to subsequent languages: