Friday, June 15, 2012

This Developer's Life: Dinosaurs and Fortran

I've always had a weird semi-fascination with Fortran.

I don't even know what Fortran looks like, actually.

For years, I lumped it in with ancient languages like Cobol that are gone and not missed in the slightest. While there's always at least one weird guy living in a cave somewhere to prove you wrong, I don't think anybody misses Cobol.

Fortran, though, is apparently a different beast. It's not a general-purpose programming language, exactly. It's more like a thing that hardcore science and math dudes use to crunch numbers.

Apparently, Fortran has two interesting properties.

  1. Battle-Tested, Bulletproof Libraries. The kind of "bulletproof" you only get after a couple of decades of hardcore, NASA-launches-spaceships-with-this-shit, the-stock-market-runs-on-this-shit use.
  2. Disgustingly Parallel. Apparently it scales to about as many processors as you can throw at it, with no real extra work required. Hundreds, thousands. The kind of warehouse-filling computers that predict weather or whatever.

This episode of This Developer's Life features several segments, including one with a fresh-out-of-college kid found himself in a job learning Fortran. After laughing at it and attempting to convert their codebase to C#, he became a Fortran convert.

No comments:

Post a Comment