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What is 'Fortran'?

FORTRAN is a computer language that is good at number crunching tasks, and is known as a scientific computer language for that reason. The name stands for FORmula TRANslation because it was designed to make it easy to translation mathematical formulas into code that the computer would understand. FORTRAN is one of the oldest computer languages, first published in 1957. In fact, FORTRAN was the first compiled language: prior to that, programmers were forced to write programs directly in assembly language, which is much harder and more error-prone. Using a FORTRAN compiler, programmers were able to write their programs approximately five times faster than in assembly language, with an associated efficiency loss in the compiled code of just 20% compared to the hand-crafted code. This was clearly a giant leap forward in terms of productivity, and a very significant milestone in the history of computing.

As you might expect with a language as old as FORTRAN, there have been many versions over the years. The most important standards, each named after the year when they were published, were FORTRAN 66, FORTRAN 77, FORTRAN 90 and FORTRAN 95.

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