BCS FORTRAN SPECIALIST GROUP
Minutes of a Meeting held on 1st December 1975
at the Staff Common Room at the Polytechnic of
Central London, 115 New Cavendish Street,
Mr. D. T. Muxworthy (Chairman) University of Edinburgh
Mr. E. O. Bodger (Vice Chairman) IBM WT Systems Aid Centre
Dr. A. W. Bishop Hawker Siddley Aviation Ltd.
Mr. P. D. Bond Philips Industries
Mr. O. Branley London Borough of Redbridge
Mr. M. R. Dolbear B.P. London
Mr. J. Dyke Huntingdon Research Centre
Dr. J. S. Hutton Rutherford Laboratory
Mr. M. J. King B.B.C.
Mr. D. J. Maisey I.C.L. Bracknell
Dr. J. D. Murchland University College London
Mr. K. Normington Lanchester Polytechnic Coventry
Mr. T. D. Palmer Computer Power, Cannock
Mr. T. L. van Raalte M.O.D
Dr. J. K. Reid A.E.R.E. Harwell
Mr. R. W. S. Rodwell I.C.L. Euston
Mr. A. J. H. Walter Rutherford Laboratory
Mr. P. A. Clarke (Secretary) Rothamsted Experimental Station
Apologies for Absence
Dr. J. C. Baldwin University College Cardiff
Dr. J. Morice Mullard ResearchLaboratories
1. Approval-of Minutes
The minutes of the meeting of 2nd October 1975 were approved subject to the following correction: In
section 5. for 'Dr. Day' read 'Alan Shaw of University College London'.
2. Matters Arising
(a) Mr. Muxworthy said that he had written to the organisers of Datafair 75 to complain about the
accommodation provided for the group. The room in question was a converted bedroom and the
temperature was in excess of 100 degrees F.
(b) Section 5. Correspondence had been received from Mr. Patel indicating that Compulogic Ltd. have an
instruction monitoring program which can be leased for £20 per month.
Mr. Walter said that there was a similar program written in Fortran, at the Atlas Laboratory.
Dr. Reid said that he had a similar program.
Mr. Dolbear was concerned that such programs should have as few restrictions as possible and should
be able to monitor the number of times the statement on a logical IF was executed.
For example, the monitor should indicate the number of calls to SUB made during execution of a
statement of the form:
IF (---) CALL SUB.
Some mention was made that a Fortran compiler called SOFOR available at the University of
Southampton on an ICL 1900 series computer had such a monitoring option.
(c) Section 3. Arrangements were being made to get speakers from Computer Manufacturers. Univac
and Digital Equipment Company had agreed to provide speakers.
A request for members of the group to provide accommodation for meetings, particularly in the
London area was made. Currently the meeting rooms have to be rented and this money comes from
the Group's budget.
Several people offered accommodation outside London.
The number of people on the Group's mailing list has increased by about 50% in the last year, and this
together with increased postal charges may force us to consider some form of restrictions. As a first
measure, it vas decided to ask all members who no longer required minutes to inform one of the Group's
3. Fortran Group and Committee Activities
3.1 ANSI X3J3
A letter had been received from Dr. Meissner confirming that the draft revised standard would be
published in the ACM SIGPLAN Journal in February, assuming its approval.
Extra copies will be printed and a provisional order for 50 of these for BCS Fortran Specialist Group
members has been made. We have suggested that these are delivered by air freight to avoid undue
The BCS has agreed to underwrite this publication to the extent of £75 (see minutes of June 1974
meeting). The cost per copy is not yet known, but is expected to be about £3. To ensure a copy please
contact the Secretary in writing. To date about 20 orders have been received.
A letter from Frank Engel to Peter Hammersley (editor of the Computer Journal) indicated that a
summary article by Frank Engel about the revisions should appear in the May 1976 issue of the
A request for more members to join the working party to review the ANSI revisions led to a
provisional party consisting of Messrs. Day (Chairman), Clarke, Dolbear, Maisey, Reid and Walter.
Any other members wishing to join this party should contact Dr. A. C. Day (at the Computer Centre,
University College London) as soon as possible.
The minutes of the August 1975 meeting of X3J3 were discussed. It was noted that two more
incompatibilities with the 1966 standard had been approved: (1) It is not allowed to have two or
more unnamed block data subprograms in an executable program. (2) A '*' in column 1 now
indicates a comment line. Existing programs with continuation lines which happen to have a '*' in
column 1 may now fail because that line will now be taken as a comment line.
A straw vote showed that those present were in favour of type DOUBLE PRECISION COMPLEX by
eight votes to two.
The minutes of the October 1975 meeting of X3J3 were discussed. Comments were sent to X3J3.
See Appendix A.
It was noted that meetings in the United States to discuss the revised standard were planned for
9 February 1976 at Fortran Forum West as part of the Computer Science conference at Anaheim
nd later at Fortran Forum East in Washington, an ACM meeting.
Dr. Murchland made a proposal that "in order to facilitate reference to statements in a Fortran
program by the compiler and in documentation, there shall be a standard numbering of the
statements in the program."
The members of the Group had discussed this before (see minutes of meeting of June 1974).
There was some discussion on whether numbering should be based on lines or on statements.
There seemed to be increasing need for such numbering because of the increasing use of
pre-processors of many types - structured preprocessors (such as SHELTRAN and the 6O odd
others recently listed), macro preprocessors, efficiency monitors, PFORT verifier, database DML
host language preprocessors and some editors. Numbering would also be useful in referencing
statements in published algorithms.
It was decided to leave this to another meeting.
3.2 CODASYL Fortran DBMLC
A letter had been received from Mr. J. S. Knowles of Aberdeen University relating to the
correspondence with the CODASYL committee. He confirmed that the use of pre-processors
to 'host' the DML could cause restrictions on interactive use.
Mr. Clarke had received a copy of the first draft of the FDBMLC's Journal of Development
16 September 1975, version 0.2 together with a copy of a working paper on a DDL for Fortran
by J. P. Rundell.
These documents were being circulated to members and interested persons should ask to be
included on the circulation list.
3.3 Fortran Development Committee
The fifth FORWARD Fortran Development Newsletter dated October 1975 had been received.
The survey of Structured pre-processors was continuing and copies of the questionnaire forms
can be obtained on request from the Secretary.
On the subject of structured pre-processors, an internal report on the talk given by Mr. Croes
at the last meeting on the subject of SHELTRAN had been written by Dr. Murchland for use at UCL.
This gave a broader view than the report by the Secretary attached to the last set of minutes
(as Appendix E).
Dr. Murchland agreed to let us publish his report and it is attached as Appendix B to these minutes.
3.4 ECMA Activities
Mr. Muxworthy drew attention to the minutes of the meeting of the TC8 committee. He expressed
concern about a comment made by TC8 that the ANSI X3J3 revisions work was not serving
European interests. Mr. Maisey said that this referred to a comment made by a group studying
real-time and process control applications of Fortran and the comment applied to this area on1y.
Mr. Clarke said that there was interest in this problem in the United States too and that he was
awaiting information from those concerned - centred at the Purdue International Workshop,
3.5 Dutch Fortran Study Group
A letter of introduction inviting an exchange of information on Fortran matters, and in particular,
on the ANSI Fortran revisions had been received from Mr. Heyns, Secretary of the Dutch Fortran
4. Any Other Business
Mr. Muxworthy drew the group's attention to a method of reducing the number of disc transfers for
IBM 360/370 Fortran programs which made many overlay changes during execution and used two
or more regions.
It was found that overlay calls across regions could cause a minimum of four disc transfers
(reference R. A. Buhler, in the conference report 'Comp Stats 1974') and typically 8 to 32.
By including the names of these called subprograms in an EXTERNAL statement in one of the
subprograms in the root segment the number of disc transfers is reduced typically by about eight
percent. However, each name appearing in the EXTERNAL statement increases the core
requirements by about 2O bytes.
Following the survey of members, it was realised that there was interest in topics other than
Fortran Standards, and recently our meetings have been covering some of these topics. The
Steering Committee have been aware that this conflicts with the Group's original document of
objectives and a request has been made to draft a revised document for discussion by members
of the Group with a view to submitting it to the Specialist Group Committee of the BCS.
(See Appendix D).
5. Mr. Walter gave a talk on Optimising Compilers for Fortran (see Appendix C for details) which was
followed by questions and discussion.
6. The next meeting will be held on 2nd February 1976.
From: BCS Fortran Specialist Group To: ANSI X3J3
Date: 30th December, 1975
Subject: Comments on items under discussion
The following points arose at our meeting of 1st December 1975 and relate to FORTREV/71 (75-09-26).
1. A majority of those present were in favour of a type DOUBLE PRECISION COMPLEX. The view
was expressed that for many applications and on many processors, double precision was necessary.
2. In section 19.1.1 item (10)
The wording 'Redundant type specifications' was not specific enough. It might be taken to mean that
a variable whose type was defined implicitly by its name or by an IMPLICIT statement should not also
be defined in a type statement. We would prefer a wording such as 'Duplicate type definition in type
statements' if, as we suspect, this is what was intended.
Report on SHELTRAN by Dr. J. D. Murchland
Dr. Croes gave a talk to the British Computer Society Fortran Group on 1975 October 2, and the
summary of his remarks below supplement the article, which is no longer quite up-to-date.
She1l has about 50 computer centres, and 5,000 people programming. Seventy percent of this
programming effort is devoted to 'maintenance', including program adaptation and elaboration, of course.
Hence the acute interest in program readability and documentation.
In devising this Fortran dialect they were acutely conscious that anything they provided would have
to be supplied for evermore.
The pre-compiler, not the user, is responsible for the nicely indented listing, with note-type comments
copied to the right-hand positions of the statements to which they refer. It is also possible to get an output
consisting only of the statement type and notes, so recovering a kind of high-level flow diagram.
As well as this documentation, the pre-compiler makes an exhaustive check of the specific1y Sheltran
statements. The target Fortran compiler is relied on for the rest of the diagnostics required. Correspondence
is established by the pre-compiler's generation of the same ISN numbers that the Fortran compiler will use
(as in the p.129 example). Unfortunately-this means a different numbering algorithm for each Fortran compiler!
The generated Fortran is never seen or used by the programmer.
No features of Fortran, other than statement numbers, are deleted - for example, multiple Entries
One distinction between Sheltran and the more than 60 other Fortran pre-compilers which have been
described is its universality: it operates for all the Fortran compilers with which Shell is concerned (IBM,
CDC, XDS, PDP, ...). Thus the pre-compiler is written in ANSI standard Fortran.
Another distinction is that there is an exactly similar Shelbol for Cobol, so similar indeed that careful
scrutiny of the input is needed to tell whether the target is Fortran or Cobol.
Programmers seem to like Sheltran, since although they lose the label feature they more than make
up through the 'if ... else', 'perform' and documentation facilities. In practice, it seems that program
development time is reduced by a quarter, the generated Fortran programs are usually slightly shorter and
somewhat faster. The main reason for the latter is the tendency of programmers to replace subroutines
by 'performs' (i.e. code copying). The latter is implemented by Assigned Goto's, which are much faster
than subroutine Calls. The main justification for Sheltran remains the maintenance facilitation, however.
There is some associated software. Shell programmers have a 'Librarian' facility for managing the
texts of programs, variable name replacement and so on (which Dr. Croes thought too obvious an aid to
be worth mentioning in his talk!). For those who want it, there is a (Sheltran) macro system MAGIC.
Another system is BEEF, which provides a universal correspondence between characters and integer values,
and input-output conversion, across the range of machines which Shell.use. Because of the slowness
of Fortran input-output, use of BEEF can save one-third of execution time.
Accepting the claims that Sheltran is a better and more efficient programming language than ordinary
Fortran, and that it is universal across different machines, how can it be obtained?
Here is the catch. Shell do not wish to enter the software marketplace themselves, and are looking
for a software house to market it worldwide for them. This means the price will be high, and also the
house has not yet been selected. What Dr. Croes could offer, in the immediate future, was a corrected
listing of Sheltran 1. Sheltran 3 is the next version, Sheltran 2 the one in current use. The Sheltran 1
version has the same features as Sheltran 2, but is not so efficient. The listing would cost £45 from
Dr. Croes at the address given, and the user would have to master it and provide his own implementation
and maintenance. The program is about 4,000 Fortran statements long.
J. D. Murchland 75:10:9
Summary of a Talk by Mr. A. Walter on
Optimising Compilers for Fortran
Mr. Walter described how the IBM 704 Computer had influenced the design of the first Fortran
systems in 1958. At that time, one of the design aims was to produce code as good as assembler. Examples
of 704 features were the arithmetic IF, which was orientated to the machine instructions. In subscripting,
the variable had to be non-negative and the fact that DO loops could only be nested to 10 deep, led to
the 'extended range' implementation.
He then considered the impact of standards on Fortran from two viewpoints; that of the compiler writer
and that of the user. He concluded that more restrictions had been put on the user and less on the
compiler writer by standardisation. He gave examples of how compiler writers could interpret the standard
to permit optimisations. One commonly used technique for moving code outside loops depends on the
assumption that the loop will be executed at least one time. This assumption could be made because in
the case where the initial value was greater than the final value, the outcome was 'undefined' by the standard.
This would not be possible if the new standard a1lowed 'zero times though the loop' in this case. In
fact moving code outside the loop could cause it to be executed at least once and leaving it inside would
cause it to be executed zero times unless care were taken to avoid this. Compilers such as the IBM H level
Fortran tended to avoid some of these problems by converting DO constructs into IF and GOTO constructs
One problem associated with 'code moving' was that of error messages. When code was moved, and
perhaps a single piece of code used to replace duplicate code in the original source, there was a problem
in producing execution-time error messages that relate to the original source.
The relative place of manual optimisation was discussed in terms of questions such as: Is it productive
of programmers time? Is it generally possible? Is it conducive to clarity and ease of debugging? Can
the programmer do it consistently and with certainty? And having concluded that the answer is no! Mr.
Walter indicated that the programmer could make best use of his special knowledge of the problem in the
areas of improvement of data structures and algorithms.
He concluded with a brief summary of the performances that could be expected from some optimising
compilers and gave some examples of specific optimisations and false optimisations.
BCS Fortran Specialist Group Proposed.Revision of Objectives
The existing objectives published in the March 1970 Computer Bulletin are:
a) To form a Forum for the discussion of problems concerned with establishing and maintaining
b) To work in association with the BCS Standards Committee and through them with national and
international standardisation bodies.
The following additional objectives are proposed:
c) To obtain and distribute information concerning developments in, and extensions to the
Fortran Language as defined by existing standards.
d) To obtain and distribute information concerning implementations of Fortran processors
and supporting systems.
e) To obtain and distribute information relating to programming techniques and methods
employed in the application of Fortran to specific problems.