British Computer Society - Fortran Specialist Group

Minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on Monday April 10th

in the Basement conference Room, BCS Headquarters, 29 Portland

Place, London W.1.


M R Lewis (Chairman)          CRAY Research

D J Holmes                    Rolls Royce Ltd (Bristol)

J D Murchland                 University College London

D T Muxworthy                 Edinburgh R.C.C.

J Roberts-Jones               Liverpool City Council

G L Harding (Secretary)       European Centre for Medium

Range Weather Forecasts

1.   Approval of Minutes of Previous meeting

The minutes of the meeting of 6th February 1978 were approved.

The secretary apologized for the late arrival of the minutes

as this was partly his fault.

2.   Matters arising

D T Muxworthy pointed out that he was the Fortran Specialists

Group representative on the BSI programming languages committee

which has formed a working group (BSI DPS 13 WG6) to deliver

FORTRAN comments to the ISO meeting in November.

J D Murchland requested feedback on the form of his abstracts

from the SIGPLAN notices (e.g. level of detail).

It was suggested that the Specialist Group should build up a

library of relevant information such as Manufactures Fortran

reference Manuals, standards etc. Anyone who wishes to donate

such information is invited to contact the secretary.

3.   Election of officers for 1978/79

Due to pressure of work and a change of emphasis in his new

position the current secretary resigned at this meeting.

J Roberts-Jones was elected as secretary for 1978/79. His

address is as follows

J Roberts-Jones

Data Processing Division,

City Treasury,

P.O. Box 1,


Telephone No.: 051-227 3911 Ext. 617

4.   Activities of other Fortran Groups

4.1. X3J3

The minutes of the 61st and 62nd meetings

were discussed.

4.2. HECB

The HECB standard Fortran document was discussed.

It was generally thought that these standards are

very restrictive. It was suggested, however, that

such standards do have a role to play. Anyone

who has knowledge of other installation standards

is invited to inform the secretary.

4.3. Canadian Fortran Group

The minutes of their meeting of 1978-02-13 were


4.4. ISA

The minutes of their meeting of February 6 and 7

1978 were discussed.

5.   Fortran 83

In order to provide a platform for detailed study of the new

standard it was suggested that a working group be set up. This

group could also liaise directly with BSI DPS 13 WG6. Activities

of this group could include submitting proposals for the new

standard to the group for study before sending them to X3J3.

Volunteers to work with this group should contact the secretary.

6.   Working Party Reports

There were no working party reports.

7.   Other Fortran Events

7.1. Publications

J D Murchland reviewed the February SIGPLAN


7.2. Implementation Developments

Anyone who is developing a new Fortran compiler

is invited to submit details to the Group.

8.   BCS Businesses

There will be a BCS Event entitled "BCS 79 Living with

Computers" to be held January 4th - 6th 1979 at the Institute

for Education.  The specialist Groups are organising parallel

sessions. The Group hopes to present one of these sessions and

invites any interested party to submit suggestions for topics

and/or volunteer to speak (for up to 45 minutes).

9.   Any other business

It was suggested that the group organises an award for Frank

Engel Jr. This will be brought up for detailed discussion at

the next meeting.

10.  Date of next meeting

The next meeting of the group will be on Monday June 5th.

Irene Q Mallgrave of CRAY research will give a talk on the

CRAY-1 Fortran compiler


Abstracted, with some personal selection, by J.D.Murchland, University College

London Transport Studies Group (Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT, 01-387 7050).

SIGPLAN NOTICES 13(1978 February)

6     W.A.Whitaker, the Chairman DoD High Order Language Working Group, replies

to the criticism of the Notices editor in the previous issue that

nothing has appeared in print about the US Department of Defense's

computer programming language design effort, by pointing out that

Communications of the ACM had rejected their article on the subject!

While recognizing that the scale of the DoD project might swamp smaller

language design efforts, they felt driven by economic considerations to

do this, as in other countries (UK, France, West Germany, Sweden, Japan,

and the EEC and CCITT). Comments on the effort are still solicited.

(Contact Lt.Col. Whitaker for details.) The first phase of trial language

designs is to be complete by 1978 February.

8     P.H.Dorn, Dorn Computer Consultants, New York, on the same subject,

remarks that when Ironman was presented at the Share meeting in the

summer of 1977 a good deal of scepticism was expressed: a number of the

design features seemed mutually contradictory, and the target for

execution code efficiency far exceeds what is generally available. Dorn

refers to Datamation's notice (1977 October) that the initial contractors

are SofTech, IntraMetrics, Stanford Research Institute-International

and Honeywell-Bull-CII, all four intending to extend Pascal.

10    D.W.Barron, Computer Studies, University of Southampton: Why go to the

trouble of adding more powerful and useful control and data structures

to Fortran when Pascal already exists?

11    R.J.Cichelli, ANPA Research Institute, Easton, Pennsylvania and Lehigh

University cites the Pascal user's group News, mentions that Pascal on

the Lehigh CDC installation can access Cobol, Fortran and Compass library

modules and asserts that it almost invariably compiles and executes

faster, and takes less space than the other languages.

19    W.A.Whitaker, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington Va:

The US Department of Defense Common High Order Language Effort.

The article gives a history and background of the DoD's language design

effort which has so far produced the 'Revised Ironman' specification.

Much of the DoD's 3G$ a year expenditure on software is for software

embedded in weapon, communication and command and control systems. The

DoD is no longer the dominant purchaser in the hardware market, but it

still has a unique position as a purchaser in the software industry.

High order languages have been little used for embedded systems in the

past because of severe timing and memory considerations. The case for

them is strong, and by the early 1970's each of the military departments

were considering designs. In 1975 a program to set up a single language

was established, one argument being that a single language would have a

full repertoire of supporting software tools, already available at the

beginning of each new project. Since 1976, as an interim measure, only

the languages Cobol, Fortran, Tacpol, CMS-2, SPL/1, Jovial J3 and Jovial J73

may be used, excepted for exceptional circumstances.

The new language specification went through four versions before reaching

'Revised Ironman' (Sigplan Notices 12 (1977 December)). On the way, 23

existing languages were reviewed against the standard (and APL summarily

rejected). Studies showed that if the new language could be produced

it would be suitable, not only for embedded applications, but for all

other user communities (such as avionics, training simulators, scientific

and financial management). Pascal, PL/1 and Algol68 were selected as

base languages for designing the new language, though the four contractors

selected to produce prototypes have each chosen to use the first of these.

Easy generation of efficient compilers for the language on new computers

is of great concern.

It is expected that the language will be available experimentally in

1979 and generally in 1980. Comments and support are solicited. The

publicly available documents on the language effort are cited in Whitaker's


57    G.J.Nutt, University of Colorado at Boulder: A comparison of Pascal and

Fortran as introductory programming languages.

Recently, the Computer Science Department changed from Fortran to Pascal

in its introductory courses, an introductory Pascal course replacing

two different Fortran courses and a Cobol course, to be followed by a

course on larger problems which also introduces Fortran and Cobol. A priori

pro-Pascal views were that it is a more modern language, with better

control structures and encouraging good programming technique, that it

is as easy to teach to beginners as Fortran, and that it is has more

general data types and an extensible data structure feature. Pro-Fortran

views were that (to the contrary) Fortran is easier to teach and learn

than Pascal, that Fortran is far more widely implemented, and has numerous

good textbooks (including Kernighan and Plauger for style) while Pascal

has very few. Also, Pascal is primarily academic and has not been tested

by the real world of applications.

In the comparison, it seemed that Fortran is slightly easier to learn,

mainly because there is less to learn (no extensible data structures,

recursion or arguments passed by name or value). The more numerous Pascal

control structures (While-Do, Repeat--Until or For -Do) were no harder

to grasp, and Pascal input-output was much easier for purely numeric

data than Fortran Formats. Nutt felt that the Pascal programs were better

structured, easier to read and took less time to write.

It was concluded from the experiment that Pascal should be taught to

students first, and then those who needed it should go on to a short

Fortran course. Problems with Pascal at this time are the lack of Pascal

textbooks, and character set difficulties (on the CDC 6400 system).