Minutes of BCS Fortran Specialist Group Meeting held at

   BCS HQ on 28 July 1988

Present:         Martin Counihan     -  University of Southampton

                 Miles Ellis         -  Oxford University

                 Dave Griffiths      -  SSF

                 Mike Gunn           -  Surrey University

                 Andrew Harris       -  Z & S Consultants

                 Carol Hewlett       -  LSE

                 David Hill          -  MRC

                 Peter Holland       -  SS(E)L

                 Alan Jenyon         -  CAD Centre Ltd

                 Chris Lazou         -  ULCC

                 Brian Meek          -  Goldsmith's College London

                 Mike Nunn           -  CCTA

                 John Reid           -  Harwell

                 Lawrie Schonfelder  -  Liverpool University

                 Neil Smith          -  RAE Bedford

                 Julian Tilbury      -  University of Salford

                 Paul White          -  Met Office

                 John Wilson         -  Leicester University

                 John Young          -  MOD(PE)


        Apologies for absence were received from Les Russell, David Muxworthy

and Dave Vallance.


        The Secretary apologised for the late posting of the minutes due to

printing problems at BCS HQ. Because of this the change of date of this meeting

was not notified to members of the Group after the previous set date - it was

hoped nobody was inconvenienced.

        The Chairman had received a letter from David Muxworthy criticising the

tone of 3(i) on the BSI Response to ANSI on Fortran 8x. It was agreed that the

word "misguided" be deleted from the last line but two and the phrase "BSI was

forced" a further 4 lines above be changed to "normal BSI policy in these

circumstances was".

        The Treasurer pointed out that the interim statement of accounts referred

to in the minutes was, in fact, missing and Appendix A was the final statement

of accounts. The Secretary said both statements constituting Appendix A had

been sent to BCS HQ for mailing but the interim statement of accounts had been

removed. Members of the Group wishing to receive a copy should contact the


        In item 4 the title Charter Engineer Status should read Chartered

Engineer Status.

        The Secretary apologised to all the Non-BCS members of the Group for the

oversight of sending out last year's Membership Renewal form. Apologies were

also made to those BCS members who received renewal forms. These problems are

partly due to changes in the management of specialist groups at BCS HQ.


        Chartered Engineer Status

        The BCS had published a list of those members who had been given CE.

It contains nearly 2000 names. The Chairman said his application was still

being considered after being returned to BCS and then re-submitted by them.

        BSI Response to ANSI

        Lawrie Schonfelder said that the BSI (and the ISO) has serious disquiet

about ANSI not just in the field of Fortran 8x. ANSI seemed to favour

individual comments about standards and appeared to lack appreciation of

national comments which are not being taken seriously. The national public

comments on Fortran 8x was an example where X3J3 had apparently not taken

enough notice.

        Closure of Deposit Account

        Lawrie Schonfelder asked the Treasurer for the reason for closing the

Group's Deposit Account. Miles Ellis explained the Current Account was a

special Gold Account which would accrue interest like a Deposit Account.


        Sponsoring Attendance of WG5 meetings

        The Chairman had written to Roger Johnson of BCS requesting that the

Group sponsor a member to attend WG5 meetings once a year. The reply stated

that BCS Specialist Group money could not be used in this way. However, it may

be possible to fund attendance from other BCS funds.

        Specialist Group Management Committee

        The Chairman attended the meeting on 25 May and summarised the following

points from the minutes.

        (i)        VAT is to be paid on all meetings and conferences

       (ii)        The BCS logo is available for Apple computers

      (iii)        The Bulletin and Newsletter are to be merged

        iv)        There is a draft constitution for specialist groups

        Evening Meetings

        It was suggested that the Group use some of the profit made on the last

two Forums to set up evening meetings on Fortran.

        Initially, any meetings should be held centrally in London but meetings

in other parts of the country could be organised jointly with local BCS

branches.  Meetings should be free and should appeal to a different group of

people than that of the Group. It was suggested that somebody needed to

organise and publicise these meetings. Chris Lazou offered to set up an initial

meeting in London and was asked to bring a proposal to the next meeting on a

fixed program. Brian Meek proposed that Chris Lazou books a room in London and

then to let people know the date. He proposed that the next meeting decide the

content of the Evening meetings and suggested titles like "Fortran" and

"Converting to Fortran 8x".

        A discussion followed on the format of the meeting. John Wilson suggested

that we agreed on a meeting at the end of the year which would be after X3J3

and WG5 meetings. He also suggested that two more dates are fixed in early/late

Spring 1989.


        Fortran Compilers on PCs

        Mike Gunn suggested that the Group might consider a scheme to evaluate

Fortran compilers for PCs. Some money could be spent on producing a sort of

"Which Report"on tested compilers. It was pointed out that Bath University was

already looking at compilers. Brian Meek thought the scheme would be labour

intensive and too expensive and that it was better to collect reports on

evaluation and provide information only.

        In the discussion that followed it was suggested that an evaluation suite

of programs could be made and that there should be some form of bench-marking.

Brian Meek offered copies of reports and a checklist.

        John Wilson proposed a sub-group which needed somebody with time and

money to set up an information centre and to make a simple set of programs. If

there was no volunteer the idea should be shelved.

        In the further discussion that followed it was agreed that this was a

mammoth task and a long term project but it could start in a small way. Any

test deck of programs would be to do with quality rather than speed. It was

pointed out that there already were various groups comparing compilers

including the Salford undergraduate project on COBOL.

        Contributions to the project could be invited from the Group and Carol

Hewlett asked for names of compilers with the appropriate computers from the

Group. This initial list is summarised in Appendix A.


        The next meeting of the Group will be held on Thursday, 6 October 1988

when Dave Vallance would be invited to talk on his Portable Package Framework

and also to introduce his FTN77/386 - a PC Fortran Compiler.

        The following meeting provisionally set for Thursday, 29 January 1989

would be on Fortran Pre-processors - Past and Future.

        The AGM is due to be held on Thursday, 20 April 1989 at Oxford - please

note change of date.


        Dave Vallance asked if his leaflet on FTN 77/386 could be included in

the next mailing to members. It was agreed that as there were several precedents

for this procedure which included covering the cost of mailing that this was

acceptable.  It was to be made clear that the BCS and the Fortran Specialist

Group does not in any way endorse the product but was a useful way to inform

interested members as well as recovering the costs of mailing. The Secretary

was asked to produce a standard disclaimer which was to be included in all

future mailings.

John Young

Secretary, BCS Fortran Specialist Group

31 August 1988

[Appendix A was not attached to the minutes]

Appendix B

[this was not attached to the minutes but was circulated as a separate document
in September 1988; it records the debate held in the afternoon of the meeting]

Debate on the Future of Fortran 8X

1. Introduction

This report on the future of Fortran 8X by the Fortran Specialist

Group of the British Computer Society which took place on 28th July

1988 is a combined attempt by three members to summarise the major

points discussed at the meeting.

The debate was opened by Brian Meek who as Chairman of the ISO

Programming Languages Panel wanted the comments of the Group to send

to BSI.

The Chairman of the Group, John Wilson, then presented the background

to the current impasse on Fortran 8x.

2. Background

At the latest meeting of X3J3 in Urbana in May 1988, the committee

ended in deadlock. Having reviewed all 400 public review comments and

ISO country votes it identified a number of major technical tissues

and voted on them individually. It then drew up a package of

alterations to the 88 document based on these votes as follows:

- remove concept of Deprecation

- add Pointers

- add Bit Intrinsics

- remove RANGE & SET RANGE


- simplify Generalized Precision


- add DO WHILE

- add significant blanks in free source form

This was voted on as a whole: result (15-21-1) !

The committee was unable to come up with a scheme which obtained a 2/3

majority on straw votes. Therefore a number of policy proposals were

being prepared for the next meeting which will take place in Jackson

Hole in August (8-12).

3. ISO and the BSI

On the 20th June 1988 a meeting of the BSI Fortran Panel took place to

discuss the X3J3 impasse and to attempt to formulate comments to both

X3J3 and WG5.

Several of the new proposals were brief1y outlined and

discussed. However, at least three different proposals were supported

by those members of X3J3 present and it was not possible to come to an

overall consensus amongst the Panel members: in any case this was not

considered appropriate as none of the proposals had been properly

formulated and presented.  Thus a rather bland statement has been sent

to X3J3 by David Muxworthy, convenor of the BSI Fortran Panel, along

the following lines:

- X3J3 should pay close attention to the ISO country comments and note

  that even where the vote was "no" most countries were broadly in

  favour of the proposals in 88.104.

- The package of alterations (referred to above) and voted on in

  Urbana is very similar to the position advocated by both Canada and

  the UK.

- The UK agree with the comments in a recent position paper from

  Canada (June 1988) that there is a strong need for a standard


- Individuals and countries are urged to be flexible in order to

  produce something which will meet a substantial need now and provide

  the basis for further evolution.

ISO WG5 meets in Paris in September (19-23) - it would be very helpful

to go to that meeting with something more substantial as a UK


4.  The Proposals

At the last count there were 11 separate proposals tab1ed for the

Jackson Hole meeting.  It is not possible to describe them ell in

detail but they appear to fall broadly into 3 categories and it may be

possible for the Group to express a preference for one category.  As

there were three representatives of X3J3 present, it was suggested

that each summarise one of the categories.  As it turned out each X3J3

member broadly supported the category he was asked to present.

4.1 Category A: Simplified S8

John Reid is one of the people who has a proposal in this category to

be presented at the Jackson Hole meeting. The idea is to develop the

model voted on at Urbana retaining the basic structure of the 88

document. Pointers are added but the main aim is to reduce the size of

the language.

4.2 Category B: The Layered Model ("Onion Skin")

This is a joint proposal from Adams, Brainerd, Martin, B. Smith and

Wagener. The full language contains a "core" as a subset which

contains a "base" language as a subset. The Base is Fortran 77. The

Core contains features which do not require explicit procedure

interfaces. The full language adds Pointers and Bit Intrinsics as well

as significant blanks, all of which are based on existing

proposals. The essential difference between the core and full language

is that core features require only stack-based management whereas the

full language allows heap-based management. Lawrie Schonfelder

explained the basis of the "layered" or "onion-skin" approach.

4.3 Category C: 2 Languages

A joint proposal is being submitted by Phillips, Allison, Ellis,

Leonard, P. Smith, Weaver. Miles Ellis explained the thinking behind

this approach. The first language will be Fortran 77 plus those

features of S8 which are considered consistent with current Fortran

concepts emphasizing efficiency. The second language will be

incompatible with Fortran 77 and will be a modern language using the

new S8 features unshackled by the restraints of old Fortran (storage

association etc.).

5. The Debate

There then followed a lively discussion during which some of of the

points made were:

- Subsets had proved to be a disaster in the past: they must not be

  introduced in the guise of a layered approach, as implementers will

  probably base their implementations on, (on example» the "core"

  model with selective extensions into the full language - with

  disastrous effects on portability.

- Fortran 8x must look to the future: if it is accepted it will be the

  basis of scientific programming well into the 21st Century and it

  must, therefore, include features which will make it an efficient

  language on the non-von Neumann architectures such as true parallel

  machines, which will grow in importance.

- X3J3 is being too conservative: some items should be deleted in this

  revision in order to establish the principle that features of the

  language can be removed when they become obsolete and little used

  (e.g. Assigned GOTO or PAUSE).

- If two new languages are defined instead of just one then only the

  simpler one will be implemented in the short-to-medium term.

- Facilities in Fortran 8x should be chosen on the basis of their

  benefit to the user, not for their ease df implementation; the

  latter only has to be done once, the former by many users for a

  number of years.

- A better approach to a two language Standard would be to keep

  Fortran 77 as one language (possibly with the addition of MIL STD

  1753) with the other one being a free-format, cleaner, slimmer

  Fortran 8x with all redundant features of Fortran 77 removed.

6. Straw Votes

At the end of the meeting after several members had already left, two

votes were taken (with X3J3 members not allowed to vote!):

1)  Which of the following approaches would be acceptable?

    (Multiple voting allowed)

                S8 as it is: 11

                Simplified S8: 12

                "Onion skin": 1

                Two languages: 1

2) Which of the following approaches would be acceptable?

                S8 as it is: 4

                Simplified S8: 9

                Undecided: 1

7. Summary

The Chairman made the following points:

- There was support for the Canadian plea for a spirit of compromise

  and flexibility in order to get an agreement, and that this must

  happen quickly if Fortran 8x as a whole is not to lose credibility.

- It was noted that WG5 and the Group had been pretty consistent over

  the last two or three years in being generally happy with the SB

  document rather than the radical departures from it as, for example,

  the 1986 "compromise attempt". This position was reflected in the

  straw votes. The "onion skin" model was seen as a re-hash of

  core-p1us-modules and was not liked for the reasons given.

- Some form of language evolution is considered to be essential,

  although it was agreed that the concept of deprecation in S8 was

  unworkable. (This could be construed as supporting the 2 languages

  proposals although the votes indicate that there was only one

  supporter.  If it is accepted then language 1 WILL be Fortran 77 and

  language 2 WILL be Ada.)

8.  Conclusions

It is very difficult to summarise an open debate in a way which is

likely to be useful to X3J3 and WG5.  We have picked out a number of

points made, but of course in some cases a point was only made by 1

person and was probably not shared by the others present.  The votes

however should give some indication of general feelings.

John Wilson

Miles Ellis

John Young

September 7, 1988