Minutes of the BCS Fortran Specialist Group Meeting
held at BCS HQ, 13 Mansfield Street, London
on 25 January 1990
Present: Robert Allan Daresbury Laboratory (SERC)
Martin Counihan Southampton University
E Golton RAL
Dave Griffiths SSF
Carol Hewlett LSE
Peter Hollan SSL
David Holmes Rolls Royce plc
Chris Lazou ULCC
Mike Nunn CCTA
Les Russell AWE
N R Saville Private Consultant
John Taylor Meiko Scientific Ltd
John Wilson Leicester University
John Young PE-MOD
1. APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
Apologies for absence were received from Miles Ellis
Valerie Harmer, David Muxworthy and Lawrie Schonfelder.
The Secretary, John Young, apologised for the short notice
of the meeting and thanked the BCS HQ staff for the prompt
despatch of the minutes. He pointed out that meetings are now
planned at least six months ahead and that it was hoped that any
changes would be notified to members well in advance.
[Secretary's Note: Brave words! Please note that the AGM has
been postponed from 5 April 1990 to 10 May 1990].
2. MINUTES OF THE LAST MEETING [26 October 1989]
The Secretary apologised for not contacting the speakers of
the talks on Fortran on PC's for their summaries. He had not yet
contacted the Rutherford and Appleton Laboratory concerning a
visit to the Atlas Building. It was hoped to arrange this visit
in October and the Secretary would liaise with E Golton.
On Page 3, 2nd paragraph, after some discussion the sentence
starting "Time was spent on discussing character sets and it was
decided that ..." should read "Time was spent on discussing
character sets and it was agreed to press X3J3 to remove user-
defined character sets from identifiers".
3. MATTERS ARISING
The Chairman, John Wilson, reported to the meeting on the
final outcome of Fortran Forum 89. The main item of expenditure
had been the printing of the Draft Fortran Standard Manuals which
had cost considerably more than the original quotation. So far
only the money for 33 manuals had been collected but it was
thought that a similar number had been sold by the Scottish Sub-
Group. All the speakers' expenses had been paid. With the Forum
costing over £1,000 the Group's reserves were now depleted.
It was agreed that more manuals had to be sold in order to
re-coup some of the costs and that they would be advertised in
the next newsletter.
It was then pointed out that the manuals would very soon be
out-of-date. If it was possible to produce a list of the changes
made to the Draft Fortran Standard then the Manuals would remain
a useful reference document.
Second Public Review
E Golton commented that he had received no acknowledgement
for his comments on the Draft Fortran Standard sent to X3J3
during the second public review period. Indeed, he had only just
received a reply to his comments sent during the first public
In the general discussion that followed there were a number
of complaints about the letters sent out mainly that the replies
were "off the point". Apparently, there was no procedure within
X3J3 to comment on the comments.
In defence of X3J3 it was difficult to reply totally
individually to 400+ comments some of which were long and
X3J3 had received about 30 letters complaining about the
lateness in replying to comments from the first public review
4. REPORTS FROM X3J3 AND BSI REPRESENTATIVES
Report from X3J3
The Chairman, John Wilson, read John Reid's report of the
recent X3J3 meeting which was available at the meeting and is
included as Appendix A. Only the following technical changes are
reproduced here for completeness:-
(i) Delete user-specified characters in identifiers
(ii) Adopt the ES edit descriptor
(iii) Remove the requirement that precision be monotonic with KIND.
The meeting noted that X3J3 had adopted the informal name
"Fortran 90" for the new standard.
The meeting also noted that this was John Reid's last
report. The meeting agreed that these reports had been the
"backbone" of the Group's information on Fortran 8x and the
Secretary was asked to write to John thanking him for his
contribution. The flow of information had been so regular and
concise that nobody in the meeting could remember when they had
started. The Chairman announced that Miles Ellis would produce
reports for the Group in future.
The Draft Fortran Standard was now complete with only
editorial work to do.
Report on the BSI and ISO Vote
John Wilson reported that the BSI Fortran Panel had met on
3rd January 1990 to formulate the comments to accompany the UK
vote on the new Fortran Standard. There was no discussion on the
adoption of Fortran 77 as a separate standard by ANSI as the
matter is now irrevocable.
The official UK vote is to be simple and short as possible;
"YES" with the following comments:-
Comment one: We appreciate that in almost all cases our
reasons for voting "NO" in the ballot on the first DP 1539
have resulted in changes to the proposals in accordance with
Comment two: We consider early adoption of the revised
Fortran standard to be of overriding importance and
therefore urge that the draft be processed with no further
changes other than correction of errors, clarification of
ambiguities, improvement of specification and rectification
of editorial and typographical mistakes.
John Wilson then read the report from the IST/5/5 convenor,
David Muxworthy, concerning the rationale behind the UK vote on
the second DP 1539. The panel received nine written comments,
eight of which were generally in favour. After much discussion
the panel decided that early publication of the new standard was
of paramount importance and would pursue the request for
technical changes through WG5 and X3J3 meetings if possible.
It was reported that the US vote was similar to the UK vote.
It was announced that the next WG5 would be in London from
26 February - 2 March 1990. There followed some discussion on
who was organising the meeting and its venue.
5. AGM AND 20TH BIRTHDAY CELEBRATIONS
Annual General Meeting
The Chairman, John Wilson, announced to the meeting that
Miles Ellis would not be standing again as Treasurer of the Group
due to other commitments. The other three members of the
Committee were prepared to stand again to maintain the continuity
of the Group. John Wilson then appealed for names of people
prepared to stand for the next Committee. With none forthcoming
the Secretary, John Young, was asked to prepare Nomination Papers
for the four posts of Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary and
Treasurer. The date of the AGM was announced to the meeting as
5 April 1990 [but this has been changed to 10 May 1990].
20th Birthday Celebrations
As the Treasurer, Miles Ellis had been unable to arrange
this event and as the Group's finances were at a rather low level
it was decided to postpone the Group's celebrations for a year
and make them 21st Birthday Celebrations. John Wilson would
invite a well-known speaker who would be asked to talk on some
aspect of the history of Fortran. Mike Nunn offered to form a
Sub-Group for the 21st Birthday of the Group so that arrangements
could be made well in advance. It was agreed that comments and
suggestions for the event could be invited from members of the
Group possibly on this year's AGM nomination form.
[Secretary's Note: Since the cancellation of the 20th Birthday
Celebrations and the postponement of the AGM to 10 May 1990 David
Muxworthy has agreed to talk on the "Fortran Specialist Group:
The first two decades" after the AGM].
6. BCS AND OTHER BUSINESS
Specialist Groups Management Committee
The Chairman, John Wilson, did not have much to report on
the recent meeting. The following items may be of interest to
(a) Specialist Groups Reference Manual
This manual contains information about the BCS and
Specialist Groups, suggestions how to run a Group, any legal
requirements and a current list of all the Groups and their
officers. The Handbook is distributed to Chairmen, Secretaries,
and Treasurers; Chairmen were asked to report any errors.
(b) BCS pages in Computing and Computer Weekly
There had been many complaints about the entries in the BCS
pages in Computing and Computer Weekly. Various suggestions for
improvement were made, including a pro-forma to be used by Group
Secretaries. However, it seems the BCS has little control over
what does or does not get published.
(c) BCS Hong Kong Section
A standing invitation has been made to any BCS member
passing through Hong Kong to speak to the Branch.
The Scottish Sub-Group convenor, John Bruce, had organised
a meeting in Glasgow for 5 February 1990 on Expert Systems. The
Sub-Group intends to "mirror" the Group's topics but will only
hold afternoon meetings as they have little business to discuss.
BSI IST/5 Meeting
Following the IST/5 meeting in November the Chairman, John
Wilson, was asked for the Group's views. The resolution and
endorsement taken at the meeting of 26 October 1989 were passed
on via the CCTA representative.
Letter from the Technical Board
John Wilson had received a letter from Roger Johnson
requesting members to identify missing activities within BCS with
a view to forming new specialist groups.
Survey on Fortran Programmers
John Wilson had received a request for information on how
many Fortran Programmers there were in the UK. The meeting was
unable to answer this question but it was pointed out that a
survey on use of Fortran had been undertaken recently. The
question appeared to have been some sort of market research for
the launch of a new software product.
DISC - Delivering Information Standards to Customers
John Wilson had received a questionnaire concerning this
government sponsored body to take over BSI's Information
Technology standards including Fortran. He also had received a
comment on DISC from Lawrie Schonfelder.
Parallel Processing Specialist Group
The Vice-Chairman, Chris Lazou, sought collaboration of the
above group with the Fortran Group. The Parallel Processing
Group's evening meetings are free. There is to be an important
meeting on 14 March 1990 starting at 6.30 pm at the Fleming
Lecture Theatre, University College, Gower Street, in London.
A visiting Russian Professor Alexander Shaferenko will be giving
a talk on "EVAL - The Language". Approval for a flier for this
meeting to be included in the next mailing was given.
7. DATE OF NEXT MEETING
The next meeting of the Group will be the Annual General
Meeting to be held on 10 May 1990 at BCS HQ, 13 Mansfield Street,
London from 10.30 am. The afternoon speaker will be David
Muxworthy who will talk on the "Fortran Specialist Group: The
first two decades". Please note that this is a change of date
from the previously announced date.
John Young, Secretary
28 February 1990
To: Fortran Forum, BCS, NAG, etc.
From: John Reid
Date: 19th January 1990
Subject: X3J3 meeting in Richardson, Texas
Note: This is a personal note on the meeting and in no sense does it
constitute an official record of it.
Jeanne Adams was unwell, so the meeting was chaired by Jerry
Wagener. The second set of public comments letters was to hand and the
Committee considered how to respond technically, what to recommend for
the US ISO ballot in the light of this commentary, and what
administrative machinery to use to reply to the individuals.
A significant majority of those who commented on the language as a
whole were supportive and many requested that few if any further
changes be made in order to expedite processing. There was a broad
consensus in the Committee that few technical changes be made and
there were no procedural arguments. Everyone worked very hard
correcting errors, making editorial improvements, and considering the
comment letters. Only the following technical changes (other than bug
fixes) were adopted:-
(i) Delete user-specified characters in identifiers (Section 3)
(ii) Adopt the ES edit descriptor (like lPE, but with no
effect on subsequent edit descriptors) (Section 4).
(iii) Remove the requirement that precision be monotonic with
KIND (Section 5).
The US members recommended that the US ISO vote be NO, changing to YES
with the adoption of these three changes and the corrections
accumulated in the document S18. This is nearly a YES vote since
other countries will find it easy to accept these requirements.
Furthermore, the informal name 'Fortran 90' was unanimously adopted,
an earnest of the intention to finish this year.
There was no further discussion of the retention of Fortran 77 as an
ANSI standard because the decision has been made by X3 and is final.
The ISO Fortran Working Group (WG5) meets in London, 26 February to 2
March, to consider the ISO country votes and will have in front of it
a revised version of the draft standard including all the S18
changes. Certainly, it will need more editorial polishing, but it
looks as if the next stage is near, a Draft International Standard
(DIS), perhaps in August when WG5 meets in the Netherlands and X3J3
meets in Oxford. Once it is a DIS, no technical changes are permitted.
2. Second set of public comments
The second set of public comments is not as voluminous as the
first. It consists of 153 letters that arrived in time and 10 letters
that arrived a few days late, a pile of paper about two inches
thick. In addition, about 30 letters have been received objecting to
the X3J3 replies to letters received in the first comment period. This
time, the overall tone is supportive. By my count, 74 letters are
supportive of the language and 38 are opposed. Including the protest
letters (but not counting anyone twice) increases my counts to 75-43.
Many edits have been made in response to the comments (though not as
many as last time). In addition, the subgroups reviewed the recurring
themes of requests for technical changes and made recommendations to
the Committee. To have acted on many of them would have gone against
the many requests to stop making changes and get the Standard out
soon. Straw votes identified the following items as having significant
support in the Committee:-
(i) Change '<>' to '/='.
(ii) Delete user-specified characters in identifiers.
(iii) Adopt the ES edit descriptor (like lPE, but with no
effect on subsequent edit descriptors).
(iv) Remove the requirement that precision be monotonic with KIND.
The chairman ruled that the first was an error because a comment letter
pointed out a conflict with an IEEE standard. This was therefore
adopted as part of S18. The second and third were adopted with text
and will be mentioned in the US vote. The fourth does not have agreed
text, but will also be mentioned in the US vote.
3. User-specfied characters in identifiers
The changes made last May in respect of user-specified characters were
done hurriedly in response to a perceived international
requirement. They have not been welcomed by WG5 and now appear to be
premature in the light of ongoing standards work in connection with
character sets. It was at first proposed that all the May changes be
undone. However, in a near unanimous vote (30-2), the proposal was
amended to retain the exclusion of control characters from the set of
'representable characters' that can appear in the free source
form. The amended motion was adopted (27-5).
The ES (scientific) edit descriptor is like 1PE, but has no effect on
subsequent edit descriptors. It was adopted by 27-6 and will obviate
the danger of fixed-point output being unexpectedly scaled by the
In addition, the following minor changes were adopted (as part of Sl8):-
(i) Permit preconnected files to have the BLANK='ZERO' property,
for conformance with Fortran 77 (intended originally for
(ii) Disallow undelimited character NAMELIST input.
(iii) Require all the objects in control information lists to
have default KIND (I think that this is an unnecessary
restriction that would be a nuisance to the programmer,
but I was in a small minority).
(iv) Delete the NULLS= specifier (it does not return anything
(v) Require that an expression in an input list must not be
affected by the input of any array element by that item
(for instance, the section I( :I(1)) is not permitted,
where I is a rank-one integer array).
A proposal to allow n to be optional in an nX edit descriptor, with
the default 1, failed (8-17).
5. Data entities
It was decided by the US members (23-1) that there should be no
requirement that the precision of real and complex entities be
monotonic with KIND. The reason is that an implementation may be
unable to offer a further KIND because of lack of room between
existing KIND values. I spoke against this because it makes the rules
for the interpretation of mixed KIND expressions more complicated,
which runs counter to the simplifications made in this area following
the first public comment period.
6. Generic calls
I worked quite hard in collaboration with the data subgroup to tighten
up the wording on generic calls and how ambiguities are resolved. The
revised wording was adopted unanimously. It means the retention of the
requirements of Section 14 of S8 on the differences between two
procedures if they are to have the same generic name (wording
elsewhere suggested that it was only necessary for no ambiguous call
to be possible, which may be hard for the processor to verify). Also
the rules for extending an intrinsic and extending a generic accessed
from a module are now set out (it is important that both these
facilities be allowed).
7. Future trip reports
My job is changing and I am not expecting to attend any more X3J3
meetings in the US, though I hope to attend the Oxford meeting in
August. Therefore, this will be the last time that I write a
trip-report for AEA Technology and adapt it for you.
Enjoy using Fortran 90!