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Specialist Groups Development Fund Programme
Project: Support for Fortran Standards Development

Report May 2006

For the past three and a quarter years the BCS Member Services Board has generously provided means for members of the Fortran Specialist Group to support the UK contribution to the development of ISO Fortran standards. The initial case for support, with the objective "To support a continued UK contribution to the development of the ISO Fortran standard, Fortran 2000, and to allow the project to be completed to schedule", was outlined to the 2003 FSG AGM. Progress in the first project, for the calendar year 2003, was described to the 2004 AGM and that for the second in 2004 was described to the 2005 AGM.

The most recent project had the simpler objective "To support a continued UK contribution to the development of the ISO Fortran standard" and was for the period January 2005 to March 2006. Fortran 2000 was published as ISO/IEC 1539-1:2004 in November 2004, unfortunately somewhat later than scheduled; the standard is informally known as Fortran 2003 because the technical work was completed in that year. Current work is to develop the next revision of the standard and to process interpretations for Fortran 2003. (The need for almost continuous work on revision of the standard is outlined in the initial case, see above). The revision schedule called for a preliminary choice of significant features at the May 2005 ISO SC22/WG5 (Fortran) meeting and for a final choice of significant features to be made in February 2006. Thus the case to the BCS might alternatively have read "To allow significant UK influence on the direction to be taken by Fortran in the next five years".

The budget requested for the 2005/2006 project was to fund three members to attend each of the two WG5 meetings held during that period and to allow the BSI Fortran convenor to attend the BSI Programming Languages committee. Participation in the BSI committee is a prerequisite for UK representatives to take part in ISO programming language meetings. The WG5 meetings were held in Delft in May 2005 and in Fairfax, VA in February 2006.

In 2004 Fortran users throughout the world had been invited to submit requirements for consideration for inclusion in what is expected to be known as Fortran 2008. These were first filtered in national standards bodies before being forwarded to ISO. The BCS FSG had itself organized a full day meeting in March 2005 to consider UK requirements. By this time the US input to WG5 was already known and after the FSG meeting ten further items were put forward for consideration by WG5 at its May 2005 meeting; an additional two items from the UK went to the February 2006 meeting. As a result of BCS support, the UK was able to be well represented at both WG5 meetings, having delegations second only in size to those of the US.

Of the 69 requirements submitted in all to ISO, 18 were accepted by WG5 as first priority, 29 as second priority and 20 were rejected. However this summary hides the fact that the items were of very different weights and complexities. The only major item accepted as first priority was from the UK - coarray Fortran for parallel programming. This is the major new feature in what is intended to be a relatively minor revision of the language. The other principal additions are a BIT type and an intelligent macro facility. Many small improvements have been agreed, removing restrictions, increasing regularity and making minor enhancements such as increasing the maximum rank of arrays from 7 to 15 and requiring support of long integers. A detailed list of the items which were considered is at https://wg5-fortran.org/N1601-N1650/N1649.txt and the final decision on each item is shown at resolution F5 in https://wg5-fortran.org/N1651-N1700/N1653.txt.

All WG5 papers are available via its website. Most detailed development work is under the aegis of INCITS committee J3: all J3 papers are obtainable from its website.

Detailed technical work is continuing on developing the agreed items. A first working draft of the new standard is scheduled to be available in April 2007, ready for consideration by WG5 at its next meeting, which will be held at the BCS Offices in Southampton Street in August 2007.

Again the BCS has demonstrated its support for international Fortran standardization by agreeing to host the meeting. The Group is extremely grateful for this continuing support.

David Muxworthy
BSI Fortran Convenor
31st May 2006

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