Fortran Specialist Group

Chairman's Report 2006-2007

The Group's contribution to the BCS 50th anniversary celebrations was the organisation with the Computer Conservation Society of a very successful one day meeting "Fifty Years of Fortran" held on 25th January at the BCS London offices. Over 60 people booked and just under 60 attended on the day. The programme and links to the presentations and other contributions are available at The documents include a report written by David Muxworthy which was first published in the ACM's Fortran Forum, Vol 26, No 1, April 2007. My thanks go to the members of the committees of the FSG and CCS and also to the BCS staff from Swindon and London who all worked hard to produce a very successful outcome and also to the BCS 50th Anniversary Steering Committee who provided funding so that the event was free to delegates.

After the meeting I was contacted by Sarah Pounds, the BCS Deputy PR manager & Press Officer, about the possibility of producing a newspaper article on Fortran to publicise the FSG and the BCS. We produced a draft by early March but I have not heard anything since then.

In mid-March I was very sorry to learn that John W. Backus, "who built and led the IBM team that created Fortran, the first widely used programming language, which helped to open the door to modern computing", had died on Saturday 17 March at his home in Ashland, Oregon. He was 82. I asked Paul McJones of the Computer History Museum in California, who first told me of John's death, to pass on my condolences and those of the Fortran SG to John's family if he was in touch with them. There are links to a number of obituaries of John on the Group's home page. (Now on a separate page)

As part of my continuing efforts to promote Fortran in the 21st century I wrote an article partly to publicise our January 2007 event which was published in the November 2006 issue of the BCS ITNOW magazine. We were not able to get David's report into ITNOW but it is on the BCS website as part of the Programming and Software section. I am pleased to see that Fortran is mentioned in the introduction to the section.

The Group has continued to support UK involvement in the Fortran standardisation process, both by funding attendance of UK delegates at appropriate meetings, as David Muxworthy will report under item (v) of today's agenda, and by providing a forum for discussion of the draft of the next version of the Fortran standard, both in the FSG discussion area on the BCS website and face to face this afternoon. On behalf of the UK Fortran community I want to thank John Reid, David Muxworthy and all the other members of the FSG who are involved in Fortran standardisation for all their efforts.

Mention of finance reminds me that a major stir was caused in both the Specialist Groups and Branches communities by the sudden announcement at the beginning of April 2007 by BCS HQ that SG and Branch reserve accounts were being abolished with effect from the March accounting period! This caused some heated debate both by e-mail and at the SG Assembly and Branches Congress held later in April. I hope our Treasurer will be able to tell us more under item (v) of today's agenda now that some of the dust has settled.

Another contentious issue which was discussed before and at the SG Assembly was the relationship between SGs, Forums and the proposed Knowledge Communities. It seems there is appreciable support for cooperation between SGs and Forums but very little support for the idea from BCS HQ of putting SGs and Forums together into Knowledge Communities and the possible disappearance of the SG Executive Committee.

I hope we have finally come to the end of the long running saga of the fees payable by non-BCS members of the Group, this will be covered under item (vi) of today's agenda.

I have now been Chairman of the Group for five years and while I am happy to stand for re-election under item (viii) of today's agenda I think the Committee and the Group as a whole should consider in the longer term if we need fresh blood at the head of the Group.

I want to take this annual opportunity to thank all the members of the Committee for their assistance in the smooth running of the Group during the past year, especially Sam Ellis, our Secretary and Treasurer, and David Muxworthy, our Vice-Chairman.

To finish on a traditional note, if anyone reading this report has any comments or suggestions relating to the Group, its activities or Fortran in general please contact myself or any other member of the Committee. Don't let the fact that we may invite you to help us put your suggestions into practice put you off!

Peter Crouch
13th June 2007
(revised 15th June 2007)

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