Chairman's Report June 2008

Following on from our successful contribution to the BCS 50th anniversary celebrations in January 2007 with "Fifty Years of Fortran" I and a number of other members of the FSG were involved in other Fortran 50th anniversary activities during the second part of 2007.

John Reid, our Standards Officer, was a contributor to the Special Issue of the journal "Scientific Programming" on 'Fortran Programming Language and Scientific Programming: 50 years of Mutual Growth'.

I wrote an article 'The Origins of Fortran' based on my presentation at the January 2007 meeting which was published in the Autumn 2007 issue of the Computer Conservation Society's "Resurrection" magazine.

I was asked by the Institute of Physics magazine "Physics Today" to contribute an article on Fortran and Physics. Together with physicists and FSG members Clive Page and John Pelan we produced an article entitled 'Fortran faces the future at 50' which was published in December 2007.

Following the publication of the "Physics World" article I was contacted by the BBC Radio World Service producer Helena Selby about an item on 'Fortran is 50' for their weekly Digital Planet programme. The 6 min 40 sec item was mainly an interview with Paul McJones of the Computer History Museum in California, who I had suggested as a contributor, and was broadcast on the evening of December 18 2007.

I like to think that it was partly due to my efforts to have a 50th anniversary event held in the USA that a panel discussion entitled 'Fifty Years of Fortran' was held on the morning of Thursday 15 November 2007 at the Supercomputing 07 Conference in Reno, Nevada.

Not specifically related to Fortran's 50th anniversary was the meeting of the ISO/IEC JTC1/SC22/WG5 Fortran committee which was hosted by the BCS London Office on behalf of the British Standards Institution between Monday 6 August and Friday 10 August 2007. On the Monday evening the Fortran SG hosted a reception for the delegates in The Weston Room at King's College Maughan Library & Information Services Centre, Chancery Lane, which was attended by 26 delegates, partners and FSG committee members. The smooth running of both the meeting and the reception were due to the combined efforts of the BCS staff, particularly in the London office, and members of the FSG committee, particularly Jane Sleightholme and Ian Chivers. Messages of thanks were received after the event from the heads of the US, Dutch and UK delegations and the chairman of WG5 itself.

More information on all the above activities can be found on the 'Fortran in 2007' web page.

In December I was very surprised to receive a BCS 50th Anniversary 'gold' medal in the post. The covering letter said "Just a small token from us in the Specialist Groups to say thank you for all your hard work during 2007" and it was signed by Mandy Bauer. I was able to thank Mandy and her colleagues in person when I visited Swindon just before Christmas.

In 2008 I have been involved as Chairman and Membership Secretary in the Society's efforts to make all SG members members of the Society, see my Membership Secretary's report, agenda item (vi), for more details. This should see the end of the long running saga of the fees payable by non-BCS members of the Group.

The newspaper article about Fortran which I was asked to write early in 2007 by Sarah Pounds, the BCS Deputy PR manager & Press Officer, did not get published. The local newspapers she contacted only took an article about the BCS in general.

As part of my continuing efforts to promote Fortran in the 21st century I gave a talk to the BCS Birmingham Branch after their AGM on May 19 2008 entitled 'Fortran 1957 - 2008: A Language with a Past, Present and Future'. Unfortunately I only drew an audience of 16!

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 Committee Draft of the next version of the Fortran standard, both via email 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.

Unfortunately the BCS's financial position has not allowed us to receive as much funding to support UK Fortran standardisation in 2008-09 as we requested and I have been contacting leading users and providers of Fortran in the UK to ask for contributions to enable us to fund an additional UK delegate to attend the November 2008 WG5 meeting in Tokyo. So far I have only received one offer of £200. I still have some more contacts to follow up so I hope we will be able to raise around £1,200 to fund an additional delegate. This would not have been a problem if we still had access to a Reserve account!

There have been a number of contentious issues which have come up at recent SG Assemblies. The idea of forcing SGs and Forums together into Knowledge Communities seems to have gone away for the present but the issue of making all SG members members of the Society is controversial for a number of SGs as is the requirement that all SGs adopt the SG Model Constitution. I don't see that either of these points is a problem for the Fortran SG but we will have to see how the discussion of the Constitution goes under item (viii) of today's agenda. These issues seem to be symptomatic of a very 'top down' approach to governance by the BCS Trustee Board.

As I said in my report last year, I have now been Chairman of the Group for six years and while I am happy to stand for re-election under item (ix) of today's agenda I think the Committee and the Group as a whole should consider if we need fresh blood on the Committee and 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. I would also like to mention the willing support which I, wearing numerous hats, have received from the staff at BCS HQ, particularly from the Specialist Groups team. I am sad to report that the Head of Forums and SGs for the last few years, Lynne Sturgess, left the BCS last month. Her gracious helpfulness will be greatly missed.

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
11th June 2008

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