Fortran I

To give you some idea of the state of the art when Lisp was invented, these two images are taken from the first Fortran manual, published in October 1956. Fortran was not then called a programming language; the manual describes "The FORTRAN Automatic Coding System for the IBM 704 EDPM."*

What was automatic about it was that you didn't have to write machine language. The FORTRAN system would do it for you.

I have heard that the inventors of Fortran did not initially expect the same language to be used on different types of computers, or to have multiple languages available for the same computer. Each computer would have its own "automatic coding system" (since they would each have their own instruction sets) and this was to be the 704's.

Fortran I was very simple. Programs were flat: the language does not seem to have supported subroutines or nested expressions. The Fortran if was a conditional goto. It was partly to overcome these limitation that McCarthy developed Lisp.

The statement for reading in a stack of cards is impressively terse. Reminds one of Perl. (Common) Lisp is embarrassingly inferior here.

The mysterious Frequency statement is optimization advice to the compiler about the likely outcomes of conditionals. It apparently proved useless and was dropped from the language in Fortran II.

Sample Fortran Program

Fortran Statements

* An EDPM I would guess to be an Electronic Data Processing Machine, or Computer. It is an IBM tradition to make up cryptic acronyms for common things. Disks still seem to be called DASDs (Direct Access Storage Devices) at IBM.