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RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 05:56 PM   #1
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RIP John Backus

The father of FORTRAN, the "B" of BNF, John Backus died on Saturday.

NY Times obit

I was already programming on micros in the late 70's, but the engineering program required a FORTRAN course. Using IBM punch cards. As painful as it was, I'm sure it was better than what came before....
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 06:24 PM   #2
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Re: RIP John Backus

Took a FORTRAN course in 1982, but no punch cards...
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 06:27 PM   #3
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Re: RIP John Backus

After doing some coding in 1's and zero's, when I took a Fortran Course, my reaction was 'this is too easy' - even with punched cards.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 06:47 PM   #4
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Re: RIP John Backus

Fortran in college in 1980 using punchcards. RIP John
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 06:54 PM   #5
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Re: RIP John Backus

Ahhh, FORTRAN...
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 07:12 PM   #6
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Re: RIP John Backus

Fortran in college, 1968-69.

I hated those (expletive deleted) cards,

Had to drop out of computer science because I could never get the cards punched correctly; I got all the theory and code right.

Ended up with a degree in Math.

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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 08:39 PM   #7
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Re: RIP John Backus

Took a course in FORTRAN on punched cards. Batch system with about 4 hour turnaround. I could get about three runs in a day.

I taught FORTRAN where the students had to use punched cards and I got to use an ASR 33 Teletype!

I disagree, though, that FORTRAN was as fast as Assembler. In another thread on the Postage Stamp problem I posted times where my Assembler program was three times faster than the FORTRAN version. And this was the FORTRAN H compiler, not the FORTRAN G compiler.

The arithmetic IF statement

IF (x-y)10,20,30

had been superseded by the time I came along, but I read lots of programs that used it. Not fun.

One of the more interesting FORTRAN compilers I ever used was for the IBM 1130. It gathered all constants in a pool and then used their address. If you passed a constant to a subroutine that changed its parameter, you could change the value of "1" to "2" say.

Somebody had to get the ball rolling, and he did. We owe him a lot.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 09:39 PM   #8
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Re: RIP John Backus

Missed the punch cards by only 1 semester.

But I got paid back by going to my fortran class during dead week to find out when the final was, only to find it was that day

Yeah I tended to be a class-skipper !

- John (miss the bongs but not the classes)
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-20-2007, 11:40 PM   #9
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Re: RIP John Backus

Took FORTRAN in '81, first programming language for me, with punched cards.

I was so sheltered then that my idea of a "bad trip" was that of another student's reputed stumble with her stack of punched cards, causing their sequence to be all messed up.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 12:06 AM   #10
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Re: RIP John Backus

Some years ago, I was going through a box that had some of my old college books in it, and stuffed into one of them were some IBM punchcards. Showed them to our kids, they had heard of them, but never saw them.

The IBM 029 was the standard keypunch machine that most people knew.
Did anybody here ever use the IBM 026, the old single interface that really looked like an old typewriter, and had a crinkle-finish paint on it? I used a few of those.

I remember the ASR 33 Teletype machine, could be fitted with a paper tape punch/reader. I think all of my fan-fold paper tape got trashed years ago.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 01:12 AM   #11
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Re: RIP John Backus

I think we had a mix of 029's and 026's.



I ran into an 029 at a University surplus sale once. Thankfully, I wasn't nostalgic enough to buy it.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 07:12 AM   #12
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Re: RIP John Backus

Took Fortran using punched cards in 1970. The following semester, I took Assembler, also using punch cards. (As an elective!!) In my Assembler class, my final project was to program a basic compiler on my allocation of 512K on an IBM 360. It took more than FOUR boxes of punch cards (1,000 or so punch cards per box).

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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 07:14 AM   #13
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Re: RIP John Backus

Quote:
Originally Posted by Khan
Fortran in college, 1968-69.

I hated those (expletive deleted) cards,

Had to drop out of computer science because I could never get the cards punched correctly; I got all the theory and code right.

Ended up with a degree in Math.

Wow, same year and everything. Fortran IV with WhatIV and WhatV. Loyola U Chicago? I don't think I ever got a stack of cards through error free on the first run. I switched to a proper science: psych.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 07:37 AM   #14
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Re: RIP John Backus

I still have my Watfor manual (circa 1968). Used book store won't give me anything for it.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 08:16 AM   #15
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Re: RIP John Backus

I remember taking a computer course about 1975. I thought who would want to do this worthless stuff. The teacher never even inferred what computers could do or their potential.

We were given a project and had to team up with another student in the class. (Un) Luckily for me the guy next to me said he was a computer major and would do all the work - he did and I never saw what he did - we got a b+.

I'm guessing that guy did pretty well in the world.

Just another example how opportunities stare you right in the face and you never see them.
"Two paths diverged in the woods and I took the one MOST traveled upon; and that made all the difference."
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 08:24 AM   #16
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Re: RIP John Backus

Quote:
Originally Posted by John Tuttle
One of the more interesting FORTRAN compilers I ever used was for the IBM 1130. It gathered all constants in a pool and then used their address. If you passed a constant to a subroutine that changed its parameter, you could change the value of "1" to "2" say.
I seem to recall running into something like this as recently as the 90's (last time I was forced to use Fortran). Was it a "feature" of g77, by any chance? Or maybe we were using a different compiler... details blissfully forgotten.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 09:26 AM   #17
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Re: RIP John Backus

Quote:
Originally Posted by dex

We were given a project and had to team up with another student in the class. (Un) Luckily for me the guy next to me said he was a computer major and would do all the work - he did and I never saw what he did - we got a b+.
Wow, things changed in the 70's. Back in the 60's when I want to the U, I'd have tried for the girl built like CFB's avatar.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 03:32 PM   #18
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Re: RIP John Backus

Fortran in 1976 as an architecture student. Commonly heard expression, while loading punchcards: "This time for sure!"

What a difference three decades makes.

Of course, it was all we had to compute with--no where else to GOTO!
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-21-2007, 07:45 PM   #19
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Re: RIP John Backus

I have been writing FORTRAN every day of my working life, since '84! Never had to use punch cards, except for very short periods of time early on.
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Re: RIP John Backus
Old 03-23-2007, 08:30 PM   #20
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Re: RIP John Backus

wow, what a rush!!

26's versus 29's. Hadn't thought about that in years!

Started on Fortran in 1969. Worked my way through grad school doing Fortran programming. I remember how lame the original implementations were on the 8088 processors (or even Z80s!).

John Backus probably had more impact on technology than he has been given credit for. RIP. Between him and Frank Zappa (inventor of the wa-wa pedal, among other things), the world would be different!
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