samedi 6 septembre 2014

How did fortran (and modern programming languages) come into existence

Excerpt from stanford C++ course (cs106b)

In the early days of computing, programs were written in machine language, which consists of the primitive instructions that can be executed directly by the machine. 
Machine-language programs are difficult to understand, mostly because the structure of machine language reflects the design of the hardware rather than the needs of programmers. In the mid-1950s, a group of programmers under the direction of John Backus at IBM had an idea that profoundly changed the nature of computing. Would it be possible, they wondered, to write programs that resembled the mathematical formulas they were trying to compute and have the computer itself translate those formulas into machine language? In 1955, this team produced the initial version of Fortran (whose name is an abbreviation of formula translation), which was the first example of a higher- level programming language. 

I guess that this bright idea was what brought the modern programming languages into existence. After all, it's possible to express any mathematical formula with an instruction or two in any programming language. Programming requires logical thinking, which is something mathematicians are good at. It might not be always the case, but I think a good mathematician can be a good programmer. However, a good programmer is not necessarily good in mathematics.

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