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FORTRAN (the name is short for "FORmula TRANslator") refers to an evolutionary series of versions of a programming language, one which dates back to 1954 (the first version was released for use in early 1957); if not quite the earliest days of computers, it was one of the first computer languages.

It was initially developed by IBM for the IBM 704, for use in writing mathematical applications, primarily in scientific and engineering disciplines. Although it has been broadened since its early days to include other capabilities, that always remained its principal area of use.

It was an extremely important step in the evolution of computers, since it allowed end-users to write their own programs, instead of having to interact with professional programmers to use computers.

Ironically, although it is now considered old-fashioned, when it was first introduced, it was very controversial - mostly because people doubted that a compiler could produce object code that was as efficient as that produced directly by human programmers.


It spread rapidly; the first non-IBM version was produced for the UNIVAC I in January, 1961, followed by a version for the Remington Rand LARC later that year. By 1964, no less than 43 were known.

FORTRAN now runs on big machines like mainframes, supercomputers, minicomputers and even down to 8 bit CP/M machines.

Although FORTRAN's popularity has significantly waned over the years, there is still a significant amount of legacy code out there.

Versions and Dialects

Fortran exists in many versions (i.e. those specifically approved by standards bodies) and dialects (i.e. local extensions); although it's a relatively portable language, many vendors extended the language in unique and incompatible ways.

Among the versions are:

  • FORTRAN II (June, 1958; added subroutines)
  • FORTRAN IV (1962)
  • FORTRAN 66
  • FORTRAN 77
  • FORTRAN 90
  • FORTRAN 95

Some dialects are:

  • FORTRAN III (internal to IBM)
  • RATFOR (FORTRAN with modern control flow)

Hello World

This is a simple FORTRAN program.

      program hello 
      print *, 'Hello!' 


Fortran is mentioned in the well-known rant "Real Programmers Don't Use Pascal".

Popular Compilers

Popular Fortran Programs

External links