FORTRAN was not the first compiled language for a computer system, but it was considerably more influential than its predecessors. BASIC and ALGOL, for example, cannot but be regarded as direct descendants of FORTRAN.
John W. Backus, the person chiefly responsible for FORTRAN, is said to have once said that he did not know what the scientific computing language in use in a few decades would be like, but he knew what it would be called: FORTRAN. And it is true that FORTRAN has changed and developed over the years that it was in existence.
The name FORTRAN, of course, stands for FORmula TRANslation.
Here, then, is a series of pages recounting the development of FORTRAN over the years, in its various versions.
Copyright (c) 2007 John J. G. Savard