Programming and Education
For too long, computer programming has seemed like a secret world, sealed off from all but the geekiest of maths geniuses. Normal people never needed to know what went on inside their mysterious black boxes: it might have well as been voodoo. That’s changing now though. Because computers are essential to the way we live now, computer programmers are essential too. Kids growing up today need to have at least an idea of how computers work to make them useful (and well paid) members of the workforce of tomorrow.
FORTRAN (it dropped the caps in 1990) is the oldest high-level language still written today. It’s now over 55 years old and still in widespread use in the sciences, in high-performance computing, and in supercomputers. Its real strength is in numerical computation and complicated mathematical models (making it also popular in finance); and its position is hard to assail given the vast Fortran code library of numerical computation routines that’s available. There are even people still using fixed-format F77 (see below), although most modern users have shifted to the easier free-format. It’s probably not your language of choice for shiny Web 2.0 development, but it’s fascinating to have a look at something with such a venerable and successful history.