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John Backus, developer of Fortran dies

John Backus, the developer of the Fortran programming language, has died aged 82.

Fortran was designed for mathematicians and scientists, and it remains the preeminent programming language in these areas today.

It allows people to work with computers without having to learn the machine's assembly language.

When Backus and a small band of IBM colleagues began their quest in 1954 for a programming system that would enable a computer to produce its own machine language programs, they weren't always sure what they would come up with.

In 1967, Backus said, "As we began to solve one problem, it split up into others we hadn't foreseen. In January 1955, we said we would have it in less than a year. Finally, we did it in 1957."

What Backus and his fellow workers had created was Fortran, the daddy of programming systems at the time.

That achievement won Backus the WW McDowell Award for outstanding contributions to the computer field from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) in 1967.

He also received the US National Medal of Science, for pioneering contributions to computer programming languages in 1973.

Sun unveils ‘Fortran replacement’

New York Times obituary

Los Angeles Times obituary

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