How Fortran Changed the World

The BBC is kicking off a new 5 part series of programmes on programming, by looking at the impact that FORTRAN has made on our lives. The series “Code that Changed the World” starts on the the 6th April and is hosted by former “bits” presenter Alex Krotoski.

FORTRAN stands for FORmula TRANslation and it particularly suitable to scientific computing. The language was developed by IBM as a practical alternative to assembly language. The development of FORTRAN had a large influence on the development of compilers, since an objective was the generation of efficient code from the source code written in FORTRAN.

FORTRAN has a large lineage of versions, from early versions designed to be entered by punch cards, to modern versions designed for structured programming.


Punch card images generated at


  1. Found this radio program quite dull, lots of expressions of gratitude to FORTRAN but no substance, not even a single line of code.

  2. They do have “hello world” program in FORTRAN but it’s the background music (sing-song computer voice at start and end of the episode). This series is more about explaining some history of computer languages… was nice to hear some of the early computer programmers… would be cool do to hear some more about people using FORTRAN today, since it’s heavily used still.

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