Older than FORTRAN

But only by a few months. Today is my 50th birthday, and the most reliable “birthday” I can find for FORTRAN is October 15, 1956, the publication date for the FORTRAN Programmer’s Reference Manual (scanned PDF).

I wrote my first program in FORTRAN. To be specific, FORTRAN IV EMU from Eastern Michigan University, running on the IBM 1401 (I think) at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. I was at Operation Catapult, a three-week program for high school juniors. Big fun, and I’m glad to see it is still running.

The program was a two-body simulation, with the paths printed in in line-printer graphics. I wonder if I still have a copy of that somewhere in the “closed stacks” at the back of the garage.

FORTRAN wasn’t my first computer language, that was BNF grammars. I was reading SF in math class because I was being taught logarithms for the third time, and I’d learned them before I was taught them the first time (got a slide rule for Christmas in seventh grade). The teacher noticed and had me stay after to chat. He sympathized, but asked me to at least read a math book during class. So, I found one on computer programming and churned through it over a couple of weeks. I still have a fondness for colon-equals as an assignment op.

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