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Happy Birthday to John Backus – the Man Who Dared to Make Computers Understand “IF”

Perhaps the greatest innovation in the history of computers was when the concept of “IF” was made to computers to understand in a language that computers could understand …

John Backus FORTRANJohn Backus was born on this day in Philadelphia in the year 1924 …

He went to college but was not a great student.

He then went into the US Army. After a bout with bone cancer, he had part of his skull removed and a plate was inserted to make up for his lack of skull bone.

As time went on in the 20th century, He found himself working at IBM.

Pretty good for a guy who didn’t do so well in school and had a metal plate in his head.

Computers were being hand coded for such a long time. A lot of redundant computer code was necessary in those early days. Coding computer programs was tedious – but there was no way around it.

Was there a better way?

John Backus believed there was a better way … in 1953, He came up with a better way – FORTRAN !!!

Fortran was a new language. Mathematical and logical – object oriented. Something computer engineers could save a lot of time when coding.

FORTRAN became the basis for following languages such as BASIC.

BASIC went on to power the microcomputer revolution. BASIC was the language that a large number of tody’s programmers first learned in the early days of computer programming.

The most powerful introduction to computing in FORTRAN – was the “IF” statement.

BASIC came along and created GOTO and the much used “FOR – NEXT” concept. Without the development of the FORTRAN language, we would not have the modern computer languages of today.

FORTRAN is still in use today. It has evolved greatly.

Happy birthday John Backus –

He taught computers to think of “IF”

fortran if cablecar

Filed Under: Tony Rollo Blog

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