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Definition - What does Fortran mean?

Fortran, formerly written in all caps (FORTRAN), is a programming language designed for numeric computation and scientific computing. First introduced in 1954, Fortran is the oldest programming language and is still widely used. Its applications are found in the scientific fields, particularly numerical weather prediction, computational fluid dynamics and computational physics. Fortran is also quite popular in high-performance computing and is used in program benchmarking and ranking the world's fastest supercomputers.

Techopedia explains Fortran

Some of the characteristics making Fortran suitable for scientists include:

  • Built-in support for arguments in subroutines
  • Rich set of intrinsic functions
  • Built-in support for complex numbers
  • Support for array notation allowing operations on array sections
  • Strong aliasing rules for memory pointers, resulting in more efficient code after compilation

Today, despite having competition from languages like C and C++, Fortran is still extensively used to perform floating-point benchmark tests on new computer processors. Over the years, a vast collection of code has been written with Fortran in many scientific and engineering machines, allowing the language to persist.

Fortran has evolved over time. Starting off as a purely procedural programming language, it now supports object-oriented features like type extension and inheritance, polymorphism and dynamic type allocation.

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