Lacking Natural Simplicity

Random musings on books, code, and tabletop games.

Cobol and Fortran

I know Cobol, and have written it for work, but not for a long time, maybe 30 years? No, I lie, I did some a decade or two ago. It was not my favorite programming language, but knowing it helped pay the bills. At my college in the mid-80s it was taught by the Business department rather than the Computer Science department!

One of my Cobol jobs was porting code from the IBM mainframes to VMS on a Digital Equipment Corporation mini-computer, the VAX. A more recent one was fixing bugs and making enhancements to some student management software at a nearby college.

What little Fortran I've written was in the ratfor (Rational Fortran) dialect, on VMS, using the Software Tools package written at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, which ported a lot of Unix tools to VMS (and IBM mainframes) using ratfor (a dialect that was first invented on Unix to add modern control structures to Fortran 66, and implemented as a preprocessor).

One of my favorite programming books is Software Tools by Brian Kernighan and P.J. Plauger (I first read the Software Tools in Pascal version), which showed how to write Unix like tools in Ratfor (because at the time Fortran was more portable than C!). It was the inspiration for the LBL Software tools package. I wish I still had the LBL Software Tools on the VAX I maintain (running on a software emulator on Intel hardware, at much faster speeds than the original VAX), but it was deleted to save space long ago in an era of expensive hard drives, a decision I've long regretted! I can find the source online, but I can't find a binary distribution, and that VAX doesn't have a Fortran compiler anymore, alas.

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