PETITION TO RETIRE FORTRAN
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The FORTRAN computer programming language was designed to fulfill the needs of 1950's era computer hardware and numerical models. Modern hardware, numerical methods, and programming styles share little with those of the 1950's, and demand new tools, not incremental refinements of old ones.

In order to best serve future generations of scientists who rely on numerical simulation, we propose that FORTRAN be retired, allowing its successor(s) to evolve in the absence of the legacy FORTRAN juggernaut. Until FORTRAN is formally retired by the J3 Committee, institutional inertia will prevent alternatives from being adopted by science and industry.


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10 Most Recent Signatures
# Name Occupation City State/Country
349 Luc de Niterc Paris France
350 Jon Dattorro engineering consultant Stanford California
351 Tyrone Undergraduate physics student Manila Philippines
352 [Withheld] Consultant Lincoln Park NJ
353 Oliver Schillinger PhD student Jülich Germany
354 [Withheld] Beijing China
355 [Withheld] engineer Stuttgart Germany
356 Morgan kelly Nuclear engineering student Raleigh NC, USA
357 [Withheld] graduate student College Station Texas
358 Laura Desplans Rochester NY

FORTRAN STATEMENTS
1 FORTRAN2003 Is Unlearnable Users of FORTRAN are typically not computer scientists. To the contrary, most FORTRAN users have little to no formal computer science training and are experts working in another scientific discipline. Scientists of all domains struggle to stay current in their own fields, and the notion that they must also master the arcane concepts of a 700 page reference from another science entirely is neither practical nor appropriate.
2 FORTRAN2003 Is Unimplementable There is no freely available or reference implementation of FORTRAN2003, or 95, or 90 for that matter. Its absence is not due to lack of demand, but due to economic and logistic hurdles. The overabundance of redundant syntactic constructs manifests itself in compilers which require hundreds of man-years to implement. Furthermore, variations in implementation may result in basic language constructs having substantially different performance characteristics on different systems.
3 The FORTRAN Business Model Is Not Sustainable A commercial quality FORTRAN2003 compiler cannot be created, either using commercially available components (front-ends, assemblers, etc.) or by writing it entirely from scratch, for less than a cost of several million dollars (US). FORTRAN's vanishingly small market share constrains sales to the extent that it prohibits market entry for new vendors and prices new, entry level, and even curious users out of the market.
4 An Arcane Language Does Not Attract New, Talented Developers Formal educational instruction to expose new developers to FORTRAN is often limited to only one college course because FORTRAN is not interesting to computer science departments. As a result, users now typically learn FORTRAN "on the job". Scientific programming requires some subset of the best software developers, but employers find it increasingly difficult to attract the new talent needed largely for the reasons expressed here.
5 FORTRAN2003 Adds No Functionality The most recent language revision does not add any appreciable functionality to the language which was not already accessible by some other means. Adding additional syntax to the language to give the appearance of making a certain operation "easy" is a false economy because it presupposes the user has studied the language exhaustively and is aware of the syntactic idiom.
6 FORTRAN Ignores Long-term Trends in Computer Architecture Symmetric multiprocessor computers and distributed memory clusters of computers are found nearly ubiquitously in places where FORTRAN is used. FORTRAN ignores this trend, forcing users and vendors to implement language extensions and toolkits.
Today, secondary storage universally is direct access storage and in some instances a parallel filesystem. Despite these innovations, FORTRAN maintains a record oriented sequential input/output model created for tape and punch cards.
7 FORTRAN Syntax Is Archaic FORTRAN lacks any regular grammar, and "free format" syntax replaces rather than extends FORTRAN77 syntax, burdening users with knowing two subtly incompatible languages, both called FORTRAN, which can be combined almost arbitrarily. FORTRAN has no official macro preprocessor, so vendors are left to improvise and users often turn to the C Pre-Processor which is uniquely ill suited for the task. FORTRAN2003 pollutes the user name space with its plethora of intrinsics while the syntax does not have reserved words, allowing the use of intrinsic names as variables, or worse, arrays, syntactically conflating function call sites and array subscript syntax.
8 FORTRAN Makes Simple Programs Difficult To Write The practice of deriving small, disposable, experimental, toy programs from critical sections of important large applications has all but been squashed by MODULES which carry the baggage of unwanted code and syntactic scaffolding.
9 New Language Features Inhibit Optimization FORTRAN90 and later compilers must deal with issues such as pointer resolution and data copying earlier compilers did not. As a result, automatic optimization has fallen behind manual optimization. Experienced users are effectively encouraged to mix FORTRAN77 syntax with later FORTRAN to achieve the desired performance.
10 FORTRAN2003 Has Too Many Subtleties The fine differentiation of things such as POINTER and ALLOCATABLE types can have enormous effect on the semantics and performance of a program, although the distinction is non-obvious, implementation dependent, and largely not understood by most FORTRAN programmers. Automatically typing variables based on the first character of its name can introduce difficult to find numerical errors and encourages obscure variable naming.


Every decade someone calls for FORTRAN to be retired. In 1991 scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory said FORTRAN should be retired.


This petition is sponsored by The Committee to Start Stopping The J3 Committee Continuing. The sponsor can be reached at f2003petition REPLACE WITH AT SIGN fortranstatement.com.
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