Anecdotal Fortran... :-)

You can share here your weird :alien:, fun :laughing:, surprising :astonished: stories and anecdotes about Fortran…

Do you know 9548 Fortran ?

I have just learned, by serendipity, in my

(9548) Fortran is an asteroid in the main asteroid belt. It was discovered by the Spacewatch program on February 13, 1985 at Kitt Peak. It has an orbit characterized by a semi-major axis of 2.376 AU, an eccentricity of 0.24 and an inclination of 9.65° with respect to the ecliptic.

You will need a good telescope to observe it: diameter=5.4 km, albedo=0.058, magnitude 15.05 ! Please share with us your photography of that pixel (let’s name it pale grey dot…)!

Oh, yes, in my opinion it’s a Fortran 77 asteroid because it was discovered in 1985… :thinking:

More information:

You can cite that asteroid as:
(2003) (9548) Fortran. In: Dictionary of Minor Planet Names. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg. ISBN 978-3-540-29925-7

Is Fortran the only language to have an asteroid? :star_struck: Could be a killer feature…


The book Microcosm, by George Gilder, has the following interesting paragraph on page 86 of Chapter 6 about Andrew Grove, the former CEO of Intel.

[Andrew Grove’s] advantage over most of the other Fairchild personnel
was his knowledge of computers. While preparing his thesis at Berkeley,
he had learned how to program in the higher-level scientific language,
FORTRAN. Although he knew little about semiconductor capacitors
when he began his report, he quickly mastered the available materials
and translated the mathematics into a FORTRAN program. Thus he
was able readily to work out all the technical characteristics of the
device in, in crisp formulas and computations, within a few days, and
gained a reputation as an expert on the emerging technology of MOS,
designed to fulfill the Shockley dream of a field effect transistor.


One of the most popular American movies of 2017, Hidden Figures, had a Fortran angle, as was discussed in comp.lang.fortran:
By Richard Brody
The New Yorker
December 23, 2016

The basic virtue of “Hidden Figures” (which opens on December 25th), and it’s a formidable one, is to proclaim with a clarion vibrancy that, were it not for the devoted, unique, and indispensable efforts of three black women scientists, the United States might not have successfully sent people into space or to the moon and back. The movie is set mainly in 1961 and 1962, in Virginia, where a key nasa research center was (and is) based, and the movie is aptly and thoroughly derisive toward the discriminatory laws and practices that prevailed at the time.


Dorothy’s pursuit of a formal promotion to supervisor also takes place against the backdrop of the civil-rights movement. She learns that her entire department of human “computers” will soon be replaced by an electronic computer—an enormous I.B.M. mainframe that’s being installed. A gifted technician, Dorothy seeks out a book from the local library (a segregated library from which she’s thrown out), in which she’ll learn the programming language Fortran; she soon becomes nasa’s resident expert. On that trip to the library, in the company of her two sons on the cusp of adolescence, they witness a protest by civil-rights activists chanting “segregation must go” and see police officers, with police dogs, approaching the protesters.


It’s interesting to type “Fortran” where we never do… For example, in Discogs I have found a few bands, albums and song titles:

I let you discover the others in Discogs.

Updated: another electronic music band named Fortran Unit:

Have you encountered Fortran in other arts? Literature (science fiction)? Cinema? Painting ? Theater? Opera? Dance? Architecture? Sculpture? Photography? …


Nam June Paik (Korean: 백남준; July 20, 1932 – January 29, 2006) was a Korean American artist. He worked with a variety of media and is considered to be the founder of video art.

Here is an article about some of his works produced using FORTRAN: Computers and Art | Smithsonian American Art Museum

At some online shop I know they sell coffee mugs decorated with prints of an artwork he produced using Fortran. Unfortunately, I could not find the link anymore.


Speaking of Fortran Music you might be entertained by the book by Iannis Xenakis:

Chapter V titled Free Stochastic Music by Computer contains the entire program listing in FORTRAN IV which was used to generate a work of stochastic incremental music entitled ST/10-1, 080262 which had been calculated on the IBM-7090. Below is a screenshot of the beginning of the program (only comments)

Next February (08/02/2022) it will be 60 years since the piece of music was generated. It would be a cool project to modernize the program and synthesize the sound too, directly in Fortran (probably by interfacing to a sound library).

You can even listen to a version recorded by the “Ensemble Instrumental de Musique Contemporaine de Paris”:


There is even a Fortran generated replica of the Mona Lisa:

I couldn’t locate the source code, but it is described in this blog post:


Thanks for sharing!
It could be done in Fortran. I have written a C teaching project to synthesize sounds and write them in a WAV format. It was inspired by:
A WAV comprises a header with metadata then the soundtracks in PCM (Pulse-code modulation - Wikipedia). And you need a little endian procedure to write the 2 or 4 bytes data.

The Xenakis’ book is here:
You can read some parts of the Fortran code around page 317(but I don’t know if it is the code of that music, we can preview only a limited number of pages).


August 16, 1964: Isaac Asimov published its article Visit to the World’s Fair of 2014

This is one of the last paragraphs:

The situation will have been made the more serious by the advances of automation. The world of A.D. 2014 will have few routine jobs that cannot be done better by some machine than by any human being. Mankind will therefore have become largely a race of machine tenders. Schools will have to be oriented in this direction. Part of the General Electric exhibit today consists of a school of the future in which such present realities as closed-circuit TV and programmed tapes aid the teaching process. It is not only the techniques of teaching that will advance, however, but also the subject matter that will change. All the high-school students will be taught the fundamentals of computer technology will become proficient in binary arithmetic and will be trained to perfection in the use of the computer languages that will have developed out of those like the contemporary “Fortran” (from “formula translation”).


One of my favorite appearances of Fortran in popular culture is in the series Futurama.

Olde Fortran appears as a brand of malt liquor used drank by the alcohol-fueled robot Bender:

I think it also appears several times on slot machines (Wheel of Fortran).

Many of those with a background in HPC will know the Slurm Workload Manager. The name is in fact also a reference to the beverage from Futurama:



Real Programmers Don’t Use Pascal (1983)


Never fails to squeeze a few chuckles out of me. Thanks to some recent archaeology I’ve been doing, this one:

Real Programmers like Arithmetic IF statements-- they make the code more interesting.

hit a little closer to home than usual…


@ivanpribec , I think I have found the Olde Fortran recipe:


The Simpsons teached us what the greatest of the programming languages is:


MUSIC-N was a family of programs (in assembler and later in Fortran), which are the precursors of Csound (a sound and music computing system in C).

Quoting from A History of Programming and Music by Ge Wang:

In 1968, MUSIC V broke the mold by being the first computer music programming system to be implemented in FORTRAN, a high-level general-purpose programming language (often considered the first). This meant MUSIC V could be ported to any computer system that ran FORTRAN, which greatly helped both its widespread use in the computer music community and its further development. While MUSIC V was the last and most mature of the Max Mathews / Bell Labs synthesis languages of the era, it endures as possibly the single most influential computer music language. Direct descendants include MUSIC 360 (for the IBM 360) and MUSIC 11 (for the PDP-11) by Barry Vercoe and colleagues at MIT, and later cmusic by F. Richard Moore. These and other systems added much syntactic and logical flexibility, but at heart remained true to the principles of MUSIC-N languages: connection of unit generators, and the separate treatment of sound synthesis (orchestra) and musical organization (score). Less obviously, MUSIC V also provided the model for many later computer music programming languages and environments.

A good description can be found in:

Lazzarini, V., Yi, S., Heintz, J., Brandtsegg, Ø., & McCurdy, I. (2016). Music Programming Systems. In Csound (pp. 3-16). Springer, Cham.

Apparently the full MUSIC V program was around 3000 punch cards. I can’t imagine having to port it to Modern Fortran… :crazy_face:


If someone is interested in some of the music pieces by Max Mathews I found some recordings here.

He wrote the accompaniments for the first synthesized vocal song, played in 1961 on an IBM 7094:


Nice Kraftwerk & Daft Punk ancestor! Vocal synthesis seemed to be already well advanced in those days…
Alan Turing’s team also experienced computer sounds and music, but it was not in Fortran because it was in 1951 (moreover Turing bite the apple in 1954):

But Alan seemed more interested by sound as a method for the computer to communicate with humans, rather than by music.


The Xenakis Fortran code, in case anyone is feeling tempted


Interesting article! The Daisy Bell song above was also not Fortran. The Fortran version of MUSIC-V only came 7 years later. But still it’s impressive to learn about these pioneers.


I have found the Xenakis text here:
Search the “PROGRAM FREE STOCHASTIC MUSIC (FORTRAN IV)” string to find the program. OCR seems not too bad (I mean it could be worse…), but there are probably many many corrections to make!

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