[Beowulf] Teaching Scientific Computation (looking for the perfect text)

Peter St. John peter.st.john at gmail.com
Tue Nov 20 14:18:59 PST 2007

When I was at WorldCom (the last year before bankruptcy) there was a
project to translate legacy Fortran (mostly running on TOPS machines,
precursors of VAX) to C (to run on new AIX machines). A consulting
company was engaged which specialized in that translation and
automated most of it.

It turned out there were few of us around familar with both languages,
so I got involved in reviewing the initial translation. It's easy to
translate fortran to C (f77 did that right? on System V?) but it's not
easy to translate it into readable C. The consultants had told us that
their clients tended to maintain their source base in fortran, and do
ongoing automated translations to propogate their maintenance, but
they said they didn't know why. It turns out that the automaton
produces C which is morphed to look like Fortran, so for example this:

100 WRITE (6, 200, X)
200 FORMAT(...)

turns into

fortranlikeWRITE(output_device_6, "LineNumber200", X)
LineNumber200: fortranlikeFORMAT(...)

instead of

fprintf(stdout, "%d", X);

so d'uh, no wonder that their clients maintain this code in fortran,
and not in C.  So there are some fortran progammers with jobs around
here, good :-)

I don't draw any conclusions about the futures of any languages:
really I think it won't matter much as compilers get smarter and we'll
express ourselves any way we like. Also, sorry for the fudgy fortran,
I'm very rusty.


> I have a staff of 5. Of these 3 are conversant in Fortran. Our ages are
> 52, 43, and 40. We deal with fortran on a daily basis to support our HPC
> users in Physics, Chemistry, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical
> Engineering, and occasionally even statistics. Supporting these users
> represents over $20 Million of direct funding to the University.
> I remember a time in the mid 1980's when I questioned the value of
> Fortran. But it's still here, it's still used, and we still need people
> who understand it to answer the next generation of questions in the
> basic sciences.
> Mike Davis
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