How FORTRAN changed my life.

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Back in the day, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was a college student, I took FORTRAN. I was well on my way to applying to Medical School, great MCAT’s, good GPA at a serious university in a real subject, and it just seemed the way I would go.

Then in my final term, I took FORTRAN. WATFOR on punched cards, using a cpu-minute at a time on a big IBM mainframe. A multi-million dollar machine my laptop would run rings around today. I took to it like a duck takes to water. I was in love. Within the first day, I’d finished the book and was on my way. My backup plan, graduate school in science, became my plan. Probably for the best, as I’m not sure how inspiring a Medical Doctor I’d be.

I ended up using far more CPU time than I expect was budgeted. Tried some simple numerical integration techniques in my Statistical Mechanics class, probability distribution analysis for the lab I worked in, and even wrote routines that are still in use today. (Translated into C and incorporated in a molecular mechanics package.)

FORTRAN even influenced the science I ended up training in. The NMR people didn’t play with programming, the crystallographers did. So I started on my career developing and studying algorithms, by working out methods to squeeze big problems into little machines with appropriate approximation algorithms.

So while I’m not allowed to admit it today, at least not admit it and keep my credentials as a full fledged computer science profession, I still have a soft spot for the language.

Author: rharrisonauthor

International man of mystery. Well not really, although I can mangle several languages and even read the occasional hieroglyphic. A computer scientist, an author and one of the very few people who has both an NIH grant and a book contract. A rising author of sweet romantic historical fiction. A booktrope author.