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Showing posts from April, 2011

Aging Fortran Codes - A Crisis in Slow Motion

Fortran isn't dead but some of the critical scientific codes written in it will be on life-support soon if research sponsoring organizations don't react soon. It was just a little over four years years ago that we read about the death of John Backus, the leader of the IBM that invented the Fortran language in 1954. It was 54 years ago that the first Fortran compiler was released commercially.

In that span of time millions of lines of Fortran code have been written in Fortran IV, Fortran 66 and 77 as well as variants such as Watfor. In listening to managers of codes at DOE, NASA universities and private companies (including independent software vendors) over the past several years, I am constantly amazed at how much code is in the early versions of Fortran.

People readily acknowledge the amount of code and the concern about the aging "expertise base" (i.e., people) who are charged with  maintaining and improving the code. They recognize that much of this code is &quo…

Turning off logic

Everybody knows about the two halves of our brain. One half deals with logical thought, facts etc. while the other deals with feelings, imagination and other things. They are linked at the base of the brain by the corpus collosum which is the sole place that they communicate with each other. The two halves work together as they take in information from the world through all of your senses, painting a "complete" picture of what is going on around you. For example the left side of your brain deals with the names of objects, whereas the right side deals with the objects function, so that when presented with a computer you are able to name it and describe what it does.

Artists and programmers are probably at two extremes of the spectrum when it comes down to which parts of our brain we use for our work. Artists almost certainly use much of their right brain, whereas I imagine that programmers use a lot of their left brains.

Whatever parts of our brain we use get exercised an…