FORTRAN is one of the oldest programming languages and has been used by developers over a long period of time in computer science. FORTRAN stands for FORmula TRANslation and it was defined and a processor was written to translate it by John Backus of IBM and his group in the year 1956 to 1957 (Rajaraman, 2004). Since its development the language has extensively become popular and is used to solve scientific and engineering problems in the last 50 years. Rajaraman (2004) indicated that "due to the evolution of better computers and with increasing maturity of use the language FORTRAN also evolved" (p. 18).

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FORTRAN is therefore one of the most widely used higher level programming languages in the world. Datta (1998) established that "though a preliminary report of FORTRAN was available in 1954; the first manual of it was published by IBM for their 704 computer system in 1957" (p. 18). Although FORTRAN was initially developed for IBM computers it is being used by all computer vendors.

Consequently, FORTRAN language is usually computer independent except for some additional features in some implementations. Datta (1998) thus says that the user should consult the appropriate manual of the computer he will use for full details of the particular computer an individual is working with. FORTRAN has its own alphabet called character set, its own syntax rules to form words, expression and statements as well as a grammar of its own (Datta, 1998).


Nowadays, a source program in FORTRAN consists of a sequence of FORTRAN statements written according to standards. The language has four statements which include assignment, control, input/output and specification or declaration statements (Datta, 1998). FORTRAN was so pioneering not on the basis of being first high-level language, but also due to its compiler, which is attributed as giving rise to the division of computer science currently known as compiler theory.

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