Fortran, a language that is almost 70 years old, rose from 27th to 12th place in the YA ranking. What is the reason for the new popularity?

Fortran, a language that is almost 70 years old, rose from 27th to 12th place in the YA ranking. What is the reason for the new popularity?

The world of programming often gives surprises for one language or another. So, at the beginning of 2024, Fortran, one of the oldest NAPs, immediately rose 15 positions in the TIOBE ranking. What happened and why the previously almost forgotten language is becoming popular again? Details – under the cat.

What happened anyway?

First, a little about the rating. TIOBE is an index that evaluates the popularity of programming languages, based on counting the results of search queries containing the name of the language. For formation, a search is used in several most visited portals: Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, Baidu, Bing, Amazon and others.

In January, a new monthly ranking of the popularity of TIOBE programming languages ​​was published. Of course, everything is relative, but in any case, this index reflects the interest of coders and ordinary netizens in the language.

And suddenly Fortran appeared almost in the top ten in terms of popularity. After all, he was born in 1957, that is, he is now about 67 years old. Last year, the language was on the 27th position, now it has risen to 12, ahead of such modern and relevant programming languages ​​as Rust, Ruby and Kotlin.

The language was developed by IBM, the name stands for Formula TRANslator. At the same time, it continues to develop, not forgotten and not abandoned. The new version appeared on November 17, 2023, that is, quite recently. If it was not in demand, it would not be updated.

Fortran basically is used in areas where computing has traditionally been used first—in science and design. These include weather and ocean forecasting, computational hydrodynamics, applied mathematics, statistics, and finance.

In one of the publications on Habra it was said, that Fortran is still the main language for large-scale simulations of physical systems – i.e. for things like astrophysical simulations of stars and galaxies (eg Flash), molecular dynamics, electronic structure calculation codes (SIESTA), climate models, etc. In addition, it is used in the field of high-performance computing, including numerical simulations. Of course, its modern version is used – Fortran 90/95/03/08. In particular, the popular Open MPI libraries for code parallelization were developed for it.

Its advantages:

  • High productivity.

  • Static and strong typing.

  • Relatively easy to learn and use.

  • Versatility.

  • Built-in parallelism.

Now there are still areas where Fortran is used, in many respects, because it contains a lot of important information for software specialists. If you rewrite old programs on new NAPs, resources will be needed, sometimes very significant — time, money, and the developers themselves. Among other things, even the latest Fortran 2008 standard is backward compatible with Fortran 77 and mostly Fortran 66.

New programs are also being written in Fortran precisely because it is one of the main programming languages ​​in scientific calculations. In a survey of attendees at the 2014 Supercomputing Convention who use this language, all respondents said they were going to use it in the next 5 years.

Not just Fortran

There is another old language, the relevance of which has remained at about the same level for many years. The language of COBOL, he is already more than 60 years old. Last August, this veteran of the field of programming came in 15th place in terms of popularity among Japanese people. A year ago, he was in 31st place. Now he is on the 20th position.

Why is it still popular? The answer is simple – now it is involved in a large number of business areas, mainly in the financial industry. Below are statistics from Reuters. It is true that it is from 2017, but it is unlikely that all these companies and systems upgraded and changed everything at once, most probably remained “the same”. Something, of course, has changed, but it does not change the essence of the matter — the basic services/software have remained unchanged.

The logic of companies is simple: if something works well, why change something, spending a lot of resources. And there is no such need yet, until the current state of affairs begins to threaten the information security of the company’s infrastructure, the stability of the technological base. Accordingly, no one will change the old one just to switch to something “stylish, new and youthful”.

There is, however, one significant problem. The legacy of COBOL is very large, and there are very few specialists who can understand it and also write something of their own. And most of them are about 60-70 years old.

Evidence? They are. So, for example, six years ago, 75-year-old programmer Bill Hinshaw founded a company to work with COBOL systems. It is worth mentioning the statistics above. In 2017, COBOL handled very large financial flows — up to $3 billion. And this is a daily volume, not a monthly or annual volume. What is included in this? Many things — account transactions, life insurance, credit services, ATM operation. A problem with some mission-critical node system in COBOL can cost a business many millions of US dollars.

An enterprising developer managed to scale the company in a short time. He invited veterans of the field of programming, trained new specialists and engaged in what he is quite familiar with – maintenance of the infrastructure of various banks, insurance and credit organizations. Companies are gradually moving to modern technologies, but it costs a lot of money. For example, the cost of replacing the old infrastructure with a new one cost one of Australia’s major banks $749.9 million.

All in all, it’s heartening to see that the old JAPs are still afloat thanks to their reliability, relative ease of learning, and large amount of software heritage from literally the last century.

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