At a Halloween party we threw for MIT students this weekend, the subject of Fortran came up (yeah, I know, nerdy stuff) which pretty much drew blank looks from the more junior witches and warlocks. For those of you who don’t know, Fortran is the most widely used general-purpose programming language for numerical applications. Us old-timers learned how to program in it, back in the good old days of punch cards. The problem is that no one new seems to be learning it anymore. And with so many gray-hairs who originally coded in Fortran now retiring, there’s a lot of legacy stuff out there that’s quickly destined to become a rather wicked black box.
The good news is that there’s a solution that doesn’t require hiring expensive consultants – the app engineers at Mathcad (an interpretive math engine with natural math notation) have published a step-by-step guide to converting a Fortran program with several do loops into an equivalent Mathcad program using Mathcad’s while loop. Although engineers can enter an exact system of equations into Mathcad, some users may want to replicate exactly the results they were getting in Fortran. In that case, engineers can preserve the margin of error for backward compatibility bt taking the original partial differential equations (which the Fortran code was trying to approximate) and typing it directly in Mathcad.