Fortran is the most widely used programming language in the world for numerical applications. It has achieved this position partly by being on the scene earlier than any of the other major languages and partly because it seems gradually to have evolved the features which its users, especially scientists and engineers, found most useful. In order to retain compatibility with old programs, Fortran has advanced mainly by adding new features rather than by removing old ones. The net result is, of course, that some parts of the language are, by present standards, rather archaic: some of these can be avoided easily, others can still be a nuisance.
This section gives a brief history of the language, outlines its future prospects, and summarises its strengths and weaknesses.