Computing before Fortran

In the beginning was Fortran. Or maybe not.

It’s easy to imagine that no one wrote any large programs before there were compilers, but that’s not true. The SAGE system, for example, involved 500,000 lines of assembly code and is regarded as one of the most successful large computer systems ever developed. Work on SAGE began before the first Fortran compiler was delivered in 1957.

The Whirlwind computer that ran SAGE had a monitor, keyboard, printer, and modem. It also had a light gun, a precursor to the mouse. It’s surprising that all this came before Fortran.

Related posts:

Technology history quiz
Doing good work with bad tools

4 thoughts on “Computing before Fortran

  1. That’s odd. I thought SAGE was a very unsuccessful system because they just couldn’t get the bugs out of it.

  2. Ceruzzi, in his “A History of Modern Computing” has a nice discussion of SAGE starting on page 51 (MIT Press, paperback). “The last original SAGE computer, operating at a site in North Bay, Ontario, was shut down in 1983.” [p. 53]

    Seems to have worked pretty well.

Comments are closed.