I decided to make an interview with one of my American friends — Rob Vugteveen. He was working as a FORTRAN programmer back in 1980s, so it's quite a unique experience.
Rob Vugteveen, Carson City, Nevada, USA
K: Hi Rob. I've heard you were working as a Fortran programmer many years ago. Is that right? How the industry was looking back then?
Good morning, Kirill.
In the 1980s I made my living as a FORTRAN programmer in the mining industry, primarily in the processing of exploration data and presenting it graphically. We were using VAX minicomputers from Digital Equipment Corporation. This was a time when desktop PCs were growing in popularity, and procedural languages like FORTRAN were being challenged by object-oriented languages. Also, graphics display systems were shifting away from character-cell terminals to X-window-based displays.
FORTRAN (“FORmula TRANslation”) was built for computationally intensive programs, and it did not have its own graphic libraries to display information. There were companies that sold large FORTRAN subroutine libraries to provide that capability. These were not yet designed for the growing popularity of X-window technology.
When we were forced to move from expensive VAX computers to cheaper PCs, we had to write hybrid programs using FORTRAN for computations and C++ for display. It was a bit messy at first. I left that job for something completely different (building a mining museum) and haven’t really done any programming since.
FORTRAN is still used today in scientific research for computationally intensive work, but I’m sure it’s been adapted to work with graphical display systems through external subroutines written in object-oriented code.