Wednesday, March 21, 2007

John Backus, 1924 - 2007

As reported in an AP story printed in the Washington Post, John Backus died on Saturday at the age of 82. Backus, an IBM Fellow, led the team that developed FORTRAN, the first widely-used, high-level programming language. He also contributed to the development of the Backus-Naur Form (BNF), a language for describing the grammar of programming languages. Software developers, even those who have never used FORTRAN or BNF, owe John Backus a huge debt of gratitude.

As quoted in the AP story:
"Much of my work has come from being lazy," Backus told Think, the IBM employee magazine, in 1979. "I didn't like writing programs, and so, when I was working on the IBM 701 (an early computer), writing programs for computing missile trajectories, I started work on [FORTRAN] to make it easier to write programs."
Backus claimed to be lazy. In reality, his hard work hastened the development of the software industry we know today.


No comments: