Fortran vs C, easing using Fortran

Ross Ihaka
Tue, 13 Apr 1999 08:53:57 +1200 (NZST)

On Mon, 12 Apr 1999, Paul Gilbert wrote:

> It seems to me that, at least for application packages, there is a strong
> incentive to avoid both fortran and C. If eventual R, or a new language like
> Omega, are to work in a "Java like" way across platforms, I think both fortran
> and C are problems. Is that not correct?

IMHO: Java is (currently) too slow for production numerical work and I
suspect that this will remain the case for some time.  Java gets around
this by providing a way of calling Fortran and C.

I once heard an informed opinion that it would hard to get a language like
S to perform within a factor of 10 of optimized C or Fortran.  Most of the
time we can live with a factor of 10, but sometimes ...

There is also the issue of the code base available in Fortran (and to a
lesser extent in C).  It's a resource which can't be ignored.
> I realize there is a performance issue, but I don't think it is as serious as it
> was in old versions of Splus. I am not sure how slow my time series library
> would be without the fortran. It used to be intolerable, but I have the
> impression it may not be too bad now.

For the most part, the numerical methods in S are implemented in Fortran
I think. So even if you don't see it, it's there.

> To some extent this must also apply to the core part of the language. Is there
> not some incentive to remove, not add, both fortran and C except where they are
> essential?

Actually, I quite like Fortran for expressing numerical computations (yes
I should probably keep my dirty habits to myself :-).  I'd prefer Algol60
but that's not really an option. I'd certainly like foreign language calls
to remain an option.


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