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AtW
31st October 2015, 18:30
"Fortran, assembly programmers ... NASA needs you – for Voyager

With its last generation of space-race engineers hanging up their slide-rules, NASA is looking for someone fluent in Fortran and other Cold War-era languages.

In an interview with Popular Mechanics, the manager of NASA's Voyager program Suzanne Dodd said the retirement of the last original crew member has left the space agency with a shortage of people capable of communicating with the 40-year-old craft.

Launched in 1977, the two Voyager crafts rely on mid-70s hardware powered by purpose-built General Electric interrupt processors. After 38 years in space, the two probes are currently on the outer fringes of the Sun's influence, heading into interstellar space.

Though most of the instruments onboard the two probes have been deactivated, both are still able to maintain contact with Earth and will continue to do so into the 2020's, until their onboard radioisotope thermoelectric generators no longer function.

In the meantime, NASA needs engineers capable of interacting with the 1970s-era technology, a skillset that includes knowledge of both Fortran and assembly as well as the ability to command a machine with just around 68KB of total memory. ( AtW's comment: Enough memory to include a few games as well :tongue )

"Although, some people can program in an assembly language and understand the intricacy of the spacecraft, most younger people can't or really don't want to," Dodd was quoted as saying.

With high-level languages now the standard for developers, knowing how to fluently code in assembly has become a specialized skill, as has fluency in dated languages such as Fortran. While obscure, the skillset is potentially lucrative. Along with NASA's aging fleet of spacecraft, many businesses still rely on ancient languages such as Fortran or COBOL for specialized tasks and critical infrastructure"

Source: Fortran, assembly programmers ... NASA needs you (http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/10/31/brush_up_on_your_fortran/)

Sysman
31st October 2015, 22:10
Of course, it's not Fortran at all, it's FORTRAN. :smokin

And given the launch date of 1977 that'll probably be FORTRAN IV rather than FORTRAN 77.

Dallas
1st November 2015, 09:45
I did fortran and COBOL at uni - does that qualify me?
If Matt damon is still on Mars, I am in :tongue

Contreras
1st November 2015, 11:14
/me wonders, if fortran is such a problem, then why use it still. I mean it's not like the source code gets uploaded, surely.

NickFitz
1st November 2015, 11:41
/me wonders, if fortran is such a problem, then why use it still. I mean it's not like the source code gets uploaded, surely.

Because they know that the existing FORTRAN compiler works, or at least has worked to date. There's no sense in switching to a new compiler, with the risk of finding it has a bug which leads to it outputting code that breaks your spaceships :frown

RSoles
1st November 2015, 13:48
Yep, it's all about the devil you know and the cost of certification ( not to mention the cost of failure).

I was quite pleased to see the other day when installing a python package ( pandas or scikit-learn?) that the first thing it did was to install some FORTRAN packages.

(I also have two shoe-boxes full of my final year project on punched cards, a FORTRAN-IV implementation of an interpreter for the Intel 8080A).

AtW
1st November 2015, 16:00
/me wonders, if fortran is such a problem, then why use it still. I mean it's not like the source code gets uploaded, surely.

Because modern languages require regular 10 GigaByte patch downloads and executables require 512 GB+ just to start up :eyes

MarillionFan
1st November 2015, 22:11
I did fortran and COBOL at uni - does that qualify me?
If Matt damon is still on Mars, I am in :tongue

Have they been in touch with Suity? He'll make sure the rocket reaches Matt and then takes him to Pluto!

AtW
1st November 2015, 22:57
Have they been in touch with Suity? He'll make sure the rocket reaches Matt and then takes him to Uranus!

FTFY