[tex-live] Fortran and Pascal sources

Nelson H. F. Beebe beebe at math.utah.edu
Mon Oct 4 17:34:52 CEST 2010

On the subject of additional software for TeX Live in Fortran and C, I
offer these observations:

(1) Apple has never, to my knowledge, in 25+ years in business shipped
    a Fortran compiler on Mac OS (1, 2, ..., 9, X).  While Fortran
    compilers are commercially available, most Mac users are not
    capable of building GNU gfortran from source code.

    Apple does not even include a C compiler by default in Mac OS X;
    the separate XCode distribution is needed to get it, and recently,
    access to that package has been restricted to registered Apple

    Binary distribution sources, like fink, may not be suitable at
    many sites, both because of unfamiliarity, and because they may
    interfere with locally installed software (we have had Macs since
    their introduction in 1984, and don't use fink at all).

(2) Pascal compilers are not available on most current Unix
    distributions.  While GNU Pascal is in principle available in
    source form, it is difficult to build.  I have it on SPARC
    Solaris, GNU/Linux (AMD64 and IA-32) and MirBSD IA-32, but it is
    absent from 20+ other platforms in my test lab.

The poor support of Pascal on Unix was why a manual Pascal-to-C
translation was first carried out in the mid-1980s by Pat Monardo at
Berkeley, and later, that work was automated by the development of the
Web(Pascal)-to-C translator used since then in the TeX world.
However, that translator handles only the subset of Pascal that the
Stanford TeX Project adopted for their work on TeX, Metafont, and
related utilities.

By contrast, C (for all of its many faults) is extremely well
supported on all modern platforms, and has become the default
implementation language for most of the world's free software.  In
addition, multiple compilers are available on some of the more popular
platforms: I have at least 8 such compilers on GNU/Linux AMD64

C++, Java, Fortran, and Ada, see much less application in the free
software area, and C++ in particular introduces significant
portability barriers (GNU groff (troff clone) and James Clark's sgmls
SGML parser are two significant packages written in C++, but I shudder
whenever I have to try to build and install new versions).

Outside of important mathematical libraries (e.g., LAPACK), Fortran's
only major use in the free software world seems to be in the R
statistical language, which uses both Fortran and C in the
implementation of its thousands of packages.  There too, portability
often suffers.

Therefore, please consider very carefully whether it is wise to
introduce into the TeX Live distribution any software written in
Pascal or Fortran that cannot be handled by the existing X-to-C
translation facilities.

I have builds running now of the latest Free Pascal compiler release
on all of my systems to find out whether its portability has improved
since I last tried it several years ago.

- Nelson H. F. Beebe                    Tel: +1 801 581 5254                  -
- University of Utah                    FAX: +1 801 581 4148                  -
- Department of Mathematics, 110 LCB    Internet e-mail: beebe at math.utah.edu  -
- 155 S 1400 E RM 233                       beebe at acm.org  beebe at computer.org -
- Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0090, USA    URL: http://www.math.utah.edu/~beebe/ -

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