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Back in the 80s I ran across a book at a garage sale titled something like "Programming Fortran In English" or "Programming Fortran In Natural Language" that described a compiler that let you write Fortran programs using a English-like syntax.

Additional Note: I am about as sure as I can be that it generated Fortran, and that it called itself a dialect of Fortran. I am 100% sure it was not COBOL, COMTRAN, or any other programming language that is easily searchable. I was learning both COBOL and FORTRAN at the time in college. I would have recognized them. While it has been nearly 40 years I am quite sure of some things.

Something like:

PUT 10 INTO THE VARIABLE X. ADD 20 TO X. IF X IS GREATER THAN Y THEN GO TO LINE 100

(For a better example look below)

It was built around the idea that you would write code in this conversational paragraph style (Edit: Like it was written as a an essay, not a conventional program). A paragraph could start with a line number, and all the examples I remember used gotos, so we are talking Fortran 66 style programming. So no loops other than FOR, and no structured programming constructs to the language.

Does anyone know the name of this compiler or the name of this book? I am trying to find out the authors, and see if I can find a copy of the book, the report about the language, or any other relevant history.

A Sample program

The classic 99 Bottles program might look something like this:

There is a variable named bottles set to 99.

10 if bottles equals 0 then print "No more bottles of beer on the wall, no more bottles of beer. Go to the store and buy some more, 99 bottles of beer on the wall". Go to 20.

Print the contents of the variable bottles, then print "bottles of beer on the wall. Take one down, pass it around". Let bottles equal bottles minus one. Go to 10.

  1. End of program.

Note that the syntax is designed to make it look like paragraphs of english sentences. I am sure the syntax was fairly rigid, but the end result looked like a narrative. Also note the use of line numbers and goto. This was before structured programming syntax was added to the language, we are talking the era of dialects like Fortran H, Fortan IV, and Fortan 66.

Additional Information

I did some searching additional research after posting this and found a reference to an IBM Research project called "Natural English Programming Language" (NEPL), which I am nearly certain was the name of the book.

Sadly I cannot find the any more information than that title alas.

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