FACT computer language

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FACT was an early computer programming language, created by the Datamatic Division of Minneapolis Honeywell for its model 800 series business computers in 1959. FACT was an acronym for "Fully Automated Compiling Technique". It was an influence on the design of the COBOL programming language.

Some of the design of FACT was based on the linguistic project Basic English, developed about 1925 by C.K. Ogden.

The software was actually designed by Computer Sciences Corporation (Fletcher Jones, Roy Nutt, and Robert L. Patrick) under contract to Richard Clippinger of Honeywell.

Contents

Contributions to COBOL

FACT was an influence in the design of COBOL, and is one of 3 predecessor languages credited in all COBOL manuals.

Several elements of FACT were incorporated into COBOL:

  • Defining data as levels, with group items and elementary items.
  • Assigning of literal values to data as it is defined (VALUE clause).
  • Specifying a limited list of literal values allowed in a specific field (88 level data items).
  • A non-procedural report generator based on specifying the appearance of the desired report (Report Section).
  • Qualification of data-names (IN or OF clause).
  • Group move of like-named items (MOVE CORRESPONDING).
  • Validity checks on procedural statements (ON ERROR clause).
  • Built-in SORT function.

Ever working?

There is some question if a working version of FACT was ever released by Honeywell. The language was designed, and a detailed specification released (see references), but it said that "Computer Sciences Corporation also has the contract to implement FACT", which seems to imply that they are still working on an implementation. About that time, the short range committee began developing COBOL, and Roy Nutt, 1 of the 3 principals of CSC began working with that committee on COBOL. It's not clear if he ever came back to implement FACT, or if Honeywell concentrated their programming effort on a COBOL compiler.

Sample Program

A sample FACT program is located at page 79.

 (see above link)

References

  • PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES: History and Fundamentals, Sammet 1969, pp. 316-324.
  • FACT Language Manual (1960) (pdf)
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