May 30, 2023

An teacher on the Boston Latin College makes use of an IBM 1130 laptop to show Fortran to college students on October 4, 1968. 

Picture by Underwood Archives/Getty Photographs

A couple of weeks in the past, I took a have a look at utilizing ChatGPT to write down the identical routine in a dozen of the most well-liked programming languages. However as a programming language geek, I questioned simply how far ChatGPT would go. Would it not program in a language from the Nineteen Fifties? Would it not program in a language that used its personal character set? May it write code in one of many languages that wrote its code?

Additionally: One of the best AI chatbots: ChatGPT and options to attempt

And so, I dove in. I’ve used most of the languages I am spotlighting right here, so I will take just a little stroll down reminiscence lane and embody some tales about my expertise with these I’ve used.

Whereas I have not run the code itself, I’ve learn by means of all of the generated packages. Most look proper, and present the suitable indicators telling us that the language introduced is the language I requested for.

Additionally: How does ChatGPT work?

I am telling you this as a result of the headers on all of the screenshots are flawed. Most are listed as SQL. For some purpose BAL is proven as VBNet, and Prolog is listed as Rust. ChatGPT did not make this error final time, but it surely made in the present day, for all of the languages proven right here.

And with that, let’s dive in.


Fortran (or FORTRAN, because it was depicted again then) stands for Components Translation. It was developed primarily for scientific and engineering calculations. Despite the fact that it dates again to the Nineteen Fifties, it was usually the primary language taught to engineering college students within the Seventies and Eighties.

Additionally: This new expertise might blow away GPT-4 and all the things prefer it

For me, it was my fourth programming language, after BASIC, PDP-8 meeting language, and PDP-8 binary (sure, I wrote binary code so I might toggle it in on the entrance panel of an early minicomputer). My Dad generously drove me the hour right down to Newark Faculty of Engineering (now NJIT) so I might take their first-year programming course whereas I used to be nonetheless a sophomore in highschool.

Fortran was by no means a favourite, though it will get most calculation-oriented jobs accomplished. A variation of Fortran continues to be in use in the present day, but it surely’s fairly restricted to specialty scientific work since many different trendy languages do Fortran-level analytics, and do it higher.

Right here, due to using the implicit key phrase, it appears like ChatGPT is depicting code written within the Fortran-77 variant.


Despite the fact that the label is flawed, the code is Fortran.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


I used to be a teenaged COBOL programmer. I did not know COBOL on the time, however someplace round 1980 I noticed a need advert for a COBOL programmer on the Northeast Regional Information Heart of Worldwide Paper in Denville, NJ. It was about 40 minutes from my dad and mom’ residence, and I wanted a summer time job. As quickly as I managed to schedule an interview, I ran to the native bookstore and spent a weekend chowing down on all of the COBOL studying materials I might discover.

Additionally: use ChatPDF: The AI chatbot that may inform you all the things about your PDF

COBOL was meant for business-oriented processing. Right this moment, the identical sort of shoppers can be SAP or Salesforce customers. However COBOL, as you possibly can see from the COBOL-88 code under, was useful, but it surely positive wasn’t elegant.

Because it seems, they needed a full-time worker. However since I aced their check (apparently my weekend of research beat out the scores of the professionals who utilized), they determined to place me to work for the summer time. To say there was a cultural mismatch was an understatement. These had been the very early days of microcomputers (suppose pre-PC) and I gloried in that stuff. In the meantime, these people had been all concerning the fits and ties and large knowledge facilities. I virtually instantly picked up the nickname “Bother.” Hey, I used to be nonetheless a child.

The defining second for me got here when one of many extra seasoned programmers on the firm took me apart to clarify, and I quote, “COBOL is life.” I took that message to coronary heart and determined that I did not need my life to be about COBOL. That summer time was the final time I programmed something in COBOL.


Despite the fact that the label is flawed, the code is COBOL, in all probability COBOL-88.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

RPG (Report Program Generator)

No, it is not a rocket-propelled grenade or a role-playing recreation. RPG was a program for creating experiences. You possibly can see the evolution within the language (and laptop language considering, usually) between the 2 variations proven under. RPG II dates again to the late Nineteen Fifties. RPG IV was up to date within the Nineties, and is significantly extra trendy (however nonetheless positively dated).

I did write a couple of RPG III packages for the AS/400 as a aspect gig whereas in school, but it surely was by no means something I adopted all that intently.


Two RPGs, each with incorrect labels.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


I’ve an extended love affair with Lisp. Lisp, named for LISt Processor, was typically described as A number of Insipid Silly Parentheses. For some purpose, these parentheses clicked in my mind. Lisp was my gateway drug into AI programming, and as we have realized from ChatGPT’s processing of language, information may be represented as strings of phrases, or lists.

Additionally: ChatGPT’s intelligence is zero, but it surely’s a revolution in usefulness, says AI skilled

Again within the Eighties, I used to be a product supervisor for a RISC-based Frequent Lisp implementation, and coded in it for some time. Primarily based on the defun greeting and let syntax generated by ChatGPT, it appears just like the code under can also be Frequent Lisp, a later variation of John McCarthy’s unique Lisp implementation of the late Nineteen Fifties. McCarthy was one of many founding fathers of AI analysis, so it is solely becoming that an AI ought to write in his language.


The label is flawed. That’s so not SQL. It is Lisp.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


ALGOL (ALGOthymic Language) was forward of its time. It allowed the passing of features as parameters, and allowed using recursion. These are two key parts of contemporary programming that had been absent from fashionable languages like Fortran and COBOL, which had been fashionable on the similar time of ALGOL’s introduction.

If Fortran, BASIC, and meeting language taught me top-down programming, ALGOL taught me easy methods to construction my code. It was a foundational language that set the stage for my use of C, Pascal, Java, JavaScript, and many of the trendy structured languages we use in the present day.


No, that is not SQL. It is ALGOL.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


Simula, as you may think, was developed for simulation and modeling. Like ALGOL, Simula was additionally forward of its time, supporting using objects and lessons. Object oriented programming has since develop into elementary for a lot of of in the present day’s best programming languages.

Using the key phrase OUTFIX tells me that ChatGPT in all probability wrote the next code in Simula-67.


Not SQL in any respect, you are taking a look at some Simula.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

BAL (IBM 360/370 meeting language)

BAL, which stands for “fundamental meeting language,” was the meeting language for giant IBM iron again within the Seventies and Eighties. Meeting language is taken into account extra “decrease degree” than “larger degree languages,” which means that particular person directions and key phrases map to particular person processor directions. In larger degree languages (like most we use in the present day), the language is commonly far faraway from the underlying machine structure, and is designed extra for effectivity of programming than environment friendly use of {hardware}.

Additionally: Generative AI is altering your expertise profession path. What to know

I took a semester of BAL in school. It was tough. The professor spent most days standing along with his again to the scholars, mumbling his lecture in a monotone, whereas writing nonstop on the blackboard. I sat within the again row subsequent to a lady named Laura. Someday, Laura and I made a decision to sneak out the again window to get espresso. As soon as we bought our java, we climbed again into the window. The professor by no means observed.

It is a marvel any of us handed, but it surely’s no marvel that just about none of us took up BAL programming as our coding weapon of selection.


This time, the AI gave the code the label VBNET. It isn’t, in fact. It is BAL.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


APL, or A Programming Language, is one other programming language. Some of the putting features of APL is that it makes use of a non-standard character set for a few of its operators and coding. You possibly can see that within the picture under. The little glyphs are what ChatGPT was capable of pull up from the font it was utilizing, however APL is designed to make use of the APL385 Unicode font, which is exclusive to programming in APL.

Additionally:  use ChatGPT to write down Excel formulation

Due to the way it has a concise syntax, and manages giant datasets effectively, it is utilized in a good variety of scientific, monetary, and analytical initiatives.


It isn’t SQL. It does not even use all ASCII characters. It is APL and it marches to its personal drummer.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


Prolog (which is derived from the phrase Programming in Logic) is one other AI-focused language. Prolog is a declarative language, itemizing guidelines and situations, after which working queries over these declarations. In accordance with ChatGPT:

Prolog is among the programming languages used within the growth of ChatGPT, particularly for the technology of textual content. It’s used within the Prolog-to-English module, which interprets logical varieties in Prolog into pure language sentences.


Prolog is a enjoyable language, but it surely’s not Rust. That is Prolog.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET


Smalltalk is particular. It was developed at Xerox PARC, the identical analysis lab that influenced the event of the mouse and windowed environments. It integrated a few of Simula’s improvements in object-oriented programming and went additional. It additionally was one of many first languages that made energetic use of a GUI-based interactive programming surroundings. Lots of in the present day’s high languages, together with Java, Python, and Ruby, had been extremely influenced by Smalltalk.

Additionally: Okay, so ChatGPT simply debugged my code. For actual

I solely dabbled in Smalltalk, largely to get to comprehend it. Dwelling in Silicon Valley on the time, I bought to know the designers of Smaltalk, who later spun off ParcPlace Programs, in an try to commercialize Smalltalk exterior of Xerox’s company stodginess. I’ve many fond recollections of speaking programming concept over ribs and coleslaw at just a little run-down barbecue joint in Palo Alto.

One of many VPs I labored with on the laptop firm the place I used to be employed tried to speak me into beginning an organization with him to use Smalltalk to the enterprise market, however I hadn’t but been bitten by the startup bug. Smalltalk by no means made it as a market. Nonetheless, as completely satisfied as I’m with the trail my life has taken, I typically marvel what would have occurred if I had taken him up on his provide.


And, lastly, this too shouldn’t be SQL. It is Smalltalk.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

I’ve ideas

I did not run this code, and since I haven’t got as a lot current familiarity with these languages as I do with with PHP and JavaScript, I am unable to ensure that my visible assessment ensures the code proven above would run efficiently. As we noticed earlier this week with my exploration of Bard’s new programming chops, it is attainable to write down code with out that code working.

Additionally: I requested ChatGPT to write down a WordPress plugin I wanted. It did it in lower than 5 minutes

We do know there’s a minimum of one error in every instance: the headers are flawed. So whereas the power for the AI to generate code in a bunch of comparatively obscure languages is cool past perception, do not assume it is doing the complete job accurately.

For those who resolve to include ChatGPT programming into your workflow, you may must test, check, and debug the code it generates simply as you’d in the event you employed somebody to write down some fundamental routines for you.

You possibly can comply with my day-to-day challenge updates on social media. Remember to comply with me on Twitter at @DavidGewirtz, on Fb at, on Instagram at, and on YouTube at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *