This article is provided courtesy of IEEE Software Magazine.
On behalf of the Computer History Museum and the ACM, I recently traveled to Oregon to interview John Backus. John led the IBM team that created Fortran in the 1950s. He went on to coinvent the Backus-Naur Form (which was first applied to the definition of Algol), then later pioneered important advances in functional programming. For the museum, this interview was part of their oral-history program; for the ACM, it was part of their effort to interview every Turing Award winner (John received the award in 1977).
John and I covered a lot of ground in our interview. Now in his 80s, John is bright and energetic, with a number of fascinating stories regarding his contributions to the field. Three things in particular stood out from our conversation.