John Backus, inventor of FORTRAN, the first high level programming language has died. FORTRAN was my first programming language. Backus recognized two critical features that have been important to every computer tool since:
1. The tool really needs to move the problem solving process closer to the way user's think. FORTRAN was focused on making computer programming more like how engineers and scientists think.
2. The tool must not impose too heavy a performance cost on final solution. FORTRAN programs needed to run as fast as carefully hand-crafted programs done in lower-level ways.
While inelegant by modern standards, FORTRAN was a breakthrough in opening up computer programming to a vastly wider audience. Many key computer language ideas and translation techniques are still widely in use were pioneered by Backus and his team.