In 1957 John Backus and his team at IBM shipped FORTRAN for the IBM 704. This software, proprietary to IBM, became the first widely-used high-level programming language. The FORTRAN language was completed in late 1954, and a FORTRAN compiler was programmedand tested in 1955–56. Shipment of the FORTRAN system began in April 1957 to IBM 704 users.
The earliest publications on FORTRAN were preliminary:
(1) FORTRAN introductory programmer’s manual. Section I. New York: Programming Research Department, IBM, March 20,1957. Reproduced typescript. , 37 pp.
(2) FORTRAN introductory programmer’s manual. Section II. New York: Programming Research Department, IBM,April 10, 1957. Reproduced typescript. , 31 pp.
(3)FORTRAN introductory programmer’s manual. Section III. New York: Programming Research Department, IBM,June 7, 1957. Reproduced typescript. , 28pp., 6ff., plus errata leaf.
(4) Preliminary operator’s manual [for] the FORTRAN automatic coding system for the IBM 704 EDPM. New York: Programming Research Department, IBM, April 8, 1957.
"Fortran, released in 1957, was 'the turning point' in computer software, much as the microprocessor was a giant step forward in hardware, according to J.A.N. Lee, a leading computer historian.
"Fortran changed the terms of communication between humans and computers, moving up a level to a language that was more comprehensible by humans. So Fortran, in computing vernacular, is considered the first successful higher-level language.
"Mr. Backus and his youthful team, then all in their 20s and 30s, devised a programming language that resembled a combination of English shorthand and algebra. Fortran, short for Formula Translator, was very similar to the algebraic formulas that scientists and engineers used in their daily work. With some training, they were no longer dependent on a programming priesthood to translate their science and engineering problems into a language a computer would understand.
"In an interview several years ago, Ken Thompson, who developed the Unix operating system at Bell Labs in 1969, observed that '95 percent of the people who programmed in the early years would never have done it without Fortran' " (http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/20/business/20backus.html, accessed 10-22-2013).