I used ChatGPT to write the same routine in these ten obscure programming languages

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An instructor at the Boston Latin School uses an IBM 1130 computer to teach Fortran to students on October 4, 1968. 

Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images

A few weeks ago, I took a look at using ChatGPT to write the same routine in a dozen of the most popular programming languages. But as a programming language geek, I wondered just how far ChatGPT would go. Would it program in a language from the 1950s? Would it program in a language that used its own character set? Could it write code in one of the languages that wrote its code?

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And so, I dove in. I’ve used many of the languages I’m spotlighting here, so I’ll take a little walk down memory lane and include some stories about my experience with those I’ve used.

While I haven’t run the code itself, I’ve read through all the generated programs. Most look right, and show the appropriate indicators telling us that the language presented is the language I asked for.

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I’m telling you this because the headers on all the screenshots are wrong. Most are listed as SQL. For some reason BAL is shown as VBNet, and Prolog is listed as Rust. ChatGPT didn’t make this error last time, but it made today, for all the languages shown here.

And with that, let’s dive in.

Fortran

Fortran (or FORTRAN, as it was depicted back then) stands for Formula Translation. It was developed primarily for scientific and engineering calculations. Even though it dates back to the 1950s, it was often the first language taught to engineering students in the 1970s and 1980s.

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For me, it was my fourth programming language, after BASIC, PDP-8 assembly language, and PDP-8 binary (yes, I wrote binary code so I could toggle it in on the front panel of an early minicomputer). My Dad generously drove me the hour down to Newark College of Engineering (now NJIT) so I could take their first-year programming course while I was still a sophomore in high school.

Fortran was never a favorite, although it would get most calculation-oriented jobs done. A variation of Fortran is still in use today, but it’s pretty limited to specialty scientific work since many other modern languages do Fortran-level analytics, and do it better.

Here, because of the use of the implicit keyword, it looks like ChatGPT is depicting code written in the Fortran-77 variant.

fortran-77

Even though the label is wrong, the code is Fortran.

Screenshot by David Gewirtz/ZDNET

COBOL

I was a teenaged COBOL programmer. I didn’t know COBOL at the time, but somewhere around 1980 I saw a want ad for a COBOL programmer at the Northeast Regional Data Center of International Paper in Denville, NJ. It was about 40 minutes from my parents’ home, and I needed a summer job. As soon as I managed to schedule

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