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This article discusses attitudes about "automatic programming," the economics of programming, and existing programming systems, all in the early 1950s. It describes the formation of the FORTRAN group, its knowledge of existing systems, its plans for FORTRAN, and the development of the language in 1954. It describes the development of the optimizing compiler for FORTRAN I, of various language manuals, and of FORTRAN II and III. It concludes with remarks about later developments and the impact of FORTRAN and its successors on programming today.