The __fortran calling convention isn't the calling convention used by FORTRAN

Raymond Chen


Although the Microsoft C compiler supports a calling convention called __fortran, that’s just what the calling convention is called; its relationship with the FORTRAN programming language is only coincidental. The __fortran keyword is now just an old-fashioned synonym for __stdcall.

Various FORTRAN compilers use different calling conventions; the one I describe here applies to the now-defunct Microsoft Fortran PowerStation.

Fortran Powerstation pushes parameters on the stack right-to-left, with callee-cleanup. (So far, this matches __fortran aka __stdcall.) Function names are converted to all-uppercase, with an underscore at the beginning and @n appended, where n is the number of bytes of parameters. (This still matches __stdcall aside from the uppercase conversion.)

As for how the parameters are passed, well, that’s where things get weird. FORTRAN natively passes all parameters by reference. This is the source of a famous classic FORTRAN bug known as constants aren’t.

      CALL MAGIC(1)
      PRINT *, 'According to the computer, 3 + 1 is ', ADDUP(3, 1)
      ADDUP = I + J
C     What does this subroutine actually do?
      I = 9

(It’s been a long time since I’ve written a FORTRAN program, so I may have gotten some of the details wrong, but any errors shouldn’t detract from the fundamental issue.)

When you run this program, it says

According to the computer, 3 + 1 is 12

How did that happen? We called a function that adds two numbers together, and instead of getting 4, we get 12?

The reason is the subroutine MAGIC: We passed it the constant 1, and since all FORTRAN parameters are passed by reference, the assignment I = 9 modifies the constant 1. In C:

int One = 1;
int Three = 3;
int Nine = 9;
void Magic(int *i) { *i = Nine; }
int AddUp(int *i, int *j) { return *i + *j; }
void main()
 printf("According to the computer, 3 + 1 is %d\n",
        AddUp(&Three, &One));

Since Magic modified the constant One, any further use of the constant 1 ends up using the value 9! (According to the FORTRAN standard, modifying a constant results in undefined behavior.)

Okay, back to calling conventions. Other significant differences between C and FORTRAN: In FORTRAN, array indices begin at 1, not 0, and arrays are stored in column-major order rather than row-major as in C.

COMPLEX variables in FORTRAN are stored as two floating point numbers (corresponding to the real and imaginary components).

Functions which return COMPLEX or CHARACTER*(*) are internally rewritten as subroutines where the location to store the return value is passed as a hidden first parameter. (This is analogous to how C returns large structures.)

The final commonly-encountered weirdness of FORTRAN is that CHARACTER*n data types (which are used to hold strings) are passed as two parameters: The address of the character buffer, followed by the size of the buffer (n). Note that FORTRAN CHARACTER*n variables are fixed-length; if you assign a string shorter than the buffer, it is padded with spaces. There is no null terminator.

Anyway, I sort of got carried away with the FORTRAN calling convention. It’s definitely more complicated than just sticking __fortran in front of your function. But at least the __fortran keyword takes care of the part that can’t be expressed in C. The rest you can manage on your own.


Comments are closed. Login to edit/delete your existing comments