I am looking for a word or phrase that describes something that was very modern in the time being referenced, even though it is clearly not modern now. For example, I am writing about a computer language from the 1970's.

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    "The Apple II was very sate-of-the-art when it was released. – Cargill Dec 11 '15 at 4:26
  • I'm trying to stay away from "when it was released." I'm going for something like, "X company used FORTRAN, a <??modern-at-the-time??> language." – user151109 Dec 11 '15 at 4:29
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    cutting-edge 70's code – user98990 Dec 11 '15 at 4:37
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    Everything. Literally, everything was very modern at some time in the past. You have people assuming you mean technologically advanced. Is that what you really mean? – candied_orange Dec 11 '15 at 4:41
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    I think you either have to have some variation of "then state-of-the-art" or "now antiquated" – Jim Dec 11 '15 at 4:55

pioneering (adjective)

Involving new ideas or methods:

Company X used FORTRAN, a pioneering programming language [of the 70's].

'Pioneering' provides, or implies, the context of historical foundation and excitement of the evolving technology of programming languages, FORTRAN in particular, during the 1970's.

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As pointed out in comments, state-of-the-art is an apt word.

state-of-the-art (noun)

the latest and most sophisticated or advanced stage of a technology, art, or science.

Source: Dictionary.com

Usage: X company used FORTRAN, a state-of-the-art language in the 70's

If you are looking for alternatives, then you may consider :

  • futuristic
  • visionary

futuristic (adjective)

ahead of the times; advanced

Usage: X company used FORTRAN, a futuristic programming language

visionary (adjective)

given to or characterized by fanciful, not presently workable, or unpractical ideas, views, or schemes

Usage: X company used FORTRAN, a visionary programming language, which continues to be used for scientific computing

Meaning Source: Dictionary.com

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    Totally off-topic, but I was taught FORTRAN IV at university in Australia in 1970-71, so I guess it had been around for a bit by then. But it was a very straightforward language, and in reality, today's C++ ain't that different at the front end (although I expect the compile is massively improved). – Cargill Dec 11 '15 at 9:12

'Innovative'. From the Oxford English Dictionary:

nnovation innovation
[ad. L. innovātiōn-em, n. of action f. innovāre to innovate: cf. F. innovation (1297 in Hatz.-Darm.).]
1. a. The action of innovating; the introduction of novelties; the alteration of what is established by the introduction of new elements or forms. Formerly const. of (the thing altered or introduced).

From 'innovate':

innovate innovate, v.
[f. L. innovāt-, ppl. stem of innovāre to renew, alter, f. in- (in-2) + novāre to make new, f. novus new. Cf. F. innover (1322 in Godef. Compl.).]
2. To bring in (something new) the first time; to introduce as new. Obs. exc. in Comm.
'1548 Udall Erasm. Par. Luke Pref. (R.), If any other do innouate and brynge vp a woorde to me afore not vsed or not hearde, I would not disprayse it. 1592 R. D. Hypnerotomachia 57 b, This..table being taken up..there was presently an other innovated, with a cloth of silke. 1656 Burton's Diary (1828) I. 98 He was tried in the same way for innovating a new religion. 1666 Dryden Pref. Ann. Mirab. Wks. (Globe) 41 Some words which I have innovated..upon his Latin. 1735–8 Bolingbroke On Parties 63 To surrender their old Charters, and accept new ones, under such Limitations and Conditions, as the King thought fit to innovate. 1967 Times Rev. Industry Oct. 86/2 Nylon..was first invented in 1928, but not innovated until 1939. 1972 Physics Bull. Feb. 67/1 (Advt.), We've been innovating electrometer values like these for over 20 years.'

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If you rely on a context that has already informed your audience of the particular period, or a context that will make that plain, then

avant-garde, n.
2. The pioneers or innovators in any art in a particular period. Also attrib. or as adj.

["avant-garde | aˈvant-ˌguard, n.". OED Online. December 2015. Oxford University Press. http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/13610?redirectedFrom=avant-garde (accessed December 11, 2015). Emphasis mine.]

For example (from the comments), without clauses,

Company X used the avant-garde FORTRAN language.

won't be misunderstood. With a clause,

Company X used FORTRAN, an avant-garde language.

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    Avant-garde has more concoctions of experimental to me - e.g. avant-garde Jazz, where it's never going to be adopted by the mainstream, and is a bit 'out-there' and weird, rather than conjuring images of something "modern". – SeanR Dec 11 '15 at 9:00
  • I agree ... avant-garde is a very useful term, but I don't think it's applicable to something as utilitarian and as scientific as a computer language. – Cargill Dec 11 '15 at 9:17
  • @Cargill Depends on the language. Certainly not Fortran, but you might say it about Haskell or Erlang. – Random832 Dec 11 '15 at 15:18

You could consider cutting edge:

cutting edge

the sharp edge of something that is used to cut things

the newest and most advanced area of activity in an art, science, etc.

Source http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cutting%20edge

cutting edge

the most ​recent ​stage in the ​development of something: His ​research is at the cutting edge of new ​therapies for ​cancer.

very ​modern and with all the ​newest ​features: cutting-edge ​design/​technology

Source http://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/cutting-edge

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Company X used FORTRAN, a computer language that was the thing back in the 70s.

the thing

Also, the in thing. Something in style or vogue, the latest trend. The first term dates from the mid-1700s; the second, which uses in in the sense of "popular," dates from the mid-1900s. American Heritage® Dictionary

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You can use ahead of its times for something very modern.

X company used FORTRAN, a language well ahead of its time then."

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adjective: relevant or applicable to a particular matter; apposite:

he asked a lot of pertinent questions: relevant, to the point, apposite, appropriate, suitable, fitting, fit, apt, applicable, material, germane, to the purpose, apropos; on-topic; formal ad rem.

ANTONYMS: irrelevant.

src. apple dictionary

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  • Hi @sullman, welcome to ELU! Your answer would be improved by providing a source/link for your definition. In fact, if the definition is copied from somewhere else rather than being your own words it's required. I've also suggested edits to clear up your formatting a little. – AndyT Dec 11 '15 at 9:01


Usage : Back in the day cellphone was a novelty

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