What is COBOL?

OS/VS COBOL, COBOL II, Enterprise COBOL for z/OS. OpenCOBOL and OOCobol.
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Anuj Dhawan
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What is COBOL?

Postby Anuj Dhawan » Fri May 10, 2013 11:30 pm

COBOLWe are in 2013 now and if I ask that do you already know a programming language -- chances are that language is Java, C or C++; in other words that language isn't COBOL, however, you won't believe that most of the critical code, in production, still is in COBOL.

Said that, You will find COBOL a much different programming language than those – at time, differences are good and other time they are not. One should always remember that the COBOL was designed to solve business problems and not "system problem". And it was designed to do that in the 1950's and mentioning about year does matter here - we'll see -- why!

COBOL was the first programming language to become "standardized". Standardized in a way that a COBOL program written on computer “A” made by company “B” would be able to be compiled and executed on computer C” made by company “D”. This may not seem like such a big deal today, but it was a radical thought during then, as all the programming languages that came before it and even many that came after it were system dependent.

The name “COBOL” has a history in itself and I'll try to reveal that a bit going forward:

On May 28 and 29, 1959, a meeting was held for the purpose of considering both the desirability and the feasibility of establishing a common language for programming of computers in business data processing applications. This meeting was attended by representatives from users, both in private industry and in government, computer manufacturers, and other interested parties. It was agreed that the language must be open-ended and capable of accepting change and amendment, that it should be problem-oriented and machine-independent (remember, we're talking about 1959), and that it should use simple English or pseudo-English and avoid symbolism as far as possible.

The COnference on DAta SYstems Languages (CODASYL) developed out of this meeting. The original COBOL specifications resulted from the work of a committee of CODASYL. By September 1959 this committee had specified a framework upon which an effective common business language could be built. The name COBOL which suggests a COmmon Business Oriented Language was adopted for these specifications. The final report of this committee was accepted by the Executive Committee of CODASYL and published in April 1960. The document was titled: "COBOL - A Report to the Conference on Data Systems Languages, including Initial Specifications for a Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) for Programming Electronic Digital Computers". The language described in this report has since become known as COBOL-60.

COBOL, as stated earlier, COmmon Business Orientated Language, is one of the oldest programming languages, primarily designed by Grace Hopper and has been around for eons (since 1959), updated in 1968, 1977 and 1985. There had been development in the language since then and OO COBOL was developed in the 1990's. COBOL is well suited to business applications and used for large batch processes running on mini-computer and mainframes. About 65% of new critical applications use COBOL; several billion lines of COBOL code exist throughout the world, used by over a million companies. So it may be old but it remains one of the most important languages in commercial use today. (source: Computer Weekly, Dec 9th, 1999). Said that, one need to understand that - COBOL is an industry language and is not the property of any company or group of companies, or of any organization or group of organizations

I've taken references from William M. Klein and couple of other places. Wish I could meet them in person and Thank enough. Nevertheless, please consider this as my personal gratitude.


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