How did PL/I originate?

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Uma Devi
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How did PL/I originate?

Post by Uma Devi » Thu Feb 11, 2016 12:27 pm


I am a COBOL programmer or I have used it mostly as that is my work place required me to learn. Our company has got another project in which we have more work on PL/I. (I am confused if it is PL/I (alphabet I) or PL/1 (number 1) though). After going through documentation on PL/I online and in books I have a better idea about his language now. As per the links and manuals I read and an excerpt directly from one of such manuals: "PL/I is a general-purpose programming language, which is used for solving problems in a variety of fields such as commerce, science (including mathematics, physics, chemistry), engineering (including civil, electrical, aeronautics), medicine, and so on. It can be used for system programming, and the facilities are such that it is rarely if ever necessary to resort to machine-language or assembly-language programming to solve problems.

It has more power than Pascal, Fortran 95, BASIC, C, and COBOL, and has comparable facilities to Ada. The main areas where PL/I is superior include interrupt handling, the built-in debugging aids, the macro processor facilities, string-handling, and input-output."

To me, PL/I is very powerful language and I have two question about it:
  1. How did PL/I originate? and
  2. Why it is not as successful as COBOL? It might be a wrong assumption but your answer might help.
Thanks for any insight on this!

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Re: How did PL/I originate?

Post by nicc » Thu Feb 11, 2016 2:14 pm

pee ell one - but pww ell eye is also acceptable. pee ell one is used more when speaking. IBM seems to use both versions but we, within IBM UK, always referred to it as 'one' even in memos.

As to it's origin you could refer to wikipedia.

It is not as popular as COBOL because COBOL had a few years head-start and a lot of money was spent developing those COBOL programs which were working so why re-write them at great expense?


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Anuj Dhawan
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Re: How did PL/I originate?

Post by Anuj Dhawan » Thu Feb 11, 2016 4:31 pm

Uma Devi wrote: (I am confused if it is PL/I (alphabet I) or PL/1 (number 1) though).
You might want to see this thread, Is it PL/I or PL/1?, for the above question.


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Re: How did PL/I originate?

Post by Robert Sample » Fri Feb 12, 2016 1:14 am

IBM wanted to replace both COBOL and FORTRAN with a single language and came up with PL/I as the language. However, even by the time it was available (mid to late 1960's), COBOL (and to some extent FORTRAN) had so much code in production already that companies found it prohibitively expensive to convert. Plus, the perception back then was that PL/I took more computer resources to compile and execute -- which was a major consideration when mainframe computers were sold with as little as 8K (yes, that was 8,192 bytes) of main memory.

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