Cobol hits fifty
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Cobol, the venerable computer language so beloved of Y2K-fearing businesses, has hit 50 years young today, having been invented on the 28th of May 1959 at a meeting of the Short Range Committee at the Pentagon.
The news comes from Cobol specialists Micro Focus, which tells us that there are two hundred times as many Cobol transactions as there are Google searches every day, and that in the UK we all use Cobol-powered applications ten times daily on average.
Those figures come largely from mobile phone use, with Cobol still lurking inside the systems of most network operators. Anyone using a cashpoint or booking a holiday is probably also touching some of the two hundred billion lines of code in use (and counting).
The continuing popularity of Cobol can be attributed to the fact that it just works. That and the fact that a whole generation of programmers refuse to learn anything more modern, and support for legacy systems demands that everyone continues to use a language that really should have been put down years ago.
Whatever the reason, Micro Focus is hosting some videos and history of Cobol, which will keep ageing BOFHs misty eyed while we wait ten years for the really important anniversary - 50 years of Pascal. ®
@Love It - Happy Birthday Darling
Or should that be *Love It - Happy Birthday Darling
I remember spending hours writing COBOL programs by hand on paper! How many of these young whipper snapper script kiddies have ever bothered to hand write a program first?
That's nowt. My first decent program was a PacMan clone hand written on a piece of paper in assembler then hand assembled, painfully writing the bytes of hexadecimal code into a hacked string. It ran so fast I thought it wasn't working because I couldn't see what it was doing until I put in some slow down code.
All you high level organisms are just wusses compared to us single cell life forms. We do all the primeval struggling so you can live in your civilized and structured object oriented societies without being aware of the quantuum chaos that rules out here.
Gawd, its heck, but somebody HAS to do it!
Cobol stands for COmmon Business Oriented Language and that's exactly what it is - a business oriented language common to many brands of (mainframe) computers.
If you look at business computing requirements, it is all about files and records, and perhaps printing. Generally in large and extremely large volumes. And that's what Cobol excels at.
Sure, C and its variants are better for personal computing, or other abstract computing such as weather forecasting and scientific computing. In fact you would NEVER use Cobol for these applications.
But modern academically-designed languages will never foot it with Cobol for business applications.
COBOL – Why?
I'm an OS bits'n'bites developer with code that's touched you. If I had to write a business application, I'd beg you to shoot me.
I want to take a moment to point out why Cobol lives on.
Why? Why defend a language I've never programmed in?
(a) Because I developed compilers and
(b) Because as head of IT, I'm responsible for reliability.
My compiler development background gave me a peek inside Cobol. Unlike C and most other popular languages, Cobol (especially object Cobol) has several features that make it unmatched in reliability and precision. Written correctly, Cobol programs won't experience the data reliability and decimal rounding errors found in other languages which require extensive work-arounds.
Cobol is like a dowager– stolid, solid, unattractive, robust but reliable. C/C++ is like Britney Spears– cute, sexy, high-maintenance, flaky as hell, and goes down at a moment's notice.
As a software developer, I agree Cobol isn't sexy and thank God I'm not the one who has to use it. But as head of IT development, I'm grateful for its reliability.