Article by Pinky Mcbanon
COBOL stands for Common Business Oriented Language and is a very popular language still in use in the financial and administrative systems of various organizations. COBOL was first specified by a group of three government agencies and six computer manufacturers in the United States. COBOL has been in use since the late fifties and is still evolving, owing to its popularity among the user community.
Over the next 10 years following the definition of COBOL, several versions of COBOL were put out on the market by various makers of software and compatibility between these versions became an issue. The American National Standard Institute (ANSI) stepped in to introduce a standard version of COBOL in 1968 and has periodically released further versions of the standard ever since.
COBOL was adopted by the business community for its operations largely due to the natural language construct used in COBOL programming. Just before the year 2000 changeover, it was estimated that around 80% of business all over the globe ran on COBOL – a fact that caused a tremendous amount of effort to be expended on making these systems compatible for year 2000. This effort was initiated because most businesses indexed their operations using dates and hitherto, COBOL had been using a two-digit date field that needed to be modified into a four-digit one to accommodate the new millennium.
COBOL compilers exist for several platforms and it is common to see COBOL applications running on IBM’s z/OS, Windows, Unix and Linux Operating Systems.
COBOL has evolved to include the object oriented paradigm and support Unicode and XML. The latest versions of COBOL can seamlessly interface with programs written in languages like C on.NET and Java frameworks. COBOL incorporates techniques such as recursion and can be used for scientific computing as well as for business applications.
The detailed syntax and statements in COBOL programs make it easy even for a layperson to understand what the program is doing. The very same characteristic that made COBOL popular among the business community has come under attack by some in the programming community. Critics of COBOL have cited the wordiness of programs written in COBOL as a negative aspect of programs written in this language.
Ms. Pinky is a Computer Support Specialist for more than 25 years. Has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Engineering, MS Research work in Systems Engineering.
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