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COBOL ( COmmon Business Oriented Language ) is a very popular
and widely used computer programming language. It has been available in the industry since 1960s and
has been the standard language for business applications.
By "Business Applications", I mean those computer programming applications where most of the
programming effort goes to organization and handling of HUGE external data. "Scientific Applications"
on the other hand, require a lot programming effort in handling complex algorithms and number crunching.
A Personnel or Student Information system needs a lot of external data handling, hence a lot of files
, and the users of these systems expect to get results from these applications with reasonable performance.
One of the reasons COBOL has become so popular and so wide-spread among programmers is that it provides
very powerful tools for handling large volumes of data with reasonable ease and performance.
Major properties that make COBOL an important language are :
- The language has a "plain English like" syntax; language elements are easily learned, used and read;
- The language has been implemented on virtually ALL computer systems and the implementors
followed strict standards. This way, all written COBOL code has become portable among differen
t hardware and operating system platforms. Pieces of COBOL code that are hardware dependent
are separated from those which are independent. This way, porting software from one platform to
another is quite easy.
- The language has so self-explanatory constructs, that relatively less source code documentation (comments)
have to be typed in by the programmers.
- The language supports INDEXed files naturally. That is to say, writing code for manipulating data on
large files has become extremely simple and straightforward.
- The language has "Structured Programming" constructs. It is possible to write any code without
using the GOTO statements.
- It is quite easy to debug and/or modify programs written by other people. This is a very significant
issue for corporate programming where programmers come and go every month.
All these do not mean that COBOL is the best programming language. Please do not forget that THERE IS NO BEST
PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE. Each language is designed to be used for certain types of tasks and if you push
the language beyond these limits, you shall certainly regret it.
If you try to write a word processor using the COBOL language (although it is possible to do so) you shall dive into deep trouble;
whereas if try to play around with millions of data records organized in different file structures (indexed, direct etc) in the
C language; you will also regret that.
COBOL IS NOT AN ANCIENT PROGRAMMING LANGUAGE
I can almost hear some of the students saying "... but COBOL is an ancient language". Yes, COBOL is an old language but NOT
AN ANCIENT language. Do you know when the C language first appeared on the scene? Did you know that Object Oriented
COBOL compilers are available in the market?
A simple survey that I conducted on a ONE DAY's job offers published on the Internet revealed the following
A Table Of Job Offerings
This table has been generated by examining 595 job offerings;
|COBOL Related Jobs||55|
|C++ Related ||64|
most of the posts being in Europe.
One of the most complained disadvantage of the COBOL language is that the programmer has to type a lot of
stuff on the keyboard. Yes, that is correct! One types a lot characters that make up the code, but the good
programmer has to type a lot less to document the code he/she is writing. As a result, we can claim that the
total numbers of times a programmer has to hit the keyboard is not much different in COBOL compared to
those who code in C.
After all these talk, let's see what a COBOL program looks like...
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