Happy Birthday Cobol

Cobol is the opposite of a modern computer langauge, in some ways. But it is the language that a lot of business systems are written in, so chances are you “use” Cobol almost as much as you “use” Linux, even if you never heard of either.

COBOL is used to power almost all global ATM transactions and runs almost three quarters of the world’s business applications. It helps book hundreds of holidays every single day.

And, according to enterprise application management company, Micro Focus, more than 200 billion lines of COBOL code in existence, with hundreds more being created every single day. And a COBOL programming gig is considered to be one of the safest jobs in IT.

So there.

Comments

  1. #1 khan
    September 26, 2009

    I spent ~20 years doing COBOL maintenance programming.
    I was also one of the folks that saved your butt by averting the Y2K disaster that pould have been.

  2. #2 khan
    September 26, 2009

    ‘could’

  3. #3 Tony P
    September 27, 2009

    Yes, I know COBOL. I had to update a finance app at an accounting firm of all places.

  4. #4 mrcreosote
    September 27, 2009

    My first job was a COBOL programmer. One of the last things I did as a COBOL programmer was develop a suite of programs, written in COBOL, to generate COBOL programs.

  5. #5 Ritchie Annand
    September 27, 2009

    In light of the improvements that came from augmenting C to C++, I’m still waiting for the object-oriented extension ADD 1 TO COBOL.

  6. #6 Kapitano
    September 27, 2009

    I learned COBOL in 1989, then got told it would soon be superceeded by a spiffy new language called…Ada. By ’94 Ada was dead and us computer students we being told soon everything would be written in C++.

    I suppose C++ is the language of choice for most new software, but most software by definition is old.

    The last program I wrote was in BASIC – yesterday.

  7. #7 Alcari
    September 27, 2009

    Happy birthday COBOL, may I never have to meet you again ;)

  8. #8 Greg Laden
    September 27, 2009

    Kapitano: What version of basic? Not VB, I assume.

  9. #9 Jason Thibeault
    September 27, 2009

    I have never had the inestimable pleasure of programming in COBOL. I read a printout of some COBOL source once. That’s about it. Around the time the Comp Sci majors were learning it, as their follow-up language to Smalltalk, I was an English major who started messing around with Malbolge.

  10. #10 David
    September 27, 2009

    back in grad school, I landed a part time job writing the odd program that the county’s IT people didn’t have the time for. When I interviewed for the job, they asked me if I knew the 4 divisions. I answered “long, short, fractions, and decimals” – got the gig anyways.

  11. #11 Bruce
    September 27, 2009

    Lisp and Fortran are almost as old.

  12. #12 reboho
    September 27, 2009

    Chances are you “use” CICS and VSAM as well. I still code COBOL for CICS and use VSAM, DB2 and the like. I actually went to a lecture by Capt. Grace Hopper at University Missouri-Rolla in the late 70′s. I remember her holding up a 11 inch wire and saying it was a nanosecond.

  13. #13 Brian X
    September 27, 2009

    Around where I went to school, learning Cobol was something of a badge of shame — the one classmate who openly admitted to it was teased about it occasionally. I assume he cleaned up on Y2K though.

    I’ll tell ya something, though — if Y2K taught us anything, it was that there’ll always be room for people with legacy skills. Even now, I’m sure someone out there needs someone with CP/M expertise, and you never know if someone will be crazy enough to bring back Multics.

  14. #14 Brian X
    September 27, 2009

    Oh, and I’m not sure I’d call it “using” Cobol as such. When you talk about using Linux, it’s as an operational framework for other things you do. The closest you can come to saying that someone using a program written in Cobol is “using” Cobol is that the program will generally be linked against a standard runtime package; it might be a bit more accurate to say that about, say, Perl, but even then the process will usually be transparent to the end-user unless the end-user is the one writing the program. But otherwise it’s sort of like saying that someone who lives in a house is using a hammer that helped build it.