Hugh Pickens writes: "Although Turing Award-winning computer scientist Edsger Dijkstra once said, "the use of Cobol cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense," Dr. Dobbs has an interesting story asserting that Cobol is the most widely used language in the 21st century, critical to some of the hottest areas of software development today, and may be the next language you'll be learning. In 1997 the Gartner Group estimated that there were 240 billion lines of Cobol code in active apps and billions of lines of new Cobol code are being written every year. Cobol is a key element in the realization of modern distributed business software architecture concepts--XML/metadata, Web Services, Service Oriented Architecture--and e-business. "If you want to understand modern Cobol, it's a glue language. IBM has a 'stack' of technologies for data processing like CICS, DB2, IMS, VSAM, ISPF, etc., which are glued together using Cobol," says Scott McMahan. The tools available for integrating Cobol and the Web are evolving quickly and it is now possible to do Web 2.0 development directly in Cobol. "This is the quiet reality," says Gary Crook, "the business world runs on Cobol [and] Cobol today is a very modern language that continues to leverage its historical strengths for delivering new value to the business fast.""