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Smithsonian Celebrates 50 Years of COBOL 178

wiredog writes "The Atlantic reports the news that the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History has a new section of their website dedicated to documenting COBOL's history. An exhibit will open at the museum this spring."
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Smithsonian Celebrates 50 Years of COBOL

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  • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:24PM (#34575672) Homepage

    Because, once the Y2K bug was fixed, those systems that were already probably working just fine with 20-30 years of minimal maintenance and one huge spurge of Y2K updates will carry on running, most probably. Or people took it as a sign that maybe it's *not* a good idea to be relying on code that nobody on your staff can understand in order to run your business.

    See what happens come 2038. That'll be the interesting bit.

  • by ziggyzaggy ( 552814 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:51PM (#34576088)
    You're not looking in the right places, here's 4,500 COBOL jobs [] . Major city newspapers list them also. Latest COBOL is COBOL 2002, which includes object orientation (already de facto standard since early 90s by the major compiler vendors), web and XML extensions, locale sensitive processing, cobol javabeans. The next version is shaping up already, dynamic tables, structured constants, ISO 8601:2000 dates. Propose new extensions for the next version of COBOL include aspect oriented programming. So, it's still a living growing language, and its main application is hardcore money moving and logistics in highly available fault tolerant systems with uptimes of decade or more.
  • by mswhippingboy ( 754599 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @01:54PM (#34576138)
    Disaster? Hardly. Let's see where "insert your favorite language here" is after 50 years.

    A recent Gartner study found COBOL in about 75% of enterprise business processes still today. There are an estimated 200 billion lines of COBOL still in use today (at least as late as 2004), with around 2 billion new lines being added each year.

    There is considerable controversy about the accuracy of the 200 billion lines, but nonetheless, I would hardly classify this kind of success as a disaster.
  • Re:"Celebrates"? (Score:5, Informative)

    by westlake ( 615356 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @02:03PM (#34576292)

    Is "Celebrates" the correct word to use in this context?


    It is 1960 and your Fortune 500 clients want programs they can read.

    Programs they can trust.

    Their area of expertise is corporate accounting, business methods and procedures.

    Practices which have evolved over hundreds of years and practices which the newly minted mainframe programmer is not going to master overnight.

    COBOL syntax has often been criticized for its verbosity. However, proponents are quick to note that this was an intentional part of the language design and considered by many to be one of the COBOL's strengths. One of the design goals of COBOL was for COBOL code to be readable and understandable to non-programmers such as managers, supervisors and users. This is why COBOL has a very English-like syntax and structural elements--including: nouns, verbs, clauses, sentences, sections, and divisions.
    Consequently, COBOL is considered by at least one source to be "the most readable, understandable and self-documenting programming language in use today...." Not only does this readability generally assist the maintenance process but the older a program gets the more valuable this readability becomes."
    Additionally, traditional COBOL is a simple language with a limited scope of function (with no pointers, no user-defined types, and no user-defined functions), encouraging a straightforward coding style. This has made it well-suited to its primary domain of business computing--where the program complexity lies in the business rules that need to be encoded rather than sophisticated algorithms or data structures. And because the standard does not belong to any particular vendor, programs written in COBOL are highly portable. The language can be used on a wide variety of hardware platforms and operating systems. And the rigid hierarchical structure restricts the definition of external references to the Environment Division, which simplifies platform changes.
    COBOL []

  • Re:Museum Fight! (Score:3, Informative)

    by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Thursday December 16, 2010 @02:34PM (#34576888)

    COBOL excels at moving data from file to file. I haven't seen the Redefines capability in any other language and is very very powerful when it comes to slicing up data before transformation and then putting it back together in other formats.

    Of course, nothing can touch the combination of mainframes and COBOL when it comes to processing millions and millions of records.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"