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COBOL: Everywhere and Nowhere


#161

Euthanasia?


#162

@Dragan Matic

“For all of those that mention the beauties of COBOL have you ever programmed in a real programming language? In any other programming language?”

IBM Q7 Assembler, Philco 2000 Assembler, JOVIAL, ALGOL, FORTRAN, APL, BASIC, 8080 Assembler, C, dBASE 2, FoxPro, Visual FoxPro, and most recently Python.

Do I need more?


#163

COBOL programs have decades and still service. No absolute way this can happen today.

Compare this with the stupid environment of today, where for a silly “Hello World” webpage there is need of a framework of 500 MB, developing tools of 10 DVDs, when it stops working there is no way to understand why, just reboot something.

COBOL comes from another era, where programmers used to use their brain, in front of a problem they tried everything before asking for help. Today, first reboot, then Google, then forums, then change everything simple like some configuration, then wait a day maybe it solves by itself, then think to solve the problem.
Once upon a time if a program did not work no one, repeat no one, ever thought maybe it is a compiler or operating system problem; today is the first thing we think.

For those here laughing at COBOL, it is like laugh at Egypt Pyramids, they are there from 5000 years and they still will be there in next 5000 years, while you and your “hello world” webpage needing 24 activex to work will be deleted, replaced, forgotten next month.


#164

Instead of doing Iphone development with Objective-C why not do somethings in Qt (with C++) instead? (link: http://qt.nokia.com/)
And Nokia looks good too!!!
Did you hear about the Iphone which exploded in some girls face? Apples are not my thing… I like rainboots more…


#165

The choice of computer languages has always been an emotional choice; more so if it is left to the programmer. However if the language is chosen by feature and requirements then COBOL has it place just like other languages. So until another language comes along with business style credentials, COBOL is here to stay.

You will find COBOL everywhere from the mainframe (with IBM etc)… to the mid-range/desktop with Microsoft/MicroFocus and Fujitsu.

Even Microsoft understand that COBOL is am important market that helps them…

I am sorry but COBOL is not dead, it is alive and kicking in the enterprise…

Long live COBOL…

ref: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2008/jul08/07-02EntAppModernizationPR.mspx


#166

I would rather program in COBOL than in Java.

COBOL has a proven track record of reliability and robustness, even if it can get a little bit wordy at times.

Java is the turd that just won’t flush.


#167

Or in the words of the great Knuth:
“Beware of bugs in the above code; I have only proved it correct,
not tried it”

Also code being proven to be correct can contain bugs:

  • Ariane V
  • Quicksort in Java

In both cases, code being proven to be correct was placed into a
different environment (reused code of Ariane IV, C to Java
conversion where an unsigned int became a signed int)

Cheers, Lothar


#168

I’d just like to say that I love reading this stuff. I found this blog because of your Evony ads article and I enjoy reading it ever since!


#169

COBOL programmers are still working hard at mainframe applications in Banks, Insurance companies etc. At least in the Netherlands.


#170

We have some 50 COBOL Programmers who write code daily in our company, though i am a core C# programmer, daily i have to read through the 100s of lines of COBOL programs to understand the businiess logic of our product whose business logic is still in COBOL.


#171

The COBOL programmers are all here in India Jeff.I work at a major financial services company and almost 80% is all work is still done in COBOL.


#172

Yet again, blatant ignorance is spewing out of your keyboard at an alarming rate. Think before you post this shit, please.

Just because you, Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror, have never worked in an IBM shop or talked to a COBOL programmer, does not mean that COBOL is dead. If anything, it means you are dead to the real business world. You clearly have no idea how dedicated these IT veterans are to IBM and COBOL. And there’s a legitimate reason for that: legacy. You can bet there are tons of bugs that spring up in older (sometimes 20-year-old) programs; enough to hire several full-time maintenance programmers.

My first job out of college was a COBOL programmer at an insurance company, and I still work there with the same people, although now I’ve moved onto primarily working on .NET and the web. Everybody here understands that the mainframe will always be the primary workforce of our company. That’s right baby, green screens FTW! No matter how much you have to say about switching a different platform, nothing can handle the workload like a mainframe. Nothing. And there’s nothing more secure, either. NOTHING.

We literally put the entire history (and in many ways, the future) of the company on the line when choosing a computing platform. Why would anybody switch from COBOL after it’s been loyal for decades? Until you become a vice president of a successful IT department (in an actual business, not some pansy software development firm), you should not talk about COBOL because you sound utterly foolish. It is not going anywhere for a very long time, you can count on that.

And here’s another thing you need to understand: computers were not made for people like you (with some insane OCD-level infatuation with upgrading). They were made for business purposes. Keep that in mind the next time you want to take shots at programmers who work in the industries that make the world go around.


#173

no one programs on a 10 year old computer.

so why program in a 10 year old language?

c# is just as dead as COBOL, it just happens to retain some zombie cred.


#174

I program for a living and otherwise in Java, JavaScript, and Python, and I’m looking to get into COBOL - simply because I don’t know it and there may be jobs in it. Languages are all interesting and all inconvenient. When I rode the boat from Istanbul to Odessa, I had to stop talking Turkish and start talking Russian, the former exotic and the latter impractical and neither of which I did well, but no regrets. They were just part of the geography. Travel geography, workplace geography, it doesn’t matter. The only thing that makes me want to get out of computer programming is the tendency to loud idiot conceits: “Microsoft is evil,” “IE6 is crap,” “OOP is Allah.” These are the things you say when you can’t - or, more likely, won’t - program.


#175

A lot of what people don’t understand about COBOL is the problem set. You don’t write highly reusable all dancing widgets in COBOL. You write a transform from data set A to B. Then someone else writes B to C and B to D. Then you get D back along with new set E and transform that. Then tomorrow comes and the whole thing happens again. And somewhere in their your employer makes money.

When you are granted that all your data comes in standard form with no deviation and your output is standard form with no deviation and you have to do the same operation forty billion times a day, you end up with different tools than a C program that takes all kinds of input and has to figure out what to do with it, or a LISP program that designs another program to handle the data it just got.

I’m not sure I’d believe 220bn unique lines of COBOL programs, as calculated that’s hundreds of thousands or millions of lines per programmer depending on flat average or normal distribution, but certainly 220 bn lines worth of jobs on different systems at different companies. And being COBOL, it’s the horrifying beetle-like men who scuttled so nimbly through the labyrinthine corridors of Ministries.


#176

COBOL is having ‘Existential’ crisis.


#177

Thank you for reminding me of my youth. COBOL was the required language for Into Computing. This course was taught to everyone, not just the IT folks. We learned the language from offical IBM green softcovered workbooks and submitted batched punch cards. I remeber it took forever to writeup the code because it was so verbose. It was for this reason that I jumped onto the next great language on the horizon – APL! Seriously, I’m not surprised it is still around because so much of it was written, either that or FORTRAN. We didn’t have the choices we have today. In business, who rewrites code just because it is out of fashion.


#178

Thank you for reminding me of my youth. COBOL was the required language for Into Computing. This course was taught to everyone, not just the IT folks. We learned the language from offical IBM green softcovered workbooks and submitted batched punch cards. I remeber it took forever to writeup the code because it was so verbose. It was for this reason that I jumped onto the next great language on the horizon – APL! Seriously, I’m not surprised it is still around because so much of it was written, either that or FORTRAN. We didn’t have the choices we have today. In business, who rewrites code just because it is out of fashion.


#179

I spent about a year of my life hating what I did every single day. Coincidentally I programmed COBOL for about a year of my life.

Seriously…there wasn’t anything more depressing to me than everyone I graduated with working with newer technologies (.NET, primarily) but I couldn’t touch it.

Don’t get me wrong - COBOL is very strong in its uses for a few things, but it’s a CHORE to work with. Absolutely miserable.

Also, I can definitely attest that COBOL is still being written and revised fresh every day. The majority of the people working on that stuff, though, wouldn’t be forward-thinking enough to be reading a blog like this.


#180

My COBOL anecdote is from a club where I used to go to weekly billiard tournaments. There was this guy who was close to retiring at that point. He was fun to chat with and we eventually talked about our jobs. Turned out he worked for a big Finnish bank and not too surprisingly all his projects were written in COBOL. They had some web interfaces to their systems, which were written in modern languages, but all the backend systems were in COBOL.

But even more astonishing to me, he told me that he ran a project, which eventually was responsible for about one third of all the financial traffic during the switch from our own currency to euros. Which equals a lot of financial traffic. This was around 2002 when Finland started using euros as cash currency.

This isn’t to prove that COBOL indeed is everywhere, but there is this world where it is pervasive and it isn’t going to disappear any time soon. The language is still very much alive, even if it didn’t deserve to be.

I think you (Jeff) are wrong to conclude that COBOL’s popularity is a myth. You just live in a completely different world. I’ve seen glimbses of this world through the acquaintance I mentioned, but also through many people I know back from times I was in University (late 90s or so).