Mike Gilpin, analyst at Forrester research, .uk/e-regulation/cobol-heavily-used-50-years-on-1873.

COBOL is easily understood and quickly
learned, unlike many programming languages
where code is hard to understand, even for
those with the skills to write it. COBOL is
structured in terms of its layout, and uses
active English-derived constructs (“add” is ADD,
“equals” is EQUALS) that tell the reader at a
glance what the code is trying to achieve. This
offers tremendous benets:


As anyone can write it, it becomes

possible to create low-cost high-availability
resource pools to construct applications
and because anyone can read it, there are
signicant downstream benets, too. IT can
tap into a theoretically unlimited resource
pool to work on COBOL systems, and
there’s no barrier to entry for future COBOL
programming skills–a major bonus, in
terms of strategic planning and investment.


If anyone can read it, anyone can maintain

it. A second generation of programmers
can code in COBOL applications they
haven’t originally written. Java and C#
teams can review the COBOL back end to
their new front-end code, using the same
integrated development environment (IDE).
Nondevelopers can follow the ow where
necessary, QA staff can assist with code
walkthroughs and debugging work, and


COBOL’s high legibility avoids the major

common pitfall where coders simply
rewrite something they don’t understand in
a language they do. COBOL typically passes
the comprehension test. As explained
a decade ago by a Forrester analyst2,
“COBOL is one of the few languages written
in the last 50 years that’s readable and
understandable,” a view shared by others.
“It’s not just a write-only language,” says
Michael Coughlan of University of Limerick.
“You can come back years later and
understand the code.”