COBOL AT 60: THE LEGEND CONTINUES

6

Ready for the Next

60Years?

We mentioned Google, and a quick search
on COBOL namechecks comprehensive
descriptions from Wikipedia, Bill Klein, and
proles of pioneers including Jean Sammet
and Grace Hopper. But as we said, its rich
legacy can be viewed by some in the IT
industry in 2019 as a handicap. Old isn’t good.
So COBOL’s readiness to embrace future
decades is more relevant than the past.

The COBOL label, rst documented in
September 1959, describes a language
specication that aimed to enable the
noncomputer literate to communicate more
effectively with computers, to meet the
growing need for an “open-ended, problem-
oriented and machine-independent computing
language … capable of accepting change …
that [uses] simple English” computing services
in government and industry. Under the
stewardship of Hopper, the rst incarnation,
COBOL-60, took shape within a year.

Innovation

Computer languages must speak the
vernacular of the changing IT landscape. So
the COBOL vendor community invests tens
of millions of dollars every year to ensure it
remains contemporary. These investments
support contemporary technology and
integration with other language applications
such as Java, C++ & C#.

As well as being uent in mainframe, Linux,
UNIX and Windows, past COBOL applications
can pick up the lingua franca by simply being
recompiled to run in the cloud, .NET and
JVM. A few simple steps can deploy a COBOL
application into a Docker container.

In addition, the growing use of SOA and
web services, and the range of technology
elements, such as XML, WSDL, SOAP, JSON/
REST, HTML, ensure application integration
and connectivity across the enterprise. And
this is integration with a big “I” because
business innovation depends on the ability for
new, digital systems to hook into the critical
processing facilities and data within long-
established COBOL apps. Proof (if more proof
was needed) of COBOL’s ability to evolve
and support the growing codependence of
contemporary digital technology to older
applications.

So why has COBOL endured so well?
For any technology to thrive and survive,
history suggests it needs ve core
attributes. Few would argue–and 60years
of evidence conrms–that COBOL ticks all
the boxes.

1.

3. Portability

Innovation

2. Longevity

4. Built for business

5. Readability