anguage) A high-level programming language that has been the primary business application language for mainframes as well as for the variety of minicomputers that flourished throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It is a compiled language and one of the first high-level languages ever developed. Officially adopted in 1960, COBOL stemmed from FLOWMATIC, a language developed in the mid-1950s by Grace Murray Hopper (later Rear Admiral Hopper) for the UNIVAC I.
COBOL is very wordy (see COBOL fingers
). Although mathematical expressions can also be written like other programming languages (see example below), its verbose mode is very readable for a novice. For example, multiply hourly-rate by hours-worked giving gross-pay
is self-explanatory. COBOL is structured into the following divisions:
Division Name Contains
IDENTIFICATION Program identification.
ENVIRONMENT Types of computers used.
DATA Buffers, constants, work areas.
PROCEDURE The processing (program logic).
The following COBOL example for an earlier IBM 370 mainframe converts a Fahrenheit number to Celsius. To keep the example simple, it performs the operation on the operator's terminal rather than a user terminal.
77 FAHR picture 999.
77 CENT picture 999.
display 'Enter Fahrenheit ' upon console.
accept FAHR from console.
compute CENT = (FAHR- 32) * 5 / 9.
display 'Celsius is ' CENT upon console.
In 1994, IBM dropped support of OS/VS COBOL, which conforms to ANSI 68 and ANSI 74 standards and limits a program's address space to 16 bits. IBM's VS COBOL II (1984) and COBOL/370 (1991) conform to ANSI 85 standards and provide 31-bit addressing, which allows programs to run "above the line."
COBOL/370 is more compliant with AD/Cycle, has more string, math and date functions, including four-digit years, allows development through a PC window and provides enhanced runtime facilities.