anguage) A high-level programming language primarily used for business development on mainframes and minicomputers throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Officially adopted in 1960, COBOL was one of the first compiled languages in a world where assembly languages were the norm. COBOL stemmed from FLOWMATIC, which was developed in the mid-1950s by Grace Murray Hopper (later Rear Admiral Hopper) for the UNIVAC I. As of 2020, COBOL applications were still running in many companies, and changes to the code are difficult because COBOL programmers are few and far between. See assembly language
COBOL is very wordy, but its verbosity makes it very readable for a novice. For example, the COBOL version of grosspay = hours*rate
is multiply rate by hours giving grosspay
(see COBOL fingers
). 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 IBM 370 mainframe converts a Fahrenheit number to Celsius. This example performs the operation on the operator's 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 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 with 31-bit addressing, allowing programs to run "above the line."
COBOL/370 is more compliant with IBM's AD/Cycle and has more string, math and date functions, including four-digit years. It allows development through a PC window and provides enhanced runtime facilities. See AD/Cycle