The COBOL Programming Language

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History | Significant Language Features | Areas of Application | Sample Programs
Related Links | Printed References | Acknowledgments


COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) was one of the earliest high-level programming languages. It was developed in 1959 by a group of computer professionals called the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL). Since 1959 it has undergone several modifications and improvements. In an attempt to overcome the problem of incompatibility between different versions of COBOL, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) developed a standard form of the language in 1968. This version was known as American National Standard (ANS) COBOL. In 1974, ANSI published a revised version of (ANS) COBOL, containing a number of features that were not in the 1968 version. In 1985, ANSI published still another revised version that had new features not in the 1974 standard. The language continues to evolve today. Object-oriented COBOL is a subset of COBOL 97, which is the fourth edition in the continuing evolution of ANSI/ISO standard COBOL. COBOL 97 includes conventional improvements as well as object-oriented features. Like the C++ programming language, object-oriented COBOL compilers are available even as the language moves toward standardization.

Significant Language Features

COBOL, long associated with green screens, core dumps, and traditional mainframe connections, may at first glance seem at odds with object technology, push-button graphical interfaces, and interactive development environments. This perceived incongruity, however, is more a reflection of the mainframe’s ability to keep pace with the innovations of desktop and client-server computing than a flaw in the COBOL language

Areas of Application

COBOL is ideally suited for the solution of business problems. For example, if a company wanted to keep track of its employees’ annual wages, COBOL would be ideal language for implementation. It is interesting to note that COBOL was the first programming language whose use was mandated by the Department of Defense (DoD).

Sample Programs

Related Links

Printed References

  1. Nickerson, Robert C. (1991). Fundamentals of Structured COBOL. HarperCollins Publishers Inc., New York.
  2. Sebesta, Robert W. (1996). Concepts of Programming Languages. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, Inc., California.


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