50 Years of COBOL

COBOL is 50 years old and continues to be used in critical business applications. COBOL was the second programming language I learned after Basic and this rings completely true

According to Michael Coughlan, a lecturer at the University of Limerick, one of Cobol’s perceived drawbacks is its verbosity. But he reckons that’s also one of its strengths. “It’s not just a write-only language,” he says. “You can come back years later and understand the code.”

This opinion is shared by Mike Gilpin, of Forrester, who is an ex-Cobol programmer. “Cobol is one of the few languages written in the last 50 years that’s readable and understandable,” he says. And he’s scathing about the readability of more fashionable languages, such as PHP and Java: “Modern programming languages are ridiculously hard to understand.”

Though my prediction is that in the next 10 years most of the big legacy applications will disappear as hardware/software in the datacenter continues to get better. This downturn may be a tipping point for these behemoths.

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