COBOL is an imperative, procedural and object-oriented programming language used for writing application programs. An acronym for Common Business Oriented Language, it is widely used in legacy applications on mainframe computers. Much of COBOL programming requirements are concerned with maintaining existing applications.
Created in 1959 by CODASYL, Grace Hopper is widely attributed as a key contributor to the development of the language. Much of early COBOL script was based on previous programming work of Hopper.
Originally created as an interim programming tool to satisfy the US Department of Defense requirements for a portable programming language, COBOL proved useful and gained widespread adoption in government organizations and for the purpose of business data processing.
A majority of finance, accounting, business and administration functions of companies and governments still use COBOL despite the popularity of modern programming languages. In 2012 surveys estimated 60% of businesses remain reliant and half of those continue to use COBOL as the primary language for internal software. Predominant use includes maintaining payrolls, large-scale batch and transaction processing, budget management, and other data processing tasks. The language operates on a diverse range of operating systems including Windows, VME, OpenVMS, z/OS and more.
The programming language was standardized in 1968. A highly readable syntax based on English speaking, it also features a self-documenting syntax. The language is considered by many as verbose with more than 300 reserved words, far more than modern language syntax. Four divisions of the language exist, identification, environment, data and procedure, and a robust hierarchy of sections, paragraphs, and sentences are prevalent.
COBOL was standardized in 1968 and has since undergone four major revisions, most notably support for structured and object-oriented programming in 2002. The most recent version was the 2014 update that included dynamic capacity tables, the replacement of portable arithmetic results, method overloading, and a range of major features becoming optional such as the VALIDATE facility.
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