20 Things You Might Not Know About COBOL (as the Language Turns 50)

20 Things You Might Not Know About COBOL (as the Language Turns 50)
by Darryl Taft

  1. The name COBOL was decided upon at a meeting of the Short Range Committee of CODASYL (the Conference on Data Systems Languages) held on Sept. 18, 1959.
  2. COBOL, one of the oldest programming languages, gets its name as an acronym for Common Business-Oriented Language, and is primarily used in business, finance and administrative systems for companies and governments.
  3. $2 trillion is the total investment in COBOL systems.
  4. Five billion lines of new COBOL are developed every year.
  5. More than 80 percent of all daily business transactions are processed in COBOL.
  6. More than 70 percent of all worldwide business data is stored on a mainframe.
  7. More than 70 percent of mission-critical applications are in COBOL.
  8. Even 50 years later, 15 percent of all new application functionality will be written in COBOL.
  9. More than 310 billion lines of software are in use today and more than 200 billion lines are COBOL (65 percent of the total software).
  10. COBOL is an anagram of BCOOL!
  11. The Mother of COBOL, Grace Hopper, is said to have invented the term “computer bug” when a moth got stuck in her Mark II computer and she joked she’d have to “de-bug” it.
  12. There are 200 times more COBOL transactions per day than Google searches worldwide.
  13. COBOL is changing with the times. COBOL is being re-energized as an important component of moving businesses to the Web seamlessly and efficiently.
  14. An estimated 2 million people are currently working in COBOL in one form or another.
  15. The COBOL 2002 standard includes support for object-oriented programming and other modern language features.
  16. Work is progressing on the next full revision of the COBOL Standard. It is expected to be approved and available in the early 2010s.
  17. Though named in September 1959, the COBOL subcommittee completed the specifications for COBOL in December 1959.
  18. The first compilers for COBOL were subsequently implemented during the year 1960.
  19. COBOL has been fashioned for execution within framework environments such as Java and Microsoft’s .NET. Micro Focus supports object-oriented COBOL compilers targeting the .NET framework.
  20. Despite years of overwhelming success running business systems, COBOL has not been without its critics. Computer scientist and Turing Award recipient Edsger Dijkstra once said, “The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense.”

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