Practical Programmer Robert L. Glass Cobol A Contradiction and an Enigma Democracy is a very bad form of government . . . but all the others are so much worse. Winston Churchill obol is the most pooh-poohed topic in the software field. Almost everyone criticizes it, laughs at it, kicks sand in its face. Few stand up to defend it. And yet it remains the most-used language in software development and maintenance. Today roughly twothirds of programmers use Cobol. The second-place language (variously said to be C, Fortran, or RPG) is (a) very far behind, and (b) has a decade-dependent identity. Other programming languages come and go; none has survived and been as successful as Cobol. So what s wrong with this picture? Why is Cobol badmouthed on the one hand, and quietly successful on the other? The usual reason given for this C contradiction is that software practitioners are an incredibly stubborn lot, stuck in place and refusing to change. In this view, it is the intransigence of those in the trenches that has man- aged to keep poor old Cobol alive for its over 40 year life span, in spite of the wisdom and knowledge
Communications of the ACM – Association for Computing Machinery
Published: Sep 1, 1997
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