When was the language developed?

  • Originally created by the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL) in 1959
  • The original release was developed in a six month time frame,
  • First standardized by ANSI in 1968 as American National Standard (ANS) COBOL
  • Later ANSI versions released in 1974 and 1985
  • ANSI/ISO version with object oriented capabilities was released in beta in 1997
  • The fourth and current official ANSI release is ANS Cobol 2002

What individuals or organizations were responsible for its development?

  • CODASYL was an information technology consortium active from 1959 to 1988
    • Consisted of members of industry, academia, and government
    • General mission was to research and develop universal data systems tools
    • Had backing from the US Department of Defense
  • Committee charged with creating a common business language (COBOL) consisted of representatives of IBM, the Burroughs Corporation, Honeywell Labs, RCA, Sperry Rand, Sylvania Electric, and the United States Air Force, Navy, and the National Bureau of Standards (now the National Institute of Standards and Technology)
  • After the first release of COBOL, ANSI and later ISO became responsible for standardizing and maintaining it

Which languages did it influence and/or was influenced by?

Influenced by:


For what paradigm or domain was it developed and/or used?

  • Designed for developing business, typically file-oriented, applications and not for writing systems programs.
  • Does not work with science applications.

What are its most important features?

  • COBOL is non-proprietary (universal) 
  • Simple (yet wordy) language
    • Creators wanted it to be easy to use and didn't want the design to be overly restricted by the problems of its implementation.
  • No pointers
  • No user defined types
  • No user defined functions
  • File records and lines to be outputted to a printer are described with great detail

Is it still in use today?

  • Estimate from 1997: 300 billion lines of code in use in the world.
    • 80% of that 300 billion lines was COBOL code the other 20% were all other computer languages combined.
  • Through 2004-2005, 15% of all new applications (5 billion lines) will be developed in COBOL.
    • 80% of all deployed applications will include extensions to existing COBOL programs. 

To what can you attribute its success or failure?

  • Survived because of Department of Defense mandate.  Early compilers performed poorly and made COBOL too expensive to use.  Once computer performance caught up then COBOL succeeded and led to the electronic mechanization of accounting.
  • COBOL was meant to be ‘common’ or compatible among a significant group of manufacturers. 

Works Cited: