Secrets of the dead: What modern programmers can learn from COBOL

Secrets of the dead: What modern programmers can learn from COBOL

By Walt Mankowski (‎waltman‎) from
Date: Tuesday, 21 June 2016 15:00
Duration: 20 minutes
Target audience: Any
Language: English

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COBOL is the Rodney Dangerfield of the programming world — it doesn’t get any respect. COBOL is routinely denigrated for its verbosity and dismissed as archaic, and for good reason: COBOL bears little to no
resemblance to modern programming languages. Yet COBOL is far from a dead language. COBOL processes an estimated 85% of all business transactions, and 5 billion new lines of COBOL are written every year.

I spent 10 years as a COBOL developer and saw first-hand the good and the bad of the language. Many of its criticisms are valid, and most YAPC attendees would probably be appalled at COBOL’s syntax. But as COBOL approaches its 7th decade of active use, it’s worth remembering that there are a few things that COBOL got spectacularly right, particularly in its primary niche in mainframe business programming. These include:

* Separation of code, presentation, and operating environment
* Datatypes to handle decimal currency amounts
* Reading and writing fixed-length records

And that appalling syntax is simple enough that even non-programmers can learn the basics in a few hours.

Attendees will come away with old techniques they can apply to their new systems, and a new-found respect for their elders.

Attended by: Todd Rinaldo (‎toddr‎), Dave Rolsky (‎autarch‎), Brian Kelly, David H. Adler (‎dha‎), James E Keenan (‎kid51‎), Victor Stevko, D Ruth Bavousett (‎druthb‎), Douglas Schrag (‎dmaestro‎), Chip Salzenberg (‎Chip‎), Galen Charlton, Stevan Little (‎stevan‎), brian carlson, Thomas McKernan, Walt Mankowski (‎waltman‎), Thomas Stanton (‎tstanton‎), Julian Brown, J. Maslak, Mark Gardner (‎mjgardner‎), David Hand (‎Ptolemarch‎), Ricardo Signes (‎rjbs‎),