Definition

COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language)

COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language) was the first widely-used high-level programming language for business applications. Many payroll, accounting, and other business application programs written in COBOL over the past 35 years are still in use and it is possible that there are more existing lines of programming code in COBOL than in any other programming language. While the language has been updated over the years, it is generally perceived as out-of-date and COBOL programs are generally viewed as legacy applications.

COBOL was an effort to make a programming language that was like natural English, easy to write and easier to read the code after you'd written it. The earliest versions of the language, COBOL-60 and -61, evolved to the COBOL-85 standard sponsored by the Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL).

In years immediately preceding the year 2000, many COBOL programs required change to accommodate the new century. Programmers with COBOL skills were in demand by major corporations and contractors. A number of companies have updated COBOL and sell development tools that combine COBOL programming with relational databases and the Internet.

COBOL evolved from pioneering work by Grace Hopper, who developed program compilers for the first large-scale digital computer, the Mark I.

Contributor(s): Sybren Brouwer and Reg Harbeck
This was last updated in May 2010
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

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