Thursday, September 24, 2009

White Hair Chronicles IX - COBOL is 50

We mark this month the 50th year of the COBOL language. COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented Language) is one of the oldest programming language. It is also the first computer language I learned. I had to study it back in college. We used punched cards then for our programs that run on big-double-cabinet sized computers at the university.

According to Wikipedia, a specification for COBOL was initially designed by Grace Hopper. Committees were set up to recommend an approach to a common business language. On September 18, 1959, they decided on COBOL for the name.

I also used COBOL in my job as an Operations Research analyst, though I didn't use punch cards anymore, I typed directly on to dumb terminals of a ref-sized mainframe. That mainframe, which had a 90 MB hard disk (yes that's right 90 megabytes) that took half-day to format. There were no defragment tools then. But it also had a BASIC (BASIC itself is 45 years old) version that can do matrix algebra. COBOL is still very much around, though largely unseen.

Those were the days. Life was so much simpler.

"Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now" - (My Back Pages-Bob Dylan)

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