The following is reproduced from the COBOL Standard:
Any organization interested in reproducing the COBOL standard and specifications in whole or in part, using ideas from this document as the basis for an instruction manual or for any other purpose, is free to do so. However, all such organizations are requested to reproduce the following acknowledgment paragraphs in their entirety as part of the preface to any such publication:
COBOL is an industry language and is not the property of any company or group of companies, or of any organization or group of organizations. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made by any contributor or by the CODASYL COBOL Committee as to the accuracy and functioning of the programming system and language. Moreover, no responsibility is assumed by any contributor, or by the committee, in connection therewith.
The authors and copyright holders of the copyrighted materials used herein
- FLOW-MATIC (trademark of Sperry Rand Corporation),
- Programming for the UNIVAC (R) I and II, Data Automation Systems copyrighted 1958, 1959, by Sperry Rand Corporation;
- IBM Commercial Translator Form No. F28-8013, copyrighted 1959 by IBM;
- FACT, DSI 27A5260-2760, copyrighted 1960 by Minneapolis-Honeywell
have specifically authorized the use of this material, in whole or in part, in the COBOL specifications. Such authorization extends to the reproduction and use of COBOL specifications in programming manuals or similar publications.
COBOL was a significant advance in the history of computer science, because it opened up programming for many people who found assembler tedious or difficult or both, and FORTRAN, ALGOL, LISP and kindred languages generally unappealing. That is, people who were neither mathematicians nor computer scientists.
It is particularly focussed on the writing of business logic and rules and to this end has very good control over numerical calculations and the associated rounding, as is needed for financial calculations.
Here is a quote from one of the inventors of COBOL (Jean Sammet, quoted in "The Psychology of Computer Programmming" by Gerald M Weinberg):
"The users for who COBOL was designed were actually two subclasses of those people concerned with business data processing problems. One is the relatively inexperienced programmer for whom the naturalness of COBOL would be an asset, while the other type of user would be essentially anybody who had not written the program initially. In other words, the readibility of COBOL programs would provide documentation to all who might wish to examine the programs, including the supervisory or management personnel. Little attempt was made to cater for professional programmers."
In fact of course almost all COBOL code is written by professional programmers.
In fact COBOL breaks almost every conventional rule of programming languages design. Compare it to the criteria listed in "The Psychology of Computer Programming" -
In the new draft standard (COBOL 2002) most things get better and one or two get worse (eg reserved word list).
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