COBOL Programming, useful?


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Thread: COBOL Programming, useful?

  1. #1
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    Question COBOL Programming, useful?

    At the college I'm currently attending one of the required classes for the Computer Science majors is COBOL programming as well as RPG programming and Fortran 90. Fortran 90 I can almost understand but who still uses COBOL and RPG when there are "better" database applications in the world now. I'm in the middle of COBOL now having already finished RPG but I can't for the life of me invision how this is better than a MySQL dbase with a well crafted PHP script gathering info. I guess I'm asking is: "Does anyone currently use this in their job and do they plan to continue using it through the next year or two?"
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  2. #2
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    I dont know about Alabama, but any mainframe still in use in Europe has about 90% of its' core code written in cobol. That is ALL banks and most governments.

    How useful is it? Well I have been a programmer for over ten years, starting out in cobol. I don't think I will ever have another job coding cobol. If I do, it will only be maintaining legacy code on a large machine, like a vax or a mainframe.

    However it is a great language to learn about structured programming and help you develope good coding habits. I found the transition from cobol to java much easier than cobol to c.

    Remember, in the 70's the people that know all said cobol would be extinct by 1985.

  3. #3
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    Well I think most COBOL programming done out there is mostly maintain from older programs. However, I was at a job fair yesterday and I saw a couple of companies looking for COBOL programmers. Just a thought.

  4. #4
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    I work for a large fortune 500 company and we do most of our programming in COBOL for our DB2 mainframe system. I'm sure there are many better ways to do it out there, but you need to remember the corporate mentality of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I see more often than not, that when something is upgraded, changed, or fixed, it causes a lot of headaches in areas that weren't expected, so companies aren't too excited to change and try something new.

    For example, we're now finally trying to get rid of all of our Windows 95 machines, which should be done within the year.
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  5. #5
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    Shoot, there's a company here in Houston that sells to a TON of major auto dealers that is hiring COBOL programmers right now.
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  6. #6
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    A friend got hired recently to move COBOL apps over to a few different languages... basically,any big company that has legacy apps will have probably used cobol... not to mention, a LOT of the cobol trained workforce is either retiring or dead... same for the true mainframe operators.
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  7. #7
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    Cool, that's basically what I thought, but it's nice to hear it coming from an informed audience. Hard to find an opinion in Alabama that isn't repeated from some other source. I appreciate the feedback.
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  8. #8
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    Originally posted by ph34r
    A friend got hired recently to move COBOL apps over to a few different languages... basically,any big company that has legacy apps will have probably used cobol... not to mention, a LOT of the cobol trained workforce is either retiring or dead... same for the true mainframe operators.
    dead? isnt' that a bit harsh? or do all programmers die prematurely? maybe it's radiation poisoning from those old screens we all used to have?

  9. #9
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    (not) to mention the possibility to use cobol on your linux machine.

    commercial:
    - Micro Focus cobol
    - AcuCobol
    - RMcobol

    or open source:
    - Tinycobol
    - opencobol

    I've worked with Micro Focus and I'm playing with the open-source variants.
    Works great. Your cobol source is converted to either assembler (tiny) or C code (opencobol) and then fed to gcc.
    It's a known "problem" with OS/2. It runs continuously until the underlying hardware crumbles under you hands....

    the irony of quality

  10. #10
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    I just had to post an updated/modern reply to this ...

    What I'd call the "REAL" answer to the question of whether COBOL is still useful or not is actually more tied to the use of IBM mainframes. COBOL is pretty much the language of choice on IBM mainframes (very analogous to C on unix), and there are lots of companies that still just can't find any other technology that handles certain kinds of work (especially in certain kinds of volume) that mainframes can, and where those "areas" exist, so does COBOL.

    Certainly, there is plenty "maintenance of legacy code" that goes on in such environments, but there is also plenty of new development there, as well. A fairly frequent scenario is one where integration of new business processes into existing processes that live on a mainframe (with COBOL) is most directly and easily handled by simply writing new COBOL code, or extending/enhancing existing COBOL code with new features, etc.

    I also know from personal experience of employment with quite a few such companies (large and in active use of IBM mainframes) that any serious notions of migrating significant portions off of their mainframes is often (pretty much always) dashed to bits upon in-depth analysis of actual risk and cost. I would say that mainframes and COBOL are going to be around and actively used for a really long time to come.

  11. #11
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    I am not a COBOL expert, but I did take a COBOL course from ICS when I retired in 1997, strictly out of curiosity. For kicks, I wrote a program to produce numbers like Sine and Cosine. Alas, in a computer failure that program was lost.

    Yes, the cost of changing all the big business systems to a newer data base is incredibly high. In 1999, just eliminating the so-called 2K bugs cost a fortune. And, it is more the testing which would be involved than coding.

    This sort of thing is not uncommon. A few years ago, the space shuttles were shut down. The landing computers were to the last flight made using 1970 technology. When we got new techs, we would show them the Glide Slope computer, using flat packs, like SG24 type parts. Yes, a new glideslope computer would be easy to make, and much smaller and lighter. But, safety testing would cost a fortune. Not worth it.

    When the original production of the shuttle computers ceased decades ago, the government bought a ware house full of spare parts. Once parts are no longer produced, they are impossible to replace. So, one bad part, with no replacement available, would have shut down the shuttle forever.

    I have read, and have no way to accept or reject the statement that more than half of all lines of code in the world written each year are COBOL.

    Mexico as far as I can tell does not often use COBOl, because by the time Mexico got computerized, new data base programs were in use. If anyone can verify this, I'd like to know, just out of curiosity.

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