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Designed in 1959 as part of a US Department of Defense project to create a portable programming language for data processing, COBOL is used primarily in business, finance, and administrative systems for governments and companies today.

The acronym stands for Common Business Oriented Language.

COBOL is used for writing application programs, and cannot be used to write system software. It is commonly used in applications with huge data processing demands.

COBOL is a high-level language. Computers are only capable of understanding machine code, which consists of a binary stream of zeros and ones. In order to be used by the computer, the COBOL code has to be converted into machine code, which is accomplished by running the program source through a compiler. When a compiler is run, it checks first for syntax errors, then converts the code into machine language. The compiler creates a load module, an output file that contains the executable code in the form of zeros and ones.

Created in 1959 by the Conference/Committee on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL), the Department of Defense forced computer manufacturers to provide it, accounting for its rapid adoption. The language was revised and released as COBOL-61 in 1961. In 1968, COBOL-68 was approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a standard programming language for commercial use. Revised again in 1974 and 1985, COBOL continued the practice of naming new versions after the year of release, creating COBOL-74 AND COBOL-85. In 2002, Object-Oriented COBOL was released (also known as COBOL-2002), which included the ability to use encapsulated objects as a normal part of COBOL programming. COBOL-2002 was not well supported, and was replaced by COBOL-2014 in 2014, which replaced portable arithmetic results with IEEE 754 data types, made some major features optional, and added method overloading. Dynamic capacity tables, which had been dropped in 2002, were brought back.

COBOL was the first widely used high-level programming language. As an English-like language, it is considered to be user-friendly. Programming is accomplished through the use of simple English words. It is also a self-documenting language

COBOL is a robust language, with debugging and testing tools available for most computer platforms, and is still in use by several major corporations and governmental agencies.

The focus of this category is on the programming language known as COBOL.



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