COBOL: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

Having programmed in COBOL, I can say its not so bad as people think it is – and it remains a powerful force in the business world.  Thousands of lines of COBOL are being used every day.  (Of course, no one ever says thousands of lines of COBOL are being developed every day, but that’s another kettle of fish….)

Having also worked in RPG, and in APL (slightly), I can say without reservation that COBOL is not so bad.  The worst that people can say is that it takes 300 pages to write a program that C can do in one line – and they’re right.  Oh, well – can’t win ’em all eh?

Turns out that back in September, Fujitsu updated their three COBOL compilers: one for .Net, one for Windows, and one for UNIX (including Solaris Sparc!).  It also turns out that they have released (again) a previous version for personal educational use – and at no cost!  I caught wind of this via esotechnica.  It may well be that Fujitsu has provided the easiest way to get started in COBOL anywhere.

If I’d’ve had Fujitsu COBOL on Microsoft Windows XP (for instance) back during my COBOL class days, they’d probably have called it cheating (heh!).

If you want to stay with open source projects, you could always use tinyCOBOL, OpenCOBOL, or GNU COBOL… although I think GNU COBOL is dead (the project was to create a COBOL compiler front-end for GCC).  TinyCOBOL and OpenCOBOL appear to be quite active (I actually packaged the tinyCOBOL RPMs for a while).

Anybody ever use COBOL for system administration?  I doubt it – but who am I to say?  Maybe that important network manager is written in COBOL and we just don’t know it…

One thought on “COBOL: “Reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.””

  1. I am a fairly recent graduate, and guess what I got my first job as a COBOL developer. I have been a COBOL developer for three years since graduating. I can truly say I wish I stayed away from COBOL and so should all you recent

    It really doesn’t matter whether or not there are 70 billion lines of COBOL and all that other stuff; if you can’t get a job in this area (trust me I’ve been looking). All you have to do is type COBOL in a job search (and there we have it – the last time I got 100 hits) – “COBOL IS DEAD” if you want to get a job. When you narrow down your search to say London and you only get
    about 12 hits – so if you want to work as a software developer stay away from COBOL.

    It really doesn’t matter if some developer says “COBOL is not dead, I’ve recently got a job in COBOL”. These people probably been programming in COBOL for a life time (that’s like 25 years) so you are competing with these guys for those handful of jobs.

    It really doesn’t matter if one says “there will be plenty of jobs when these old people retire and a company will give you loads of money if you have COBOL experience”. They may give people with COBOL skills loads of money to fix a bug but how often do these bugs cause faults (remember if its working don’t touch it). So you maybe sitting unemployed for years before anything goes wrong, waiting for your one off big contract payment (sounds like too much of a risky investment).

    Anyway I’ve been looking for work out their and finding it very hard (almost impossible) to find a job. I am a First Class graduate and have a Masters and even with these academics three years of doing COBOL has crippled my chances. I wish I had not done COBOL and stayed with the skills (what you should be learning at university) that have jobs. I have got 3 years COBOL and someone has 3 years of Java or C or C# etc.. so I am out of the competition when looking for jobs. Don’t listen to those that say it don’t matter what the language is (because it does), all you have to do is look at the job specs (they generally mention the programming language because it
    really does matter).

    I am now hoping to build on those skills at university and then will keep trying to apply for jobs. I am also hoping to do some courses to refresh my knowledge in areas I have neglected over the last three years (which from my experience you don’t get from COBOL and my opinion is this language should not be taught at university). Certainly its IT and you have too keep up
    with recently skills set (that’s RECENT!! skills set), but why get into the position I am in and many (I hope not too many) recent graduates may be in.

    I know this is very negative and may not read well, but COBOL has made it very difficult for me to forward my career and I really don’t want this to happen to any other graduate.

    Basically “COBOL is truly dead” if you look at it from the perspective of your career. Go out there, do the research and see the truth for yourself !!

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