[Coco] obscure programming languages was Re: books

Mark McDougall msmcdoug at iinet.net.au
Fri Nov 30 19:29:02 EST 2007

Dean Leiber wrote:

> Remember 
> that COBOL was big as a programming language for business at one point 
> (is it still?) so it does make sense esp. if porting an application to 
> OS-9.

I was *forced* to study COBOL in my Computer Science degree back in '84. In 
fact I even did at least one of my assignments in RSCOBOL on my TRS-80 Model 
4P - boy that was painful, even with 2 floppy drives.

Fast-forward almost 10 years and I'm working for an insurance company 
writing C/C++ on PCs. They were going through a big IT shakeup, merging 
mainframe and PC, the latter of which had grown from a small group writing 
sales software for a single department.

They had just paid big $$$ for some consultant to architect the next-gen 
application framework for the whole company. The plan at one stage was to 
scrap all the current PC development tools and go with MicroFocus COBOL, 
using 3270 terminal screen-scraping for mainframe-PC communications.

When the PC developers first heard about it, we thought it was a joke and 
had a good laugh. When we realised they were serious, I think most of us 
started updating our CV's. Note that this is a company that would, every 
year, fax the several-hundred-page annual report to England to have someone 
at that end type it in again - because they didn't "trust" modems.

Anyway, common sense prevailed in the end (not that I stuck around much 
longer - we went from a reasonably autonomous group in a friendly, open-plan 
office to be scattered about the floor in a cubical rabbit-warren with 
practically ceiling-high partitions that even Dilbert wouldn't tolerate). 
AFAIK the consultants' report was filed in the circular filing cabinet.

Thankfully, that was my last job in "IT" but I seriously doubt any company 
is still using COBOL to do any real business. I can't find words adequate to 
describe how much I despised COBOL. It was the most verbose, yet featureless 
language I have ever had the misfortune to use. You can't do anything even 
_remotely_ interesting in COBOL.

These days I think even database query languages are more powerful than 
COBOL. You could probably achieve the same thing in a few lines of Perl as 
several _pages_ of COBOL diarrhea. Using Excel *without a keyboard* is more 
powerful than COBOL.

I can't see why anyone would want to run COBOL on a 6809. I can't see any 
advantage it would bring over any other language, especially on an 8-bit 
platform. You'd be _far and away_ better off porting it to even RS-BASIC, 
and that wouldn't be particularly difficult because you can't _do_ much more 
in COBOL than add numbers from a bunch of report lines together.

BTW did I mention I don't like COBOL? ;)


|              Mark McDougall                | "Electrical Engineers do it
|  <http://members.iinet.net.au/~msmcdoug>   |   with less resistance!"

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