The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offence. - Edsger Dijkstra (1)
This statement may be hyperbole, but Dijkstra's view on the language reflects underlying feelings about COBOL throughout the programming world. The language was created in 1959 to allow for interactivity between computation machines.(2) More than half a century later, COBOL is still used extensively in mainframes, computers designed for large-scale calculation and record processing. Numerous factors have contributed to the longevity of COBOL, including ease of use compared to its contemporaries and an upgrade to object orientation in the 1990s.(3)
This longevity has also contributed to problems with COBOL. The chief criticism is that it has become difficult to learn as other programming languages become more user-friendly.(4) COBOL software tends to be verbose, even for simple tasks. It's said that the average size of a COBOL program is 600 lines of code, whereas a Java program performing the same operation should be 30 lines or fewer.(5) Difficulties with the language will only increase as the workforce knowledgeable in COBOL's use retire.
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- Date submitted
19 July 2022
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