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178 comments

Museum Fight! (3, Funny)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575226)

Under cover of darkness, employees of the Museum of Natural history broke in and appropriated the exhibit to add to their world-renowned dinosaur collection...

Re:Museum Fight! (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575782)

30 years from now, it will be PERL. With turtles, all the way down!

Re:Museum Fight! (1)

windcask (1795642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575828)

Perl will die around the same time the world's oil reserves dry up or when we run out of IPV4 addresses. People love to talk about it, but it'll never actually happen.

Re:Museum Fight! (4, Funny)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576620)

The following week Ben Stiller broke into the Museum of Natural History and the museum's computers started having Y2K problems when the 50 year-old COBOL exhibit came to life.

Re:Museum Fight! (2)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576736)

These dinosaurs aren't extinct though.

Banks still use COBOL [bankingtech.com] heavily.

COBOL was my first language, so I have a soft spot for it.

Re:Museum Fight! (2, Informative)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576888)

COBOL excels at moving data from file to file. I haven't seen the Redefines capability in any other language and is very very powerful when it comes to slicing up data before transformation and then putting it back together in other formats.

Of course, nothing can touch the combination of mainframes and COBOL when it comes to processing millions and millions of records.

Re:Museum Fight! (2)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 3 years ago | (#34578066)

Of course, nothing can touch the combination of mainframes and COBOL when it comes to processing millions and millions of records.

That sounds kind of like Dr. Evil:

"My mainframe computer is so powerful, it can process ... MILLIONS of records! Hahaha!"

Re:Museum Fight! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578870)

You know what's better for moving data from file to file? ANYTHING.

Re:Museum Fight! (2)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577470)

COBOL -- Crappy Old Bad Obsolete Language

But, it IS a dinasaur. It was one of the very first computer languages there were. It was a milestone in computing history. From the Yale page about Grace Hopper [yale.edu]:

Pursuing her belief that computer programs could be written in English, Admiral hopper moved forward with the development for Univac of the B-O compiler, later known as FLOW-MATIC. It was designed to translate a language that could be used for typical business tasks like automatic billing and payroll calculation. Using FLOW-MATIC, Admiral Hopper and her staff were able to make the UNIVAC I and II "understand" twenty statements in English. When she recommended that an entire programming language be developed using English words, however, she "was told very quickly that [she] couldn't do this because computers didn't understand English." It was three years before her idea was finally accepted; she published her first compiler paper in 1952.

Admiral Hopper actively participated in the first meetings to formulate specifications for a common business language. She was one of the two technical advisers to the resulting CODASYL Executive Committee, and several of her staff were members of the CODASYL Short Range Committee to define the basic COBOL language design. The design was greatly influenced by FLOW-MATIC. As one member of the Short Range Committee stated, "[FLOW-MATIC] was the only business-oriented programming language in use at the time COBOL development started... Without FLOW-MATIC we probably never would have had a COBOL." The first COBOL specifications appeared in 1959.

Admiral Hopper devoted much time to convincing business managers that English language compilers such as FLOW-MATIC and COBOL were feasible. She participated in a public demonstration by Sperry Corporation and RCA of COBOL compilers and the machine independence they provided. After her brief retirement from the Navy, Admiral Hopper led an effort to standardize COBOL and to persuade the entire Navy to use this high-level computer language. With her technical skills, she lead her team to develop useful COBOL manuals and tools. With her speaking skills, she convinced managers that they should learn to use them.

Another major effort in Admiral Hopper's life was the standardization of compilers. Under her direction, the Navy developed a set of programs and procedures for validating COBOL compilers. This concept of validation has had widespread impact on other programming languages and organizations; it eventually led to national and international standards and validation facilities for most programming languages.

From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]:

In the spring of 1959 a two day conference known as the CODASYL brought together computer experts from industry and government. Hopper served as the technical consultant to the committee, and many of her former employees served on the short-term committee that defined the new language, COBOL. The new language extended Hopper's FLOW-MATIC language with some ideas from the IBM equivalent, the COMTRAN. Hopper's belief that programs should be written in a language that was close to English rather than in machine code or languages close to machine code (such as assembly language) was captured in the new business language, and COBOL would go on to be the most ubiquitous business language to date.[10]

From 1967 to 1977, Hopper served as the director of the Navy Programming Languages Group in the Navy's Office of Information Systems Planning and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 1973.[9] She developed validation software for the programming language COBOL and its compiler as part of a COBOL standardization program for the entire Navy

Along with other disasters? (1, Funny)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575294)

If they put it next to exhibits of the Great Chicago Fire, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island then I would applaud the curators for their good taste.

Re:Along with other disasters? (3, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575540)

Hey! Three Mile Island was not a disaster. It was a boon to those of us living nearby as our electric bills plunged because we no longer had to turn on our lights at night.

Re:Along with other disasters? (4, Funny)

Tr3vin (1220548) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575800)

Yeah, but you guys are a real distraction at movie theaters.

Re:Along with other disasters? (2)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576708)

Not to mention that, beside the glow, you leave toxic goo everywhere and we just hate the way you eat popcorn with your tentacles.

Re:Along with other disasters? (4, Informative)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576138)

Disaster? Hardly. Let's see where "insert your favorite language here" is after 50 years.

A recent Gartner study found COBOL in about 75% of enterprise business processes still today. There are an estimated 200 billion lines of COBOL still in use today (at least as late as 2004), with around 2 billion new lines being added each year.

There is considerable controversy about the accuracy of the 200 billion lines, but nonetheless, I would hardly classify this kind of success as a disaster.

Re:Along with other disasters? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34576746)

But of course 200 billion lines of COBOL is equivalent to 1 million in Perl.

Re:Along with other disasters? (1)

mevets (322601) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577758)

Its a good perspective; but cobol seemed 50 years old 25 years ago when I learnt it. It is weirder that UNIX is 40, and C somewhere around 35.
C still seems very spirited, despite a few rounds of standardization, and its weird dialects.
UNIX has suffered more with prosthetics, but I'm amazed at the range and breadth of applications of modern UNIX; much of the credit for that goes to linux.

Along with vampires and zombies (1)

Migala77 (1179151) | more than 3 years ago | (#34578304)

Disaster? Hardly. Let's see where "insert your favorite language here" is after 50 years. A recent Gartner study found COBOL in about 75% of enterprise business processes still today.

Just because it won't die, doesn't mean it's a success.

Re:Along with other disasters? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578342)

Sorry sparky, you can talk up COBOL if you want, but you're pissing into the wind. C was created in 1972, and its still held in high regard (38 years later). Cobol was being bashed in 1989 (when I first took a COBOL course in college). Even Grace Hopper and the gang (the original designers of the language) remarked 5 years later (45 years ago), that it was a throwaway language meant to only last maybe 6 months or a year, and if they knew it would still be around --5 years later-- that they would have done a better job of it. People keep touting how many people are using it, how many lines of code are out there, and thus (apparently) how great it is. As programming languages go, its like "Programming for Dummies". It was touted as 'something simple enough for business people to understand', yet business people don't program it (or rarely). Its an inefficient language to program. In C, you can program complex algorithms in a small amount of space and with few characters. In Cobol, you cannot program many algorithms (period), and its extremely verbose in what it wants. You type and type and type. It complains over very stupid things (like not having the code in the correct punch card format). No one has been using punched cards for 30+ years. In college I wrote a FPS video game (as an assignment in C), where you had to shoot "COBOLIANS" out of the sky, and you got BIG prizes for shooting them all out of the sky. That too, was more than 20 years ago. No one in their right mind chooses to do 'green field' applications in COBOL. Any new stuff is done because 'we are already stuck with all this old stuff', and because business tends to be conservative and crotchety. The joy is, that eventually these businesses will all die off, and the 'investment in COBOL' will die with them. Once gone, there is no going back.

Re:Along with other disasters? (1)

perotbot (632237) | more than 3 years ago | (#34578842)

COBOL is still the basis of MANY financial systems, even Lawson which runs on websphere with a metric ton of java applets has cobol running under AIX as the backend

Yeah, well... (4, Funny)

fade (4063) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575304)

When I read the headline, my head parsed "Smithsonian celebrates 150 Years of COBOL" ... but I guess that's just because when it's COBOL, it only feels like 150 years.

Oh My... (0)

cozzbp (1845636) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575312)

Dear God I'm old.

Re:Oh My... (1)

theGhostPony (1631407) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575430)

Especially if it was among the first real programming languages you learned, and you can still remember what COBOL stands for without looking it up (guilty)!

Re:Oh My... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576026)

Especially if it was among the first real programming languages you learned

Oh crap, it was number 3 for me -- BASIC, Pascal, COBOL.

and you can still remember what COBOL stands for without looking it up (guilty)!

COmmon Business Oriented Language -- do I get a cookie?

Crap, I am old.

Re:Oh My... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575454)

Somehow that line just doesn't have the same ring coming from a 7-digit UID.

Re:Oh My... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576058)

Somehow that line just doesn't have the same ring coming from a 7-digit UID.

Contrary to popular believe, # of digits in Slashdot ID is only loosely correlated to beard-length.

I'm sure we've got a fair few neck-beards with 7 digit IDs.

Re:Oh My... (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#34578392)

Also, there are probably folks with 7 digit UIDs that used to have 4 digit UIDs, but loss them for some reason. Plus, hell I was almost fifty when slashdot started.

Exhibit will have a strange layout... (4, Funny)

SomeoneGotMyNick (200685) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575388)

There will not be a single dedicated area to show off the exhibit. Instead, the exhibit will be scattered about in separate rooms called copybooks.

feature exhibit: malware in the COBOL era (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575478)

Instead of stuxnet, assistant coaches from the New York Jets football team will line up to trip unsuspecting programmers carrying boxes of cards containing the source code.

Hmm... (1)

masterwit (1800118) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575494)

"Feeling old yet? Smithsonian...perfect. Just perfect."
(Was my friend's response...I'm too young to appreciate this fully, he is not).

Fortune (1)

ddxexex (1664191) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575508)

This fortune was so close to being in this article:
COBOL is for morons. -- E.W. Dijkstra
Too bad this article wasn't posted sooner

Re:Fortune (2)

Shadow99_1 (86250) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576652)

Really COBOL, in the last iteration I worked with it in at least, had 'caught up' with the times in alot of ways. 10 years ago I learned OO COBOL, which really made COBOL alot like C++. Though COBOL was sort of limited in IO: files, text to screen, and at most pixel switching for primitive graphics. No fancy GUI's here. Most of COBOL though was about file interaction, bring stuff in, work on it, and output once more. Sometimes with user input, though often not.

Re:Fortune (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577226)

The combination of Mainframes and COBOL is the Catapiller D9 of computer system. When it comes to moving mountians of data through the system, the girlie languages running on PC farmes just can't keep up.

Good Times (4, Insightful)

Bucc5062 (856482) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575534)

It may be crass to admit, but I had some great experiences working in my first COBOL position. Sure it dates me...so what, I got a lawn and am proud of it. I do appreciate the development tools I use as a current developer, but something about the simplicity, and the structure make me feel nostalgic. Lately I see code with no documentation, no good structure and buggy. COBOL, FORTRAN, and Pascal separated IT programmers (and staff) from middle managers and office workers that today think writing an Access VBA makes them a .net developer. You can't go back (nor would I, but for the need of a job), yet I would like to see some of the foundations that went into development groups make a comeback.

Re:Good Times (1)

oh-dark-thirty (1648133) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575636)

Mod parent up. When in school, COBOL was my least favorite language to work in, then I got a real job and learned to love it. COBOL and Wang VS, a match made in heaven, lol...

Re:Good Times (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34576006)

Mod parent up. When in school, COBOL was my least favorite language to work in, then I got a real job and learned to love it.

Well, the Goatse man learned to love sticking things with a 15cm circumference up his ass, but you'll not find me queueing up to try it out.

FORTRAN! (1)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576222)

I guess I just need to go out and learn Fortran for the old school trifecta!

I know my first year CS they taught Pascal, and then changed standards to C the following year. Thanks for that. COBOL was, and probably still is taught for those students with high pain thresholds.

I don't actually program for a living (though I use scraps here and there), so I don't have all the new sexier languages. I know the few times I have applied for a new positions, having those languages and stuff like Assembly, etc... on my resume managers look at you like you have two heads or something. Then are somehow unimpressed you don't have any experience in whatever trendy new language they are smoking. Rarely are they looking for the guy that says programing is programing, I'll learn it. They want some cheap code jockey that has been currently using it in his job and can start hacking right away. Just as well really, probably wouldn't want to work for them anyway by the sounds of it.

Re:FORTRAN! (1)

Dancindan84 (1056246) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577808)

So true. I'm glad my boss doesn't have that philosophy. Recently there was a bunch of work that needed to be done in ActionScript 3 for a project in another department and my boss came to me knowing that even though I'd never used the language, I'm a good programmer and I'd figure it out. Mind you, you'd have to at least be familiar with OOP, but that's not exactly new or trendy any more...

The trees have been saved (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575552)

I used to program in Cobol and I used to measure my code in the number of feet of paper that the lineprinter would print instead of lines of code. Even the "Hello World" program would be more than 1 foot in length...

Re:The trees have been saved (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577328)

000100 IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.
000200 PROGRAM-ID. HELLOWORLD.
000300
000400*
000500 ENVIRONMENT DIVISION.
000600 CONFIGURATION SECTION.
000700 SOURCE-COMPUTER. RM-COBOL.
000800 OBJECT-COMPUTER. RM-COBOL.
000900
001000 DATA DIVISION.
001100 FILE SECTION.
001200
100000 PROCEDURE DIVISION.
100100
100200 MAIN-LOGIC SECTION.
100300 BEGIN.
100400 DISPLAY " " LINE 1 POSITION 1 ERASE EOS.
100500 DISPLAY "Hello world!" LINE 15 POSITION 10.
100600 STOP RUN.
100700 MAIN-LOGIC-EXIT.
100800 EXIT.

I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (2)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575570)

I remember seeing ads for COBOL programmers in the careers section of the paper throughout the 1990's... with steadily increasing salary ranges, right up until about mid-October of 1999, where I was routinely seeing offers 80K per year or sometimes even more for new grads, it seemed that there were quite a few companies getting desperate to have COBOL programmers.

Then, suddenly, within the space of only a week or two, the COBOL programmer ads stopped.

By November, every last one of them was gone.

I never saw another COBOL programmer wanted ad after that. Ever.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (3, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575672)

Because, once the Y2K bug was fixed, those systems that were already probably working just fine with 20-30 years of minimal maintenance and one huge spurge of Y2K updates will carry on running, most probably. Or people took it as a sign that maybe it's *not* a good idea to be relying on code that nobody on your staff can understand in order to run your business.

See what happens come 2038. That'll be the interesting bit.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (1)

Silfax (1246468) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577404)

Because, once the Y2K bug was fixed, those systems that were already probably working just fine with 20-30 years of minimal maintenance and one huge spurge of Y2K updates will carry on running, most probably. Or people took it as a sign that maybe it's *not* a good idea to be relying on code that nobody on your staff can understand in order to run your business. See what happens come 2038. That'll be the interesting bit.

The COBOL stuff will still be cruising along in 2038, but just wait until the Y10K bug hits.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575682)

Now COBOL is basically used in years-old legacy code which is held together by the programming equivalent of duct tape. And nobody wants to touch that mess. Oh no.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575814)

nonsense, COBOL is still used in code that moves money and processes insurance claims. I've been a part of adding new features with newer technology to some of those systems even in the last year. Still going strong, still people maintaining code bases of COBOL and related languages such as RPG and very old JCL. And no, we don't put the COBOL and related parts on our resumes either 8D

How many closet dinosaur-language slashdotters are there?

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575890)

Now COBOL is basically used in years-old legacy code which is held together by the programming equivalent of duct tape. And nobody wants to touch that mess. Oh no.

While that's likely true, it's hardly unique to COBOL.

Any codebase which is over, say, 5 years or more, is likely creaking under its own weight and nobody really knows how all of the parts work anymore.

The software also likely runs day in, day out, 365 days/year, and does everything it has been developed to do. I've seen projects that try to replace such legacy systems -- after you've spent millions trying to write something new which does most of what you need, you discover that there's huge gaping holes in your coverage, and you're nowhere near where you'd need to be to replace it. Often, the project gets scrapped at that point as people realize you're never going to be a viable replacement.

Hell, I knew a guy in the 90s who was retired from a company, and drawing his full pension, and working as a consultant at big $$$ rates to maintain the stuff he did before he got paid. All said and done, he was making about 4x in retirement what he made before he retired. They simply had no other people who could have possibly had the 30 years of experience he had on this mammoth system which ran on mainframes.

Trying to get rid of that old creaky legacy code is nigh on impossible in some cases.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34576156)

It's not impossible, it's just expencive, and the low bid was probably made by some young programmer who doesn't apriciate the scope of the project.

The trick is getting managment on the ball enopugh to identify people able to complete the project and willing to pay them, in spite of the fact that some other firm gave a lower quote.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (3, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576816)

It's not impossible, it's just expencive

A high enough threshold for expensive can make for impossible.

and the low bid was probably made by some young programmer who doesn't apriciate the scope of the project

Not hardly. This was several senior people on both sides all trying to capture requirements and understand the scope. By necessity, their own senior people had to limit the scope of the initial project.

Over time, however, you discover everything that the legacy software does ... and frequently discover that half of what they told you about the system is utterly false, and the other half was woefully incomplete. So, everything you've built in that depends on your understanding of uniqueness, scope, and content ... well, suddenly none of that is true (and quite possibly never was across the whole system).

The trick is getting managment on the ball enopugh to identify people able to complete the project and willing to pay them, in spite of the fact that some other firm gave a lower quote.

I question if you've been involved in replacing a legacy application with 30+ years of history and data in it.

This isn't about people not being on board, or some lame-ass low bid by someone who didn't understand what they'd gotten into. Some of these systems have effectively been built up iteratively over decades, and are business critical. Replacing them can be completely non-trivial ... and, in some cases, almost insurmountable without massive investments.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578746)

From what you say, these systems seem more like the phone system than say some random application. In that case the idea of starting over from scratch and then switching over to the new version is a total pipe dream. You can't do it, the legacy stuff needs to keep running and integrated with the new stuff until such time that shutting it down is feasible.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578892)

From what you say, these systems seem more like the phone system than say some random application.

I can't speak to the specific nature of the systems for confidentiality reasons, but it's definitely not just a "random application". Quite possible the single largest and complex software landscape I've ever seen.

In that case the idea of starting over from scratch and then switching over to the new version is a total pipe dream. You can't do it, the legacy stuff needs to keep running and integrated with the new stuff until such time that shutting it down is feasible.

That was our experience, and we were only dealing with a slice of the data.

Suffice it to say, the systems housed data that in some cases is now over 30 years old, was business/operational critical, and covered by several regulating agencies. So, continuity wasn't just important, it was a legal requirement.

I think any sufficiently large, long-lived, and regulated corporation will have in-house apps which mostly defy any attempts to start from scratch.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (5, Funny)

cje (33931) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575796)

There was once a COBOL programmer in the mid to late 1990s. For the sake of this story, we'll call him Jack. After years of being taken for granted and treated as a technological dinosaur by all the UNIX programmers and Client/Server programmers and website developers, Jack was finally getting some respect. He'd become a private consultant specializing in Year 2000 conversions. He was working short-term assignments for prestige companies, traveling all over the world on different assignments. He was working 70 and 80 and even 90 hour weeks, but it was worth it.

Several years of this relentless, mind-numbing work had taken its toll on Jack. He had problems sleeping and began having anxiety dreams about the Year 2000. It had reached a point where even the thought of the year 2000 made him nearly violent. He must have suffered some sort of breakdown, because all he could think about was how he could avoid the year 2000 and all that came with it.

Jack decided to contact a company that specialized in cryogenics. He made a deal to have himself frozen until March 15th, 2000. This was a very expensive process and totally automated. He was thrilled. The next thing he would know is he'd wake up in the year 2000; after the New Year celebrations and computer debacles; after the leap day. Nothing else to worry about except getting on with his life.

He was put into his cryogenic receptacle, the technicians set the revive date, he was given injections to slow his heartbeat to a bare minimum, and that was that. The next thing that Jack saw was an enormous and very modern room filled with excited people. They were all shouting "I can't believe it " and "It's a miracle" and "He's alive ". There were cameras (unlike any he'd ever seen) and equipment that looked like it came out of a science fiction movie.

Someone who was obviously a spokesperson for the group stepped forward. Jack couldn't contain his enthusiasm. "It is over?" he asked. "Is 2000 already here? Are all the millennial parties and promotions and crises all over and done with?"

The spokesman explained that there had been a problem with the programming of the timer on Jack's cryogenic receptacle, it hadn't been year 2000 compliant. It was actually eight thousand years later, not the year 2000. But the spokesman told Jack that he shouldn't get excited; someone important wanted to speak to him.

Suddenly a wall-sized projection screen displayed the image of a man that looked very much like Bill Gates. This man was Prime Minister of Earth. He told Jack not to be upset. That this was a wonderful time to be alive. That there was world peace and no more starvation. That the space program had been reinstated and there were colonies on the moon and on Mars. That technology had advanced to such a degree that everyone had virtual reality interfaces which allowed them to contact anyone else on the planet, or to watch any entertainment, or to hear any music recorded anywhere.

"That sounds terrific," said Jack. "But I'm curious. Why is everybody so interested in me?"

"Well," said the Prime Minister. "The year 10000 is just around the corner, and it says in your files that you know COBOL".

(copypasta)

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578084)

Never heard that one before.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (3, Informative)

ziggyzaggy (552814) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576088)

You're not looking in the right places, here's 4,500 COBOL jobs http://www.indeed.com/q-Cobol-jobs.html [indeed.com] . Major city newspapers list them also. Latest COBOL is COBOL 2002, which includes object orientation (already de facto standard since early 90s by the major compiler vendors), web and XML extensions, locale sensitive processing, cobol javabeans. The next version is shaping up already, dynamic tables, structured constants, ISO 8601:2000 dates. Propose new extensions for the next version of COBOL include aspect oriented programming. So, it's still a living growing language, and its main application is hardcore money moving and logistics in highly available fault tolerant systems with uptimes of decade or more.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577652)

ooCOBOL with XML? I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577050)

I just hired another COBOL programmer, and have about 10 working for me on a government contract. We have a surprising number of COBOL public facing web applications running that you would never guess the majority of the application code is COBOL. Finding developers has however been extremely difficult in the past few years.

Re:I thought COBOL basically died after Y2K. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578104)

If you're looking at want ads then you're not a programmer - either an agency will get you or you'll start a company. The want ads are for those people who know how to turn on a computer two times out of three.

If it works it doesn't need fixing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575606)

THere's going to be lots of comments about how old COBOL is and it should be replaced for something modern - but it still works and there's some huge systems run by huge companies. It still works and it still does things better than other languages.

"Celebrates"? (3, Insightful)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575726)

Is "Celebrates" the correct word to use in this context?

Re:"Celebrates"? (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575830)

It would be more sensitive to have a exhibit to commemorate the victims of COBOL and it's eventual glorious defeat.

Re:"Celebrates"? (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575848)

I think it's supposed to be "commemorates," like when we commemorate Pearl Harbour Day.. Ironically, both those anniversaries fall within a day of each other, and both shall equally live in infamy...

Re:"Celebrates"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575902)

yes [reference.com]

Re:"Celebrates"? (4, Informative)

westlake (615356) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576292)

Is "Celebrates" the correct word to use in this context?

Yes.

It is 1960 and your Fortune 500 clients want programs they can read.

Programs they can trust.

Their area of expertise is corporate accounting, business methods and procedures.

Practices which have evolved over hundreds of years and practices which the newly minted mainframe programmer is not going to master overnight.

COBOL syntax has often been criticized for its verbosity. However, proponents are quick to note that this was an intentional part of the language design and considered by many to be one of the COBOL's strengths. One of the design goals of COBOL was for COBOL code to be readable and understandable to non-programmers such as managers, supervisors and users. This is why COBOL has a very English-like syntax and structural elements--including: nouns, verbs, clauses, sentences, sections, and divisions.
Consequently, COBOL is considered by at least one source to be "the most readable, understandable and self-documenting programming language in use today...." Not only does this readability generally assist the maintenance process but the older a program gets the more valuable this readability becomes."
Additionally, traditional COBOL is a simple language with a limited scope of function (with no pointers, no user-defined types, and no user-defined functions), encouraging a straightforward coding style. This has made it well-suited to its primary domain of business computing--where the program complexity lies in the business rules that need to be encoded rather than sophisticated algorithms or data structures. And because the standard does not belong to any particular vendor, programs written in COBOL are highly portable. The language can be used on a wide variety of hardware platforms and operating systems. And the rigid hierarchical structure restricts the definition of external references to the Environment Division, which simplifies platform changes.
COBOL [wikipedia.org]

Re:"Celebrates"? (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577606)

This makes it a pain for programmers and still unreadable for managers.

It is the sort of compromise that makes something no one likes.

Sweet (5, Funny)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575758)

They also announced a COBOL App Store so users could easily find and install useful applications. The inaugural app was "Angry Birds" for the Honeywell 200. Ordering this app will have a box with the punch cards delivered to your house, and a complete installation manual. The second offering was a fart app for the UNIVAC series.

Re:Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575854)

Mod parent up.

Re:Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34575996)

Yep, that's what's we've come to - if you program a simple game for an iPhone then you're respected more than if you program applications to keep insurance companies running.

Re:Sweet (1)

KublaiKhan (522918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576080)

Given the bad publicity that insurance companies--especially medical insurance companies--have had lately, that's really only to be expected.

Skipped a few... (1)

Dan East (318230) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575790)

By the 1970s, COBOL had become the preferred programming language for commercial data processing. Since then, Java, C #, and other languages have taken over many of its functions.

They slightly skipped a few things between COBOL and C#, lol.

Why?? (1)

KlomDark (6370) | more than 3 years ago | (#34575816)

Celebrate COBOL? Why? Ewwwww...

Coming up next, celebrations of MS-DOS, Lotus Notes, and the Mac?

Re:Why?? (1)

Rary (566291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577892)

Celebrate COBOL? Why? Ewwwww...

Coming up next, celebrations of MS-DOS, Lotus Notes, and the Mac?

Because, unlike those other things, businesses are still using COBOL. ;)

FORTRAN .GT. COBOL (1)

smoothnorman (1670542) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576002)

C ey!! FORTRAN is older (and cooler) than COBOL
FORTRAN .GT. 50
FORTRAN = 54.0 + ABIT
COBOL = WHIP + R + SNAP + R
STOP
END

Thus spake the master programmer (4, Funny)

thodelu (1748596) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576866)

In The Tao of Programming: The Tao gave birth to machine language. Machine language gave birth to the assembler. The assembler gave birth to the compiler. Now there are ten thousand languages. Each language has its purpose, however humble. Each language expresses the Yin and Yang of software. Each language has its place within the Tao. But do not program in COBOL if you can avoid it.

Mainframes = Non-disposable code (4, Insightful)

xanthos (73578) | more than 3 years ago | (#34576900)

Yeah, it is real easy to get all snarky about COBOL. I have always hated it even though it was a popular language when I was in school (late 70's). My CS department had three separate non-overlapping courses you could take.

The thing is that just about any programmer, even if they don't know COBOL, could go in and change it. COBOL is readable. The record based functionality is simple to comprehend. Something written 30 years ago is still running because there is nothing wrong with it. It does what its supposed to do. It was the perfect solution to the most important business problems of its day, and that legacy is why it is still around while other languages of its era are not.

Should new programs be written in it? HELL NO!!!! The problem set to which COBOL applies is pretty well solved. The new problems require new solutions.

-Xanthos

Re:Mainframes = Non-disposable code (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577246)

The new problems require new solutions.

Absolutely. But it won't happen so soon. People might laugh at COBOL, they might laugh at mainframes and the (to them) ancient way of centralised computing. But most of them are actually proponents of the ressurgence of this kind of mentality. Cloud computing, XML everywhere, AJAX, all those web applications and so on. It's actually just the return of the 60s in disguise. Well, except that now we have those pesky smartphones and tablets. Great ...

Re:Mainframes = Non-disposable code (1)

Beetjebrak (545819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577434)

ALGOL solved a lot of problems back in its day and still has a legacy visible in just about any programming language in use today, even if ALGOL itself isn't around anymore (to my knowledge).

COBOL's Mummy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34576962)

The centerpiece of the exhibit will be a limited time viewing of the mummified remains of Rear Admiral Grace Hopper - currently scheduled for one nanosecond.

Good to know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577126)

I actually liked working with COBOL in college. We were gearing up for the Y2K issue and our instructors figured it would be good to have on the resume. It was interesting to see how people approached problems in such a verbose language.

Personally I've never used COBOL in the wild, but I did pick up some interesting tricks and an appreciation for looking at data differently. So I have applied tricks I learned for COBOL in other places and it's been very helpful.

What a good feeling (1)

trollertron3000 (1940942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577266)

As a programmer this gave me a huge smile and a feeling of happiness. So awesome seeing the work of legends in the proper light, shows to the public. Everyday we stand on the shoulders of these giants. If I could go back and say thank you I would. They changed the world.

Celibrate COBOL? (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577318)

Obviously nobody at the Smithsonian ever had to write a program in COBOL!

I have a story. I once worked in a factory where the computer systems were written in COBOL, and it, to put it politely, sucked. We needed data to manage our jobs in the shop and buying requests to fill our orders but there was no way to get the data the way we needed it. After surviving a layoff I inherited a PC with a 3270 terminal emulator card and proceeded to reprogram the board to extract information off of the on-line CICS system so I could reprocess it the way we needed it. I created a callable library of routines to manage these extractions. Once I had the basics for extracting information by mapping the terminal output to data fields I could then instruct it to page forward through each application and extract the information to a floppy, memory (didn't have much), or print it. I had no direct link to the corporate database system, only the ability to scrape information off of the virtual console and reorganize it as I chose to do.

With that library I then spent half of an afternoon using that 'tool' to build an application which extracted a recursive bill of materials from the system for any product I wanted to build. It took less than 4 hours to get the proof of concept done and start using it. My manager saw how effective I had become in doing my job and asked my secret, and I showed him, the report the the Data Processing Department had been telling us for seven years that they could not do. They had told me it was impossible.

Once my boss saw the report I handed him he marched back into the DP managers office and demanded that they build the same program for everyone to use, throwing that report on his desk. That same report, with direct access to the database, written in COBOL, took over 6 Man-Months to write. With my little PC and virtual-console library I did it in under 4 hours using Turbo Pascal. Which language do you want to program in?

Re:Celibrate COBOL? (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577546)

And which report are they STILL using today? Most likely not the one in the "for real" dead languge Pascal.

Re:Celibrate COBOL? (1)

hAckz0r (989977) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577846)

Turbo Pascal and Microsoft BASIC were the only choices back then, other than assembler. At least with Pascal you could add in some mixed assembler to work with interrupts and low level BIOS logic. Try that with MS BASIC from that era. C compilers for the PC came out over the following year but they were a little unstable. I bought 'both' books on the C Language in preparation for some real programming, and later when it came out I bought my first C compiler (Borland Turbo C) for the PC and rewrote the library. Pascal and C are fairly equal on what you could do back then, but C++ certainly spelled the demise of Pascal as it seriously lost favour.

Kiddies hate it because... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577326)

People are snarky about COBOL because it is still around and more akin to BASIC than to true elitist languages like C/C++. And they hate to admit but it doesn't matter what you code with as long as it works.

Personal history of programming (0)

Beetjebrak (545819) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577414)

My first language was Commodore BASIC (v2), which tainted me heavily as a programmer. The second was 6502 Assembly, which felt like the shades falling from my eyes back in my C64 days even though it was difficult to get anything done. Third up was Visual Basic 5 and VBA years later.. yes.. I'm guilty of cobbling nasty converters in MS Access but I'm hopefully somewhat redeemed by the fact that my VBA-crap wer exclusively one-off preprocessors before larger imports into a real RDBMS. Then I went on to PHP, which is interesting because it teaches bad habits if you let it but doesn't require them per se.. and right now C++ is slowly pulling my nails out.

Don't forget about Admiral Hopper (2)

wandazulu (265281) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577428)

Cobol might be a pretty easy joke for obsolescence, but remember that Cobol was written by a woman [wikipedia.org] in a time where the industry was far more male dominated than it is today.

Though I've never programmed in Cobol, it made a big impression on me as a kid to show that anybody could program a computer, or use a computer to create something cool.

Cobol Programmers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34577812)

Cobol Programmers know why women hate periods....

Also a lot of banks (1)

VincenzoRomano (881055) | more than 3 years ago | (#34577932)

should be included into the Smithsonian! They're still using COBOL!
Unluckily, this is not a joke.

Re:Also a lot of banks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34578110)

COBOL is the only language that prefers decimal arithmetic to binary. This also applies to the computer hardware used. Banks depend on this to prevent rounding errors, like 1/10th as a repeating binary fraction. This is not a joke!

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