Thursday, 28 May 2009

Happy 50th Birthday COBOL

(By Richard Holway 2.00pm 28th May 09) On 28th May 1959 – 50 years ago today - the Short Range Committee was established at a meeting at the Pentagon. Chaired by Joseph Wegstein of the US National Bureau of Standards, it was the Short Range Committee that created the very first description of COBOL.

I got reminded of this, of course, by Micro Focusthe olde British Coboller! They rightly make the point that COBOL is still a vital part of our IT infrastructure. Except that few have heard of it. Micro Focus say that the average person in the UK interacts with COBOL 10 times a day because COBOL powers the world’s ATMs, credit cards, mobile phone billing applications and “three-quarters of the world’s business applications” – although I can’t independently verify the latter claim. 200 billion lines of code apparently.

Indeed I was responsible for some of those. I wrote my first COBOL programme in 1966. There is a terrified part of me that fears it might still be in use in the NHS!

Of course, the continued existence of COBOL has not done Micro Focus or its shareholders any harm whatsoever. Keeping legacy systems going – indeed updating them for tomorrow’s needs – is Micro Focus' niche. Micro Focus shares have risen 65% in the last 12 months.

Note – Richard Holway has been a long term shareholder in Micro Focus. What a clever boy he is!

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