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see programming languageprogramming language,
syntax, grammar, and symbols or words used to give instructions to a computer. Development of Low-Level Languages

All computers operate by following machine language programs, a long sequence of instructions called machine code that is
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(English acronym for COmmon Business Oriented Language), an artificial language for describing accounting, economic, and administrative tasks. The language was created in the USA in 1958–60. COBOL provides a visual and workably compact recording of problem-solving algorithms in a form independent of any specific computer. Compared to ALGOL, it has more in common with the usual language of business operations. For example, with COBOL it is possible to use expressions like “Read the guide card” and “At the end of the file, turn to completion of calculations.” Programs using COBOL usually include a large number of commands (tens and hundreds of thousands) and are complicated complexes of standardized subprograms that provide solutions to planning and economic problems.


(computer science)
A business data-processing language that can be given to a computer as a series of English statements describing a complete business operation. Derived from common business-oriented language.


, Cobol
a high-level computer programming language designed for general commercial use



(COmmon Business Oriented Language) A high-level programming language that has been the primary business application language for mainframes as well as for the variety of minicomputers that flourished throughout the 1970s and 1980s. It is a compiled language and one of the first high-level languages ever developed. Officially adopted in 1960, COBOL stemmed from FLOWMATIC, a language developed in the mid-1950s by Grace Murray Hopper (later Rear Admiral Hopper) for the UNIVAC I.

COBOL is very wordy (see COBOL fingers). Although mathematical expressions can also be written like other programming languages (see example below), its verbose mode is very readable for a novice. For example, multiply hourly-rate by hours-worked giving gross-pay is self-explanatory. COBOL is structured into the following divisions:

Division Name    Contains

 IDENTIFICATION   Program identification.
 ENVIRONMENT      Types of computers used.
 DATA             Buffers, constants, work areas.
 PROCEDURE        The processing (program logic).

The following COBOL example for an earlier IBM 370 mainframe converts a Fahrenheit number to Celsius. To keep the example simple, it performs the operation on the operator's terminal rather than a user terminal.

  program-ID.  example.

  configuration section.

  working-storage section.
  77 FAHR  picture 999.
  77 CENT  picture 999.

  display 'Enter Fahrenheit ' upon console.
  accept FAHR from console.
  compute CENT = (FAHR- 32) * 5 / 9.
  display 'Celsius is ' CENT upon console.


In 1994, IBM dropped support of OS/VS COBOL, which conforms to ANSI 68 and ANSI 74 standards and limits a program's address space to 16 bits. IBM's VS COBOL II (1984) and COBOL/370 (1991) conform to ANSI 85 standards and provide 31-bit addressing, which allows programs to run "above the line."

COBOL/370 is more compliant with AD/Cycle, has more string, math and date functions, including four-digit years, allows development through a PC window and provides enhanced runtime facilities.