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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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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


(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.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


, Cobol
a high-level computer programming language designed for general commercial use
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


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(COmmon Business Oriented Language) A high-level programming language primarily used for business development on mainframes and minicomputers throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Officially adopted in 1960, COBOL was one of the first compiled languages in a world where assembly languages were the norm. COBOL stemmed from FLOWMATIC, which was developed in the mid-1950s by Grace Murray Hopper (later Rear Admiral Hopper) for the UNIVAC I. As of 2020, COBOL applications still run in many companies, and changes to the code are difficult because COBOL programmers are few and far between. See assembly language and FLOW-MATIC.

COBOL is very wordy, but its verbosity makes it very readable for a novice. For example, the COBOL version of grosspay = hours*rate is multiply rate by hours giving grosspay (see COBOL fingers). 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 IBM 370 mainframe converts a Fahrenheit number to Celsius. This example performs the operation on the operator's 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 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 with 31-bit addressing, allowing programs to run "above the line."

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