Cobol Overview of a Third Term Paper

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This is unlikely to change short of an amazing new technological innovation that takes "natural" language capability and programming to a new level. Let us now compare how COBOL meets the needs of organizations working in various industries. The next section will help clarify why COBOL is in such demand among commercial enterprises worldwide.

Chapter 3 - COBOL and Organizational Goals

This section analyses how COBOL supports organizational goals. COBOL supports organizational goals in many ways. It is an adept and multi-faceted programming language that provides organizations the ability to manage data in many departments. It is useful for financial analysis, for shipping and inventory maintenance, for the creation of reports and data management systems and for linking various units within the organization. Each of these key features is described in more detail below.

Decision support systems such as that COBOL can help facilitate are critical for supporting all levels of the organization. One reason for this is COBOL, like some other high-level programming languages has the ability to support all organizational levels by providing information in the format and time frame needed. It is a program that allows for instantaneous production of reports and data analysis, in a format that is easily interpreted by financial managers, accountants, manufacturing and inventory managers and other line managers within the organization. This occurs through integration and the use of COBOL in conjunction with other stable and dynamic platforms. There is no reason COBOL cannot be used in conjunction with other high-level programs to provide the organization the ability to maximize efficiency and productivity. As evidenced in the following analysis, this takes place in many differing ways. This section includes a detailed history of the language and specifications unique to the system. Since COBOL is a more unique and English-like language, it lends itself to use for specified applications within certain industries.

The ability of COBOL to act as a "natural" language is in fact, one of the reasons it remains so popular among end-users and managers within organizations today. Many businesses are consistently looking for ways to decrease the complexity associated with creating multi-tiered programming languages. While COBOL is not a perfect language (none are) it is capable of facilitating a much more intuitive approach to data management and integration. The history of COBOL standards also discussed here will help you understand why COBOL will likely continue to be a next-generation programming language for many years to come (Nickerson, 1991). Since the standards within the language have mutated from the original language, this section will also look at the history of the standards to further define why certain systems are better suited for the language. When reviewing this, note that "mutations of the language," which some look on negatively, were actually very necessary (Nickerson, 1991). Such mutations keep COBOL among the forerunners in programming and also very needed to keep COBOL as intuitive as possible. Thanks to these "mutations" COBOL is now one of the few languages most likely to produce a greater yield or return on investment when used properly.

COBOL, short for "Common Business Oriented Language" is one of the earliest programming languages used by computer professionals (Nickerson, 1991; Sebesta, 1996). Developed in the late 1950s, COBOL was first named CODASYL, relying on its use as a data systems language. Since the time of its inception the programming language has experienced many improvements and changes. One of these includes standardization of the language initiated by the American National Standards Institute or ANSI, who attempted to create in 1974 a version of COBOL named ANS COBOL, short for American National Standard COBOL (Sebesta, 1996). This new version included multiple features, but was still revised again in the mid 1980s, which simply demonstrates how flexible and adaptable the COBOL language is, and how programmers are consistently working to evolve the language to make it work today.

Object-oriented COBOL, developed as a subset of COBOL 97, is an example of one evolution occurring in the COBOL improvement movement (Jacko & Sears, 2003). This development includes incorporation of another ANSI/ISO standard for COBOL, with object-oriented design features including the C++ programming language, commonly used today (Sebesta, 1996; Jacko & Sears, 2003).

While in times of old COBOL programmers used a green screen and multiple mainframe computer connections to work from, today COBOL has evolved into a much more interactive tool keeping abreast of modern technology and assisting with newer functions including desktop and client-server assistance (Sebesta, 1996). COBOL provides multiple features, including: (1) the ability to automate many business functions, (2) enabling connotative names to 30 characters and dashes to connect words or characters, (3) allows for detail oriented variable definition, so that decimal digits can be interpreted and used correctly, (4) offers visual programming and object-oriented environments, (5) allows detailed analysis and compilation of records and reports, including accounting and financials and (6) is easily integrated with applications utilizing the Internet (Nickerson, 1991; Sebesta, 1996; Sammet, 1981; Jacko & Sears, 2003).

As you can see, these vast capabilities allow for multiple uses of COBOL within organizations. Organizations can use COBOL for rapid application needs, for preparing and disseminating financial and accounting reports, for providing defined and comparable variables, and for connecting and creating synchronicity with applications working with the Internet or Intranets (Sebesta, 1996; Sammet, 1981).

Features Unique to COBOL

Organizations will find COBOL is ideal for solving complex business problems involving decision-making. It allows organizational managers for example, to track financials, including employees' compensation or wages and other payroll functions (Sebesta, 1996). It allows organizations to track sales and inventory figures for better control and maintenance of organizational functions (Sammet, 1981).

ANSI has released several revisions of COBOL since its inception, some of which have been mentioned. As a recap these include COBOL-68, 74, 85 and COBOL 2002, the latest innovation (ANSI, 2007). There are many specific applications COBOL is useful for in the commercial market. It is important one understand the defining features of this unique language to recognize how it may be of use to specific organizational enterprises and functions. COBOL includes PICTURE, a clause allowing for detailed field specifications; early versions of COBOL were not capable of supporting local variables or dynamic memory allocation, nor structured programming constructs, however more modern releases of COBOL do allow for many of these features and specifications (Jacko & Sears, 2003). There are within COBOL what programmers refer to as keywords, and COBOL also provides self-modifying code by what programmers call the ALTER X to PROCEED to Y command statement, though in recent years this specification is not used (Jacko & Sears, 2003). During the late 1990s upwards of 85% or more of organizations operating worldwide relied on COBOL with its more than 170+ billion lines of code; researchers claim that each year more than 5 billion lines are likely to be added, improving its specificity and applicability to multiple industries (Legacy, 2003).

COBOL's Support of Specific Organizations

COBOL is better suited for some organizations than others. For example, organizations requiring free-form number analysis, conversion and calculation of numeric dollars to text and other formats, for computing loans and payments as in a banking environment, and for sorting tables (Worboys, 1995. The biggest strength COBOL has is its ability for data management. Example programs coded by COBOL include MQClient, enabling message requests and transfers, MQServer, which allows COBOL to process messages and send replies, and is ideal for line sequential filing and related work (Sebesta, 1996; Worboys, 1994).

The organizations most commonly using COBOL today include military and other government enterprises, though it is also often used in commercial business applications, including with IBM and Microsoft Windows. Other applications include use with the Unix/Linux family (Sammet, 1981; Nickerson, 1991; Jacko & Sears, 2003).

Legacy (2003) suggests there is a long future ahead for COBOL, as it remains "the best implementation language for business applications" and will likely remain as such for many years (p. 1). Further, one must acknowledge that today COBOL remains the predominant programming language for almost all business applications in "every major industry from financial applications to manufacturing real-time systems" (Legacy, 2003, p. 1). This merely demonstrates the flexibility and connectivity COBOL enables within organizations.

Roughly 5 trillion dollars has been invested in COBOL, giving rise to 180 billion plus lines of COBOL code, a trend that continues to grow (Legacy, 2003). Among the more common applications in use today include: (1) inventory management, (2) order processing and tracking, (3) accounts payables and receivables, (4) retail tracking, (5) shipping and manufacturing, (6) financial and many others (Legacy, 2003, p. 2).

Admittedly, no one language is capable of handling the needs of all businesses in all platforms available. So, organizations main concerns involve finding a programming language like COBOL capable of "hosting infrastructures" within the organization; other programming…[continue]

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