COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future - InformationWeek

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Software // Enterprise Applications
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6/21/2015
12:06 PM

COBOL Leads Us Back To The Future

COBOL defined business software development for decades. Now, is it over the hill or just hitting its prime?
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Elastic COBOL
Elastic COBOL is part of Heirloom Platform-as-a-Service (Paas), an application development toolset that is a plug-in to the Eclipse IDE framework. Elastic COBOL allows mainframe applications (including CICS and JCL) to execute as Java applications. You can  continue to develop applications in COBOL or in Java, or both, enabling the transformation to Java to occur at a pace that is optimal for your business.
You can download Elastic COBOL for free. It is available on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Raspberry Pi and the cloud. That's right - Raspberry Pi. So you can get out there and build an enterprise accounting system on a platform that lives in an Altoids tin.
As with so many of these compilers, Java (rather than machine code) is the target. People will argue about whether that's a good thing or not, but the fact is that it makes the compiler much simpler to write and maintain. So get out your soldering iron, dust off your COBOL, and get your Altoid tin running.
Heirloom PaaS uses patented compiler technology to automatically transform mainframe applications into highly maintainable Java source-code, with 100% accuracy, while guaranteeing the preservation of existing business logic.
(Image: Elastic COBOL)

Elastic COBOL

Elastic COBOL is part of Heirloom Platform-as-a-Service (Paas), an application development toolset that is a plug-in to the Eclipse IDE framework. Elastic COBOL allows mainframe applications (including CICS and JCL) to execute as Java applications. You can continue to develop applications in COBOL or in Java, or both, enabling the transformation to Java to occur at a pace that is optimal for your business.

You can download Elastic COBOL for free. It is available on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Raspberry Pi and the cloud. Thatís right ó Raspberry Pi. So you can get out there and build an enterprise accounting system on a platform that lives in an Altoids tin.

As with so many of these compilers, Java (rather than machine code) is the target. People will argue about whether that's a good thing or not, but the fact is that it makes the compiler much simpler to write and maintain. So get out your soldering iron, dust off your COBOL, and get your Altoid tin running.

Heirloom PaaS uses patented compiler technology to automatically transform mainframe applications into highly maintainable Java source-code, with 100% accuracy, while guaranteeing the preservation of existing business logic.

(Image: Elastic COBOL)

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Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/1/2015 | 3:18:00 PM
Re: Surprising
@jastroff, in a lot of ways I still "think" in Fortran: If I'm working through a problem in my head, I'll likely do it in Fortran, then translate to whichever language I work in when it's time to hit the keyboard.

It's kind of like what I do with music: Even though I'm primarily a keyboard player, when I hear a melody line my fingers move on imaginary saxophone keys.

And I've got an article coming up on Fortran -- I'll look forward to the discussion around that one!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/1/2015 | 3:15:18 PM
Re: Techie sugestion for more efficient code. (IBM style)
@cmach750, thanks for this! I'll be honest: It's been a long time since I've enjoyed a discussion topic as much as I've enjoyed this one -- and comments like your are the reason why. I'm working on another retro-language article and I hope we can have another great conversation around that one.

 
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
7/1/2015 | 3:11:52 PM
Re: COBOLs days are over
@asksqn, I don't think I would recommend that someone at the beginning of their career learn COBOL instead of Java or C++, but I don't think it's ready to be put out to pasture just yet. As you say, there are a lot of proprietary systems out there running COBOL software and IBM continues to sell a bunch of System Z machines every year. COBOL's not a bad language to have in your bag of tricks if you want to be able to work in shops where pocket protectors are more than vague memories.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2015 | 12:48:13 PM
Re: Surprising
@Jschmidt27, one of my favorite early career memories is of watching Forrest Mims enter a program into a MITS Altair machine using the toggles on the front panel. It's no wonder that Microsoft took off!

I loved (and still love) the feeling of being able to directly control the hardware through assembler, but multi-core systems make writing efficient code much more challenging. I suppose I'll stick to higher level languages, but I'll still complain about the "young kids" and how easy things are for them!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2015 | 12:44:33 PM
Re: Surprising
@jastroff, Fortran was my first language. It was a lot of fun until you actually had to move data in and out of the system -- I never lost my dislike for complex FORMAT statements!
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/29/2015 | 12:43:22 PM
Re: Age of COBOL Programmer
@kstaron, I suppose Python makes sense if you're doing database work, but I'm still a fan of fully compiled languages for learning programming principles. It is truly interesting to see how the push and pull of practical considerations versus educational needs has an impact on what's taught at university.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/25/2015 | 10:10:18 AM
Re: Can we really walk away from systems that still work?
@rhariharan950, the "self documenting" nature of COBOL really can't be under-estimated when it comes to the language's value. I've spent hours and hours helping programmers (including my son) debug C++ and Java code: Without in-line comments, trying to get your head around what someone else has done in their code can be awfully frustrating.

And we won't even talk about languages like APL, which some have called the world's first "write-only language."
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/25/2015 | 10:07:37 AM
Re: Surprising
@nasimson, I'll admit that I'm pleasantly surprised by the depth of conversation around COBOL -- but I've stopped being surprised by the depth of knowledge (or enthusiasm) that exists in the InformationWeek community. I'm just trying to figure out some more articles that I think would be interesting.

How do folks feel about FORTRAN? I'll admit a soft spot for the language, since it was the first one I learned back when dinosaurs roamed the earth.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/24/2015 | 4:11:03 PM
Re: Did 'Visual' start with Visual Studio or MicroFocus?
Thanks for that bit of history @WilliamS492. I know I was surprised by just how quickly COBOL seemed to be overtaken by BASIC -- I think you're quite right in pointing at the Windows-ecosystem reasons.
Curt Franklin
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Curt Franklin,
User Rank: Strategist
6/24/2015 | 3:56:12 PM
Re: Age of COBOL Programmer
@Bud, I've got a serious question for you: How is Visual BASIC as a first language for young people? I held onto a Turbo Pascal package for years to use in helping young folks program and I've since turned to the Arduino to get people started. If Visual BASIC will let them get into programming without spending hours figuring out windowing systems, then I'll have to take a much closer look at it for my nephew and his friends.
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