March 29, 2023

    COBOL And Why It’s Still Used In Business

    Most people have probably never heard of COBOL; a programming language first created 64 years ago, and designed to provide a universal language for much of the software that was used for processing vast amounts of data at the time. COBOL would eventually be adopted by most financial systems in the US and much of the world, providing a backbone for all the data that would run through banks and other institutions. Its widespread adoption was due to its overall reliability and portability as well as its ease-of-use, so much so that no other language would ever come along to replace it.

    This is the story of COBOL and how it would become the backbone of the modern financial systems that we rely on so much in the modern era.

    How It Started

    Designed and implemented in 1959, COBOL was partially based on FLOW-MATIC, a programming language created by famous computer scientist Grace Hopper. Initially it was created as a project by the US Department of Defense, who were trying to design a language that worked well for processing large quantities of data, but one that was also extremely portable.

    At the time, it was not meant to be anything more than a stopgap until a better language came along, but the Department of Defense would go on to force a number of manufacturers to use it in their production computers, which is one of the main reasons that the language was widely adopted.

    COBOL has been revised several times, with the latest being IEC, a revisement that was released in 2014.

    Who’s Still Using COBOL

    Despite its age, COBOL is still very much being used throughout much of the world. In fact, it’s believed that around 90% of today’s Fortune 500 and other successful companies, especially those that are involved in the financial sector, still use billions of lines of COBOL. Airliners, insurance, even online casinos that offer Canadian gambling, retail, and other industries also heavily rely on COBOL.

    Some sources report that almost half of all banking systems are still using COBOL, while almost all ATM software also needs the programming language to complete transactions. It’s also been reported that COBOL is widely utilised by several systems maintained by the US government.

    Many estimates believe that COBOL supports around $3 trillion in commerce every day, which represents a large portion of the amount of money that flows through the global economy on a daily basis.

    The Future of COBOL

    COBOL is heading toward something of an uncertain future. The main reason for this is that there are not that many programmers around that are able to read, write, or maintain the language, so much so that a number of developers were asked to leave retirement to maintain the code. As of right now, there are no official plans by most financial institutions to switch away from COBOL. Many feel that a switch is not necessary, while others believe that one day, we will have no choice but to turn to something more modern – only time will tell.