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COBOL Tutorial

COBOL Tutorial

COBOL programming language is one of the oldest high-level programming languages. COBOL is an acronym that stands for Common Business Oriented Language. It was originally a compiled English-like computer programming language designed for business uses. At that time, it was mainly used in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments. Nowadays, despite of declining popularity of this language, it is also used in applications deployed on mainframe computers, such as large-scale batch and transaction processing jobs.

COBOL – Introduction

COBOL was originally designed by CODASYL (Conference on Data Systems Language) in 1959. It was partly based on the programming language FLOW-MATIC designed by Grace Hopper. It is one of the oldest high-level programming languages. It was created as a result of US Department of Defense effort to create a portable programming language for data processing. Now, it is mainly used for developing business, typically file-oriented applications programs and we can’t use it to write system software. It simply means that we cannot use it to develop an operating system or a compiler.

How COBOL Works

Before understanding the working of COBOL, we should aware of the fact that computers only know machine code i.e. a binary stream of 0s and 1s. So, to process the code of COBOL, it must be converted into machine code using a compiler. We should run the program source through the compiler. The compiler first of all checks for any syntax errors and then converts it into machine language. Then the compiler creates an output file, which is known as a load module. This output file contains executable code in the form of 1s and 0s.

History of COBOL

COBOL was one of the earliest high-level programming languages developed in the history of programming. During the 1950s, when the businesses were rising in the western part of the world, there was a need to automate various processes for ease of operation, and this gave birth to a high-level programming language destined for business data processing.

  • In 1959, the COBOL language was developed by Conference on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL).
  • The government printing office printed the COBOL specification as COBOL60 in 1960.
  • COBOL-61, which is the next version of COBOL, was released in 1961 with some revisions.
  • In 1968, COBOL was approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) as a standard language for commercial use. A version named COBOL-68.
  • It was again revised in 1974 and 1985 to develop subsequent versions that contain an additional set of features named COBOL-74 and COBOL-85, respectively.
  • And finally, in 2002, object-oriented COBOL was released, which could use encapsulated objects as a normal part of COBOL programming.

Features of COBOL

Following are some popular features of COBOL language:

Simple and Standard language

COBOL is a simple, standard, and easy-to-learn language that can be compiled and executed on various computers such as IBM AS/400, personal computers, laptops etc. It supports a wide range of syntax vocabulary and follows an uncluttered coding style.

Provide Business Oriented capabilities

COBOL was developed for business-oriented applications related to defense domain, financial domain, etc. It provides advanced file handling capabilities that makes it capable of handling huge volumes of data. COBOL handles more than 70% of the world’s business transactions and is best suited for complex transactions.

Scalability and Portability

COBOL offers logical control structures which make it easy to read, modify and debug. COBOL is also scalable, reliable and portable across various platforms. It provides various testing, and debugging tools for almost all computer platforms.

Universal Acceptability

COBOL is one of the universally accepted programming languages. It is more than six decades old programming language and has changed business and their working across numerous platforms and devices. COBOL programming language offers debugging and testing tools for almost all computer platforms, and provides a lot of new COBOL products, compilers and development tools that are released almost every year.

Advantages of COBOL

COBOL was the first generally used high-level programming language. It provides a lot of advantages to their users:

  • COBOL is capable of handling huge data processing.
  • It can be used as a documenting language.
  • COBOL provides an effective error message so the resolution of bugs is easier.
  • COBOL is compatible with its previous versions.


Before proceeding with this COBOL tutorial, you should have a basic knowledge of computer programming terminologies and JCL. A basic knowledge of any of the programming languages will help you get the concepts of COBOL programming and move fast on the learning track.


This tutorial is created for software programmers who would like to learn the basics of COBOL. This tutorial will provide enough understanding of COBOL programming language from where you can take yourself to a higher level of expertise.


We assure you that you will not find any difficulty while learning our COBOL tutorial. But if there is any mistake in this tutorial, kindly post the problem or error in the contact form so that we can improve it.

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