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What is COBOL?

Educative Answers Team

COBOL (common business-oriented language) is a high-level programming language. It was designed in 1959 by CODASYL (Conference on Data Systems Language) as an effort by the U.S Department of Defense to create a portable programming language for data processing. At the time, there was a high business growth rate in the west that had created a need to automate various processes and process large amounts of business data.

The timeline of COBOL’s development is:

  • 1959: COBOL was developed by CODASYL.
  • 1961: The next version of COBOL, COBOL-61, was released with more features.
  • 1968: COBOL was recognized and approved by ANSI (American National Standards Institute) for standard commercial use.
  • 1974 and 1985: COBOL-74 and COBOL-85 were released, in their respective years, with major upgrades.
  • 2002: The first object-oriented COBOL was released that could use encapsulated objects within the language.
  • 2014: The latest release of COBOL has features like method overloading and dynamic capacity tables.


Some of COBOL’s features are listed below:

  • COBOL is a high-level language whose syntax is very similar to English. This allows it to be self-documenting.
  • Since COBOL was designed for business-oriented applications, it can handle huge volumes of data because of its advanced file handling capabilities.
  • COBOL is a robust language as it has numerous debugging and testing tools that​ are available for almost all platforms.
  • All versions of COBOL are compatible with each other.


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