COBOL – Everything old is new again

Cobol Nested IfA while a ago  I compared my computing past with my computing present when I looked at what Apple Macs and old IBM Mainframes have in common

And then I talked about developing an Appllication Program Interface (API)  back in the 80s when we didn’t know what an API was.

And now I am returning to my roots as a failed COBOL programmer…  although I always say the best boss I ever had John Neller saved the world from more bad code by moving me into a marketing role as Austpay Product Manager.

The more I see of the evolution of “programming” the more I see things coming back to simple logical English like languages like COBOL that almost anyone can use.


[koh-bawl]  Show IPA

noun Computers.

a programming language particularly suited for writing programs to process
large files of data, using vocabulary of common English words, phrases
and sentences.
Origin:  1955–60; co(mmon) b(usiness)  o(riented) l(anguage)
In the late 1950s Grace Hopper, who became a Rear Admiral in The US Navy,  popularised the idea of machine-independent programming languages, which led to the development of COBOL
Recently a good colleague explained to me an application platform she has had developed that uses information from any database and combines it with conditional statements (if this….. do that…..) in a way that someone without technical skills can make things happen in a platform, database, browser etc independent kind of way ….perhaps I will call her the Rear Admiral in future.
I guess WordPress itself  is another example of making the “programming” easy for end uses by having an engine that can take English and turn it in to the bits and bytes that make technology work.
And COBOL was just like that as long as you got your nested Ifs in order you could write code to do almost anything rather than struggle with machine languages such as Assembler or C++ etc etc
I am always telling colleagues and clients of a “certain age” (around mine) forget about talking about learning technology etc ….. just look for tools that do what you want and provide a simple intuitive interface that allow you to interact easily.
In terms of technology today – if it looks complex to use then find something thats simpler
and will do basically what you need.
Another example of today’s Technology being easier for the end user to engage with is IFTTT whose slogan is

Put the internet to work for you.

IFTTT has a very COBOL like approach based around rules that allow you to say If This Happens then Do that ifttt logo   So don’t panic about being technology  challenged or the costs of development etc …..Help is On The Way!!!

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