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Common Business Oriented Language, popularly known as COBOL, is a business based programming language designed for exclusive use in mainframe computers by Short Range Committee in 1959 for business applications.
Like any other programming language, COBOL uses natural language based syntax of keywords and constructs. There are three primary versions of COBOL approved by American National Standards Institute (ANSI) - COBOL-68, COBOL-74 and COBOL-85. The COBOL-68 is composed of basic language with keywords and constructs. COBOL-74 is composed of additional features not present in 68. COBOL-85 is composed of user defined and object oriented extensions to the COBOL-74 language. The latest edition is the COBOL-2002 edition that varies largely over its predecessors.
As the name suggests, this language is designed for programming business, financial applications. Since it will be used by people who have an expertise in the financial domain, its syntax is easy and it is almost equivalent to natural language. It is a high level programming language. The COBOL language is inherited from three main languages- FLOWMATIC, COMTRAN and FACT.
The traditional COBOL specification had a number of advantages over the other languages in that it encouraged straight-forward coding style. For example, no pointers, user defined types, or user defined functions.
COBOL language programs are highly portable since they do not belong to a particular vendor. They can be used in a wide variety of hardware and software and supports most of the existing operating systems such as Windows, Linux, Unix etc. It is a self documented language. Any person with a good English grammar can read and understand a COBOL program. The self documenting nature of COBOL helps to maintain synchronization between program code and documentation. Thus easy maintainability is achieved with COBOL.