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COBOL (an acronym for "COmmon Business-Oriented Language") is

[a] higher level language (compiler language) developed circa 1960 to provide an easily learned English-like language for business data processing applications. Since its inception, COBOL has seen widespread use in business applications and augmentation of its original features. There have been three ANSI standards: 1960, 1968, and 1974. Federal Standard COBOL (FIPS PUB 21) has become the official standard for business applications.[1]
a business application programming language that was introduced in the 1960s. This language is generally viewed as obsolete, making it difficult to implement new business processes and new service delivery models, such as online, real-time processing.[2]


COBOL, which was introduced in 1959, became the first widely used, high level language language for business applications. The Gartner Group, a leading IT research and advisory company, has reported that organizations using COBOL should consider replacing the language, as procurement and operating costs are expected to steadily rise, and because there is a decrease in people available with the proper skill sets to support the language.[3]


  1. A Working Glossary of Computer Software Terms, at 2.
  2. Social Security Administration: Improved Planning and Performance Measures Are Needed to Help Ensure Successful Technology Modernization, at 7 n.13.
  3. See Gartner, IT Market Clock for Application Development (Aug. 2010). In another report, Gartner noted that COBOL is an aging language, with declining skill sets. See Gartner, IT Modernization the Changing Technology of Batch Processing (Aug. 2010).


* Overview section: Information Technology: Agencies Need to Develop and Implement Modernization Plans for Critical Legacy Systems‎‎, at 3 n.8.