My thoughts on Visual COBOL…

26 Jun

In recent years,  attempts have been made to present COBOL with a more youthful face by allowing the language to be used in a Windows environment.   I believe this is the proverbial “square peg in a round hole”.    It is forcing COBOL into a format for which it was obviously never intended, since the language was created decades before the personal computer.  While I am a big fan of COBOL because of its longevity, speed, and accuracy,  I’m also the first to admit that the newer Windows based languages work much better for applications that require an attractive graphical interface to communicate with the user. Java appears to be the language that is currently best suited for this task.

COBOL is not a front and center,  in your face, type A personality.  It is more like the shy geek you made fun of in college who knew every answer and aced every test, but avoided parties because he was awkward and uncomfortable with social interaction.  Like the shy geek,  COBOL is awkward and uncomfortable with social interaction as a graphical interface.  Designed to be the strong, silent type, COBOL prefers to work  behind the scenes.

I’ve had the opportunity to see and work with several different versions of Visual COBOL programs, and in my opinion they emanate a bit of a feeling like a dog balancing on two legs.  Its not the quality of the performance that impresses us, but the mere fact that it can do it at all.

Another major disadvantage of Visual COBOL is that the interfaces available to code and compile these programs are very complex and difficult to use for even the most experienced COBOL programmer.  There is an enormous learning curve to become proficient at using these tools, and I’m just not sure its worth the effort.

Perhaps I’ll change my mind once I’m exposed to some different interfaces, but right now I believe we should create a graphical interface using a language designed for that purpose, pass the data captured to COBOL, and let it do all the heavy lifting behind the scenes.

My advice on any current version of Visual COBOL?    Don’t even go there.

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