I read with interest David Guest's review of our product Personal Cobol (issue 47). His conclusions were favourable but his criticisms of the Cobol language need answering.
The main point was that Cobol is old. He's right, it is - so is English, and that's spreading even wider too. When a language has been used successfully for a long time, it is worth learning because you can use it widely. In a language, being well established is an overwhelming virtue.
Mr. Guest also says Cobol is old-fashioned. It does lack some features of recent languages, such as facilities for structured programming; but so do most versions of Basic. And these features, though useful, are not essential; whereas only Cobol has the one thing essential for data processing - clear, powerful facilities for building data files as simple or as complex as you need.
The idea that Cobol users dismiss Basic as too easy is surprising: Cobol and Basic are on the same side in this respect. Cobol was designed for ease of use, and so successful is its design that it has become the normal language of practical, commercial programming. Cobol is closer to plain English than Basic is; there is more to learn in Cobol only because it can do more.
Cobol has been widely used on micros for several years; the innovation in Personal Cobol is that creating a program is very much easier. On micros this has always been done by typing the program with a text editor, then spending a few minutes running a compiler before test-running the program. Personal Cobol makes the process easier.
A. D. T. Fryer, Cobol Language Specialist, Micro Focus, Newbury, Berks