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IBM-MAIN - Modernisieren von COBOL- und PL/1-Anwendungen


Re: Meet Cobol's hard core fans


Bernd Oppolzer <bernd.oppolzer@T-ONLINE.DE>


IBM Mainframe Discussion List <IBM-MAIN@LISTSERV.UA.EDU>


2014.08.22 21:36:24

Am 22.08.2014 03:25, schrieb J.E.:
> As for the coming critical shortage of COBOL programmers: I don't know
> how colleges train people in IT these days, but in the old days
> students were taught basic programming concepts and algorithms and
> exposed to many different programming languages in order to appreciate
> that no single programming language is optimal for all tasks. Once you
> understood programming concepts and were functionally literate in
> several languages, learning a new programming language was not that
> difficult: just read a language reference manual and an introductory
> text, learn how to map constructs and algorithms in known programming
> languages into the new language, learn what is unique about the
> language, and study existing programs. In a few days it was possible
> to write simple programs in the new language and certainly in at most
> a few months be competent enough to understand and potentiallly
> maintain programs in the language. Unless the new generation of
> programmers is much dumber than we were, I think the alarms about the
> future lack of COBOL programmers is overblown. Acquiring a new
> language skill is a better understood process and simpler than
> teaching complex application designs unique to one installation. It
> would certainly be better if younger programmers were brought on board
> and introduced to COBOL applications while some of the retiring COBOL
> programmers are still around, but that overlap is desireable just for
> passing on knowledge about installation programming conventions,
> complex application designs and inter-application relationships. If
> some IT-management types believe that this overlap requirement will
> just magically vanish or be significantly reduced if they migrate off
> COBOL to any of the existing alternatives or if they migrate to a
> different platform, they are in for a unpleasant surprise.

I believe that we should modernize the software development using COBOL in a
smooth way by providing the COBOL developer with "modern" libraries and tools
that make some tasks easier while maintaining the spirit and the strengths of

I did the same thing for our "legacy" PL/1 environment, and I will try to give
you an example.

If you use in-storage tables in COBOL or PL/1 programs (for example tables of
keys to lookup while processing a database or file sequentially), you normally
use in those "old" languages a table with fixed limits, so you have to do an
estimation, how large this table could get; maybe you read the table from a file
at the beginning of the processing, and the number of entries is varying.

I use a library instead, which puts the keys in a weighted tree (AVL tree) and
allows the PL/1 or COBOL program to search very fast for the existence of the
key in this AVL tree. There is virtually no limit to the number of entries; the
AVL tree resides in dynamic storage. There is no problem, if there are 1000,
10000 or even a million keys (which is far from realistic numbers). The coding
for the COBOL user is very simple and straightforward; he or she only has to
take care that the tree (as a whole) is freed when it is no longer needed (by a
simple call, again).

This is what the C++ and Java guys do all the time ... I don't like their
languages much, but I do like the concepts and how easy they can be used. And
the programs are really fast, if the libraries are implemented in the right way.
So I think we should provide our COBOL and PL/1 programmers with the right
solutions, to enable them to bring new life to old or new COBOL and PL/1

Another similar topic is: enable PL/1 and COBOL programs to do XML parsing and
writing of XML documents in an easy and efficient way. I have some problems with
the performance implications of XML processing, too; but when communicating with
external partners, it is a necessity, and so you have to cope with it. The
existing solutions in the market work well with C++ and Java, but not so well
with PL/1 and COBOL. I have solutions for this problem, too.

If you want to know more about my efforts to modernize COBOL and PL/1
development, please contact me offline.

Kind regards


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