Grok all the things

grok (v): to understand (something) intuitively.


👶  Children (ELI5)

Gather around, kids, and let me tell you a fantastic story about a programming language that's older than your grandparents! It's called COBOL, and it's been around since the 1950s. That's right, this language has been around for more than half a century! But don't be fooled by its age. COBOL is still very much alive and kicking, and it's responsible for running a significant part of the world's most critical systems.

🏗️ Building the Foundations of Modern Computing

Once upon a time, in the magical world of the 1950s, computers were huge machines that took up entire rooms—nothing like the smartphones and laptops we use today. The early pioneers of computing needed to find a way to create programs for these big machines.

COBOL (which stands for COmmon Business-Oriented Language) emerged as the answer to their prayers. A group of computer scientists, led by a brilliant woman named Grace Hopper (I bet you didn't know that girls can be programming heroes too! ), built COBOL as a way to make programming more accessible and understandable.

✨ The Magic of COBOL

One of the most remarkable things about COBOL is its unique way of writing code. Unlike other programming languages that use cryptic symbols and jargon, COBOL code looks like simple English sentences! It's as if you're telling the computer what to do with a short story, rather than secret codes.

Here's a fun example of COBOL code that writes "Hello, World!" on the screen:

PROGRAM-ID. HelloWorld.

    DISPLAY "Hello, World!".

Can you believe how simple that is? COBOL was designed to be easily understood by people who didn't have a background in computer science, making it perfect for people who wanted to write programs for businesses and government organizations.

🤔 But Why, oh Why, is COBOL Still Here?

Now you might be wondering why COBOL is still around after all these years. Well, that's an excellent question! You see, back in the day, many big companies and government agencies used COBOL to write their critical software systems. These systems handled everything from banking transactions to airline reservations – basically, the essential services that make our modern world go round.

Over time, these organizations became very dependent on their COBOL systems. They couldn't just throw them away and start from scratch every time a new, shinier programming language came along. To this day, many of these systems are still being used, and some even estimate that there are over 200 billion lines of COBOL code running right now!

🌟 COBOL's Hidden Powers

Now your eyes might be as wide as saucers hearing about how widespread COBOL still is! But here's the kicker: Even though COBOL might seem like an ancient relic from the past, it has some hidden powers that make it very useful even today.

  1. Easy to understand: Just like we saw earlier, COBOL code is highly readable. This makes it much easier for programmers who didn't write the original code to come in and maintain or update it.
  2. Stability: COBOL was built with stability in mind, which means that the programs written in it tend to work reliably over long periods of time. This is a big advantage for organizations that don't want to risk breaking their vital systems.
  3. Scalability: COBOL can handle vast amounts of data very efficiently. This made it particularly suitable for large-scale business applications like managing bank accounts or processing insurance claims.

😄 COBOL's Legacy: A Language that Keeps on Giving

While many people might see COBOL as an outdated relic, the truth is that it's still alive and kicking in many corners of the world. In fact, there's even a rising demand for COBOL programmers as older experts retire and big organizations need fresh talent to maintain their critical systems!

So, the next time you use an ATM or check your bank statement, don't forget that behind the scenes, there might be a wizened old genie called COBOL making sure everything runs smoothly!

COBOL might not be the coolest or trendiest programming language, but it has certainly left an indelible mark on the history of computing. It serves as a reminder that the fundamentals of good programming—clear communication, stability, and efficiency—never go out of style.

And that, dear children, is the magical story of COBOL. Remember, every programming language has its own unique tale to tell. Who knows, maybe someday you'll become a hero of the programming world and create a language of your own! is a collection of articles on a variety of technology and programming articles assembled by James Padolsey. Enjoy! And please share! And if you feel like you can donate here so I can create more free content for you.