I’ve been interested in learning COBOL for years, mainly out of curiosity. Governor Phil Murphy’s call for volunteers pushed me to examine the topic further…
You can dive into COBOL specifically with the resources below but you’ll probably also want to learn about mainframes and some COBOL-associated technologies (JCL, CCIS).
Its important to note that there has been a flood of interest from both experienced COBOL developers and newbies looking to enter the field. I don’t expect this to be an easy road to get a job. The problems being faced right now are significant and will likely require experienced COBOL developers.
In the longer term there may be an opportunity…but that will depend on whether government/businesses get serious about modernizing some of their systems, which is a significant monetary investment and historically crises have not been enough to modernize systems (e.g. Y2K bug).
- COBOL article on Wikipedia.
- Reg Harbeck. COBOL: Still the Best for New High-Volume Applications After All These Years. planetmainframe, 2019.
- Harbeck argues against the common sentiment of the larger development community that COBOL is still the best choice for data crunching business apps.
- The Stack Overflow Podcast Episode 225: The Great COBOL Crunch. 2020.
- Bob Reselman. The Beauty of the COBOL Programming Language. devops, 12/2018.
- This is a great first introduction, especially if you have experience in any other programming language.
- Adam Michael Wood. COBOL Programming: No Punch Cards Needed. WhoIsHostingThis? 2019.
- Provides a helpful overview of COBOL’s history, tooling, how it works, etc. Has a number of useful resource links.
- Key takeaway: “While there is certainly plenty of existing code written in COBOL-2002, and even a bit in COBOL-2014, the majority of still-running legacy COBOL conforms to the 1985 specification.”
- Tutorialspoint’s COBOL Tutorial – Requires basic understanding of JCL, they also have a JCL tutorial available.
- javaTpoint’s COBOL Tutorial
- MainFramesTechHelp’s COBOL Tutorial
- COBOL Programming Course from the Department of CSIS at the University of Limerick.
- Older curriculum, appears latest portions are from 2002.
- Michael Coughlan. Beginning COBOL for Programmers. Apress, 2014.
- This book is also available through a subscription to O’Reilly Learning.
- Nancy B. Stern, Robert A. Stern, James P. Ley. COBOL for the 21st Century, 11th edition. Wiley, 2013.
- Zowe – open source, free.
Editors / IDEs
- NetCOBOL (see compilers)
- Micro Focus’ Visual Cobol (see compilers)
- OpenCobolIDE – free, open source. Based on GnuCOBOL and pyQode, no longer mantained, last release was 12/2016.
- This IDE is really simple to use. I’d initially started with IBM’s Z Open Editor but indentation tripped me up. OpenCobolIDE made this simple and running an application was intuitive.
- isCOBOL IDE – from veryant, built on Eclipse.
- IBM Z Open Editor – Provides COBOL and PL/I support for VSCode.
- Broadcom Code4z – Shares many similarities with Che4z but can be used with Visual Studio Code, free, open source.
- Eclipse Che4z – Uses Eclipse Che as a development environment for coding on mainframes, open source and free. Supports COBOL, HLASM.
- GnuCOBOL (formerly OpenCOBOL) – Free/Open Source, quite popular.
- Raincode COBOL Compiler – Free, generates .NET/.NET Core code.
- Native support for SQL/CICS.
- Visual Studio Plugin.
- GTSoftware/Fujitsu’s NetCOBOL – Commercial.
- Available in both Eclipse and Visual Studio based editions.
- Can compile to .NET.
- Micro Focus’ Visual COBOL – Commercial.
- Available in both Elcipse and Visual Studio based editions.
- Integrates with Microsoft Azure.
- Can compile to Java and .NET.
- RDBMS support.
- COBOL-IT – Commercial.
- See also TheFreeCountry’s list of COBOL compilers.
If you are looking to create COBOL applications for mainframes you’ll probably need an emulator – unless you happen to have a spare REAL mainframe laying around. See the mainframe page for emulation options.
High Level Articles on COBOL
- Dave Gershgorn. IBM Rallies COBOL Engineers to Save Overloaded Unemployment Systems. Medium OneZero, 4/10/2020.
- Michelle V. Rafter. Cobol Programmers Answer Call to Shore Up Unemployment Benefits Systems. IEEE Spectrum, 4/10/2020.
- Nick Kolakowski. COBOL Developers Want to Stick with the Aging Language. Dice, 2/20/2020.
- eWeek Editors. Six Reasons COBOL Has Survived to Age 60. eWeek, 9/4/2019.
- Matt Asay. All the Rich Kids Are Into COBOL. readwrite, 2014.
- Scott Colvey. Cobol Hits 50 and Keeps Counting. The Guardian, 2009.
- Jeff Atwood. COBOL: Everywhere and Nowhere. Coding Horror, 2009.
- National Museum of American History’s article on COBOL.
- C2 Wiki Article on COBOL.
We Knew This Was Coming
- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols. COBOL Turns 60: Why It Will Outlive Us All. ZDNet, 2019.
- Phil Teplitzky. Closing the COBOL Programming Skills Gap. IBM Systems Magazine, 2019.
- Glenn Fleishman. It’s COBOL All the Way Down. increment, 2018.
- Quartz Daily Obsession: COBOL. Quartz, 2018.
- Anna Irrera. Banks Scramble to Fix Old Systems as IT ‘Cowboys’ Ride Into Sunset. Reuters, 2017.
- David Cassel. COBOL Is Everywhere. Who Will Maintain It? TheNewStack, 2017.
- Ritika Trikha. The Inevitable Return of COBOL. HackerRank, 2015.
- Alex Sellink, Chris Verhoef. Reflections on the Evolution of COBOL. University of Amsterdam, 1997.
- Cobol Cowboys – A company that offers Cobol services.