Programmers communicate with computers in a wide variety of languages. Each programming language has a unique vocabulary that combines simple words and algebraic statements to instruct the computer to carry out various tasks. But over time, some programming languages can get stale, cumbersome, or even stop functioning altogether. As a result, only a few of the thousands of programming languages created over the past few decades are still widely used today. Common business-oriented language (COBOL) is one such language that has endured the test of time.

What is COBOL?

The Department of Defense sponsored a group to create COBOL, a high-level programming language for business applications, to create a standard business language in 1959.1 The Committee on Data Systems Languages (CODASYL), which established COBOL, drew inspiration from Grace Hopper’s FLOW-MATIC and other languages to define the common business-oriented language.3 All operating systems had their own corresponding programming languages prior to COBOL. This presented a challenge for businesses that used various computer brands. To make it simpler for regular business users to understand, COBOL uses English words and phrases, unlike some high-level computer programming languages, which resemble mathematical formulas. The resulting language underwent additional revisions, but it quickly took over as the language of choice for creating business systems, and it has held that position ever since. It is said that Grace Hopper was the “grandmother of COBOL.”1 More information about the legacy of Grace Hopper can be found here.



Many people might wonder how a programming language that is more than 60 years old has endured the test of time with many COBOL applications still in widespread use. That is a fantastic demonstration of the language’s adaptability and resilience!

According to Mario Ceballos, a software engineer at Cigna, “The syntax is kept simple to allow non-programmers (“The Business”) to read it and understand it. COBOL is meant to be explicit, because there shouldn’t be room for assumptions.2

Although COBOL differs from and is in some ways very limited from current common programming languages, there are specific ways in which COBOL is superior to general-purpose languages for business programming. The main factors influencing COBOL’s continued use are its adaptability, flexibility, dependability, simplicity, originality, and high portability.3 As computing trends become more challenging to predict, COBOL may continue to be used for the foreseeable future because, despite its many flaws, it excels at what it does.

Now that you know the fundamentals of COBOL, you can learn more about other programming languages like the Assembly Programming Language, the First Programming Language, and Few of the Oldest Programming Languages Still Used. To read more articles on coding, you can also go to BYJU’s Future School Blog.


  1. Six Reasons COBOL Has Survived to Age 60. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2022, from 
  2. Is Cobol going away? – byWeeknd. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2022, from 
  3. What is COBOL? | Micro Focus. (n.d.). Retrieved August 24, 2022, from