zingCOBOL - A Beginners Guide to COBOL Programming

Peter Kitson

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Sample Chapter From zingCOBOL - A Beginners Guide to COBOL Programming
     Copyright © Timothy R. P. Brown

1. Getting Started

1.1 Introduction

The aim of the ZingCOBOL is to give the basics of the COBOL programming language for anyone who knows a little bit about computers (not much) and preferably will at least have come across another procedural progamming language such as C, BASIC or Pascal. If you want to learn good structured programming then, although the basic COBOL syntax is provided here, other sources can provide more effective guidance (for example, see The Kasten COBOL Page).

The floating SITE MENU button can be clicked to bring up a temporary menu for navigating this site. If your browser doesn©t support this feature (or the popup window that results) there is a table of contents at the bottom of every page to navigate with. If you wish to find a specific item the Quick Reference page should take you to the desired section. This tutorial is by no means extensive but the basics should be covered here.

What©s written here will hopefully be correct (tell me otherwise) and maybe even informative. However, I would strongly recommend buying a good book on COBOL programming, and/or have someone teach you it.

If you have any queries, comments, or suggestions you can either go to the zingCOBOL Forum (all levels of ability are welcome), use the Feedback form and/or sign the Guestbook. I hope ZingCOBOL will prove useful to you.

1.2 COBOL - a brief overview

COBOL (COmmon Business Orientated Language) has been around for yonks (since 1959), updated in 1968, 1977 and 1985. OO COBOL was developed in the 1990©s. Well suited to business applications, i.e. used for large batch processes running on minicomputer and mainframes (medium to large platforms). About 65% of new critical applications use COBOL; several billion lines of COBOL code exist throughout the world, used by over a million companies. So it may be old but it remains one of the most important languages in commercial use today. (source: Computer Weekly, Dec 9th, 1999).

1.3 What you\'ll need

The best way to learn to programme/learn a new language is to actually be able to write code and run it on a computer. Consequently, you really need a computer (probably a PC), a text editor (Notepad or WordPad will do) to write the code into, and most importantly, a COBOL compiler which will check your code and then convert it into something the computer can understand and execute. I use the Fujitsu COBOL85 ver3.0 compiler which can be downloaded for free (see the Links page).