Common Business Oriented Language


Common Business Oriented Language, also known as COBOL, is a high-level programming language primarily used in business, finance, and administrative systems. It was developed in the 1950s by the CODASYL Committee and is known for its readability and capability to process large amounts of data. COBOL still remains in use in legacy systems found within various industries today.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Common Business Oriented Language” is: KAW-muhn Biz-ness Or-ee-EN-tid LAN-gwij

Key Takeaways

  1. Cobol Compatibility: Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) has been used extensively since its inception in 1959. Despite its age, it remains compatible with modern systems. This means that businesses that have invested in COBOL infrastructure over the decades can still rely on their legacy systems without needing to redesign their entire computing infrastructure.
  2. Readability and Maintainability: COBOL uses English-like syntax, which makes it easier to read, understand, and maintain, even for people who may not be expert programmers. This is a major advantage for businesses, particularly those with complex programs that require regular maintenance and updates.
  3. Business Oriented: As its name suggests, COBOL is specifically designed for business operations. It has strong abilities in handling file processing tasks, which are crucial for business data management. This includes updating, sorting, and outputting various types of data formats. This capability is one of the reasons COBOL is still deeply entrenched in the business world, particularly in sectors like banking and insurance.


Common Business Oriented Language, or COBOL, is a significant technology term as it denotes one of the oldest and most influential high-level programming languages in the field of business computing. Introduced in the late 1950s, COBOL revolutionized data processing by empowering users to write complex operations in a format resembling natural English, thereby making programming more accessible for business professionals.

Its resilience and adaptability enabled it to continue thriving in legacy systems, ensuring its relevance in today’s digital age. From banking, insurance, to government administrative systems, numerous critical applications still run on COBOL, highlighting its importance in supporting the backbone of the global economy.

Furthermore, COBOL’s enduring relevance underscores the need for ongoing maintenance, updates, and professionals proficient in it.


Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) is a programming language that was specifically designed for business data processing needs. Introduced in the late 1950s by the United States Department of Defense, COBOL’s primary purpose has heavily been associated with business, finance, and administrative systems for both companies and governments. It is built to handle large amounts of data with robustness and resilience, which is particularly why many large-scale businesses continue to use it even today.

COBOL excels at processing and managing a large volume of business transactions. As it was developed for business use, it was designed with a clear focus on factors such as numeric processing and string manipulation, which are particularly vital in many business applications. COBOL can be used for numeric computation, file processing, and for creating reports in various industry sectors such as banking, insurance, and retail. Furthermore, the fact that COBOL programs are highly durable and have longevity contributes to its substantial legacy of usage in many critical systems around the world.


Common Business Oriented Language, also known as COBOL, is a programming language that is largely used in business and administrative systems.

Here are three real-world examples of how COBOL has been used:

1. Banking Systems: Many financial institutions, including banks, still use systems coded in COBOL for their critical operations. These usually include transaction processing, account management, and the processing of customer data.

2. Insurance Agencies: Many insurance companies use COBOL to manage policy information, handle claims processing, and update client records. The fact that these systems have been able to run reliably for several decades is a testament to the power and resilience of COBOL.

3. Government Systems: Various government entities use COBOL for numerous applications. For instance, the United States’ Federal government, including the Department of Defense, still uses COBOL for a range of processes, including payroll, personnel records, and logistics.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Question 1:What is Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL)?

Answer 1:The Common Business Oriented Language, also known as COBOL, is a high-level programming language primarily used in business, finance, and administrative systems for companies and governments.

Question 2:In which year was COBOL developed?

Answer 2: COBOL was developed in the year 1959 as a result of an initiative by the US Department of Defense.

Question 3: Why is COBOL primarily used in business?

Answer 3: COBOL is used in businesses because it is English-like and self-documenting, which makes it simpler to read, write, and maintain. Also, it has powerful data handling capabilities, which is crucial in a business environment.

Question 4: Is COBOL still in use today?

Answer 4:  Yes, COBOL is still in use today. Despite being developed over half a century ago, it continues to run a significant portion of the global economy, particularly in the banking and financial sector.

Question 5:How does COBOL differ from other programming languages?

Answer 5: COBOL stands out from other programming languages due to its longevity, readability, and strong data processing abilities. It uses a syntax more similar to English, unlike many current languages that use more symbolic notations.

Question 6: What are the main features of COBOL?

Answer 6:  COBOL supports file processing capabilities which are superior to those of most other programming languages. It can handle large volumes of data and is designed for report creation. It’s also known for its self-documenting feature and structured programming.

Question 7: Is learning COBOL beneficial today?

Answer 7: Many critical systems, particularly in the financial, insurance, and government sectors, still run on COBOL. There will continue to be demand for COBOL programmers to maintain and modernize these legacy systems. So, learning COBOL can still be beneficial in the right circumstances.

Related Finance Terms

  • COBOL programming language
  • Procedural language
  • Business Data Processing
  • COBOL compilers
  • Mainframe computing

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