A Look at Mainframe History as IBM System/360 Turns 50, COBOL Turns 55

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2014-03-18

At nearly 55 years of age, COBOL is one of the oldest programming languages around. The first COBOL compilers, which appeared in December 1959, were devised by a committee that began meeting in the middle of that year. Primarily designed by Grace Hopper, commonly referred to as "the mother of COBOL," the name is an acronym for COmmon Business-Oriented Language. Its primary domain is in business, finance and administrative systems for companies and governments. In 1991, then-journalist Stewart Alsop Jr. predicted the last mainframe would be unplugged by March 15, 1996. Yet here we are 23 years later with an estimated 10,000 mainframes still running hundreds of thousands of critical enterprise apps for financial institutions, federal agencies and others. In fact, the 50th anniversary of the IBM System/360 mainframe is coming up early next month. IBM estimates that more than 200 billion lines of COBOL code are still used across industries such as banking, insurance and retail. This eWEEK slide show, with input from business application software specialist Micro Focus, explores the past, present and future of the beloved mainframe.


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