[SIGCIS-Members] COBOL history
brian.randell at newcastle.ac.uk
Mon Oct 6 10:39:07 PDT 2014
I don’t have the time or energy to read the entirety of Jean Sammet’s “The Early History of COBOL” (In “The History of Programming Languages”, Academic Press, 1981, pages 199-277) but even a quick glance at this shows Grace Hopper’s footprints all over the COBOL project.
Some quotes I particularly noted:
“In my view, Grace Hopper did more than any other single individual to sell the concept of higher level languages from both a technical and administrative viewpoint" [Applause] - from Jean Sammet’s introduction to Grace Hopper, the conference keynote speaker (page 6)
“It is beyond the scope of this paper to do even a superficial study of all the work that precedes COBOL. However, it is worth noting the preliminary definition of a data processing compiler by Grace Hopper (1955) which contains the following two crucial sentences as part of the description of the compilation process. ‘in the case of a *verb*, the catalog entry will lead to a generator or subroutine and its satellite routines in a volume of the library. In the case of a *noun*, the catalog entry will lead to a standard item design and its satellite routines in a volume of the library.’ In my opinion, these sentences are crucial, since they point the way to a data description that is separate from the executable code.” (page 217)
“A key point in the development of any language is to see what influenced it . . . The major influences [on COBOL] were the two languages - FLOW-MATIC from Remington Rand Univac done under Grace Hopper’s direction - Commercial Translator being done at IBM by a group under the general leadership of Ray Goldfinger, who was working for Bob Bemer at the time.” (pages 247-248)
I have no doubt that Grace Hopper was one of the major contributors to the whole COBOL project.
School of Computing Science, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 7RU
EMAIL = Brian.Randell at ncl.ac.uk PHONE = +44 191 208 7923
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