Why is Cobol ignored in compiler textbooks?

Trevor Jenkins <tfj@cix.compulink.co.uk>
Mon, 20 Apr 1992 15:37:00 GMT

          From comp.compilers

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Why is Cobol ignored in compiler textbooks? tfj@cix.compulink.co.uk (Trevor Jenkins) (1992-04-20)
Re: Why is Cobol ignored in compiler textbooks? nickh@CS.CMU.EDU (1992-04-21)
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Newsgroups: comp.compilers
From: Trevor Jenkins <tfj@cix.compulink.co.uk>
Keywords: Cobol, question
Organization: Compilers Central
Date: Mon, 20 Apr 1992 15:37:00 GMT

Taking a survey of the compiler text books I have on my shelf I noticed
that none discussed the problems of compiling Cobol. To a man the authors
assume that the language(s) being compiled are derived from Algol, usually
they are Pascal or C with occasional reference to Fortran. Some authors do
make mention of Cobol in passing usually pointing out its English-like
notation or comparing the record declaration of Cobol with some other
language. One book Waite & Goos, published in 1984, only cites the 1968
ANSI standard thus ignoring the 1974 standard and work then in progress on
the 8X standard but, at least, they cite the standard for NONE of the
others do!

Some specific problems which compiling Cobol raises are the possiblity
that sections and paragraphs may be executed sequentially or may be
PERFORMed as if subroutines. Also, the _problem_ of the ALTER verb
changing the target of a GO TO. There are others to do with data
representation which go beyond any representational problem that might
arise with Algol-related languages.

Here's a comparison of the number of index entries for Cobol in the books
I consulted:

Aho & Ullman 5 (Green Dragon Book)
Aho, Sethi & Ullman 1 (Red Dragon Book)
Barret & Couch 0 (Compiler Construction...)
Bornat 1 (Understanding and writing compilers)
Gries 0 (Compiler construction...)
Hecht 1 (Flow analysis...)
Trembaly & Sorenson 12 (Theory and Practice...)
Waite & Goos 8 (Compiler Construction)

This surely is not a good state of affairs given the major investment in
programs written in Cobol throughout the world. Or is it that I am missing
a textbook or two in which Cobol IS discussed in the same detail as
Algo-related languages? I know of Dijkstra's disklike of Cobol but I have
good reasons for asking. Well, one good reason perhaps---money!
[It's true, far too many people dismiss Cobol with a not terribly well
informed "ugh." It's certainly verbose, but there are things that it does
well. -John]

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