COBOL and 'The Twilight Zone'
Somewhere in the fifties there was a woman named Grace Hopper. And there was a man by the name of Rod Serling. Although these people are not directly associated with each other, they do have one thing in common.
Both have successfully set up a concept that to date does what the creators intended. Rod was responsible for the TV series 'The Twilight Zone' and Grace was at the cradle of what we today know as COBOL.
The Twilight Zone
In a gray past I regularly watched the series 'The Twilight Zone' (in the Netherlands 'Tweeduuster') on TV. At the time in black and white on a small Philips TV screen in a large wooden casing.
The series ran a total of five seasons, 156 episodes and won numerous awards.
Of the 156 episodes there is one that I never forgot, namely 'The Arrival'. The complete series is not for sale in the local video store but it can be obtained via the Internet. A download of 28 Gb. But definitely worth it.
We have been spoiled with widescreen LCD displays and Dolby Surround sound. Even in HD too. In films like 'The Matrix' modern technology is used in each and every way possible. And this makes a nice piece of entertainment. Right? Or does technology wins from the story? Actually I prefer 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' for that matter.
Nowadays I regularly watch episodes of 'The Twilight Zone'. In black and white, square picture and mono sound with cracks and noise. And yet I am happy doing so. Not because the picture quality is so great, or the sound of cups vibrating on the table, but because the story line is cool. And the feast of recognition in the coming by of ''The Arrival'' was a Deja Vu experience itself.
Rod Serling was able to write interesting stories that everyone understood but still went deep. This is why the series was so popular. Limited by the technology available then it was able to captivate a large audience. An achievement in itself. I remember the most spectacular special effect in the series consisted of a cross fade.
In a gray past, I regularly worked on development of application software. On NCR mini systems and mainframes. In COBOL with a simple text editor and line debugger. Debugging was only done if you really could not go otherwise. You had to print a copy of the compilation listing of the program and go through single steps and laboriously placed break points in order to isolate the error in the program location. Took half a day at least.
But when the application was free of errors (is that possible?) then it ran perfectly until major changes to the system had to be made. Then the circus of testing and debugging started all over.
We have been spoiled by development environments like Visual Studio and the. NET framework from Microsoft. In programming languages like C# modern technology is at your fingertips. Resulting (often) in attractive looking application programs.
But when it comes to programming business logic, calculations and processing of complex transactions we still use COBOL. Not because the language is that beautiful, but because the language does what one expects. On any platform. Allways.
Grace Hopper was able to draw up specifications for a programming language that everyone could read and that everyone understood. This is why the programming language COBOL was so popular making it still viable and prominent in our current days.
This is where the comparison between Rod and Grace ends. Rod had to stop after 156 episodes. Grace, and her successors, went on. To this day, COBOL is still under development. Now you can use COBOL in .NET. Would you like the front end of your applications in C# and the backend in COBOL? Can all be done.
The Twilight Zone is still black and white, square and mono. COBOL has grown to Ultra HD and Dolby Surround. And the code I wrote in that gray past ? That code is still working, every day.
Link to episode 57 of The Twilight Zone : The Arrival (.avi, 1961, B&W, English, Square and Mono)