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A punch card ate my program!

COBOL is the Rodney Dangerfield of programming languages — it doesn’t get any respect. COBOL is routinely denigrated for its verbosity and dismissed as archaic, and for good reason: COBOL bears little to no resemblance to modern programming languages. Yet COBOL is far from a dead language. It processes an estimated 85% of all business transactions, and 5 billion lines of new COBOL code are written every year!

In the past I’ve argued that COBOL isn’t such a bad language, but I’m not going to do that here! Instead, we’ll journey deep into the past to recreate a retro bug that could only happen in COBOL! Our travels will include:

  • Syntactic white space!
  • Scotch tape!
  • Dueling compiler options!
  • Virtual punch cards!
  • Sentences!
  • Code blocks!
  • Periods!

No punch cards were harmed in the creation of this talk.

Presenters

Walter Mankowski

Walter Mankowski, Syapse

Walt Mankowski is a senior software engineer at Syapse, where he helps healthcare providers bring precision medicine to cancer patients. Walt’s a recovering ivory tower computer scientist who enjoys pointing out things that Perl does better than Python to his coworkers. In his past life he spent 10 years as a COBOL programmer at a major cable home shopping network. He enjoys Perl, regular expressions, high-performance computing, and Futurama.