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FORTRAN And COBOL Languages: Are They Obsolete?

Some one was describing FORTRAN and COBOL programming languages as archaic and obsolete; but i later on discovered on the internet that people still make use of them, and they have been undergoing reviews to meet up with 5th generation programming languages.

I discovered on the internet that there is an object-oriented FORTRAN version that allows you program just like visual basic. Please I need to hear from you guys about this object-oriented FORTRAN version and the latest COBOL version.

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Dakmanzero and food4tot, you both lost me to a land were variables are no longer declare to be any of the premative type. I sat dawn for thousands of years trying to found my way of this redundancy but i could not. You both make my eyes dim and lost focus but one day, ninja go Find my IP address. With my elementry knowledge of programming, i think i could speak in a public room like you people do but for years, i was just trying to read and comprehend your posting. If i should use years in doing that, then you should know how long it will take me to learn programming and splash code the way you guys just did.

but i think there is a solution to this, if you can both carry me along, i mean chating my part in programming, lashing my booty if i don't take instructions, i think this will make me live my procedural way of programming and stat structuring my codes.

I just want you both to help me out of this blind world of mine. i have introductory knowledge of visual basic, java, COBOL, fortran, QBASIC and i want to learn c++, c# assembling language and likings. I want to be goosd at this, i need Una help.

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Dakmanzero, i enjoyed programming with QBASIC, FORTRAN and PASCAL cos of their mathematical nature and ease to code, unlike COBOL where u write essays. It was one of the worst courses i did in my school days. Its difficult to compile a COBOL program without it flagging errors. there must be an error,and i use to wonder why.

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didn't like cobol because of aaaaaaall the (needless) typing, and also because the language couldnt be used for much else other than business report generation (which is dry as dust)

Enjoyed fortran because it is closer to what got me interested in programming in the first place! as a matter of fact I enjoy all imperative languages, haven't encountered one I don't enjoy yet!

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Dakmanzero, i got ur points. How comes u hated COBOL and enjoyed FORTRAN? Its like we had the same minds in school then. I only did COBOL cause it was a compulsory course for me; but i never liked it, although i wrote some COBOL programs then but i never liked the english-like structure of the language.

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Nah, I wasnt referring to you when I made that comment, no offense dude!

Sometimes I couldnt imagine that I was being percieved the way I was (It looked like I was claiming legacy languages are useless) when in fact I am usually the guy that comes up with all sorts of reasons why we shouldnt just jump to the latest and greatest language just because it's new! I greatly enjoyed my fortran classes, and indeed fortran played a large part in my final-year project at school (Numerical analysis), although I do hate cobol, lololololol!!!! but thats personal!

I have however been made to understand that portability is an issue with these old languages, and this was what I was trying to bring up. Unfortunately it looked as if I was condemning old languages and calling them obsolete, or attacking people that use them. Rest assured that I never did! In fact I was the first to give an actual example of someone who makes a truckload of cash on legacy languages alone! Another of my bosses left to work in Austrailia 2 years back- he got the job because the companmy had trouble finding local talent with the legacy skills he posesses. His salary there is insane! Plus they handled his visa, housing, etc.

I hope my position is clearer now.

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dakmanzero, i hope u,re not offended by my words? i dont mean to make u look silly in any way. infact if there is any body that has made this forum interesting and lively, then it's you. I must say that i ve really come to understand a lot of things arguing with u guys on this forum. Please dont stay away, i,m enjoying ur contributions. Cheers.

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Actually, @ishmael, the purpose of this discussion is not to prove who knows programming 'pass' anyone else. That's for children and students. Once we graduate, we realise that everyone has their strong points, and even the world's most respected programmers can be wrong.

When we discuss in this way, it benefits us all because we get to see other points of view and if they expose flaws in our OWN point of view, it is to our benefit. If however we do not agree, then we argue the point in order to get the other guy to convince (and therefore help) us.

Also in a public forum, there are others that will tune in just to listen in and probably learn. For the sake of such people it is necessary to argue a point to completion- this was made known to me by nferyn and KAG, two really sharp guys who are known to thrash out issues. Simply giving up and going away, or doggedly sticking to one point of view without considering what others say, are detrimental habits.

The reason why I have been repeating myself is that due to the responses I recieve it is obvious people have not been reading my posts. or have been misunderstanding my point of view. Hence the need to clarify myself.

Its not a matter of winning or whatever. There are coders on this forum that I have learned to pay attention to on certain issues. There's no master of all knowledge.

Also, I resent it when people attempt to make me look silly. That may be a weakness on my part, but for me its the same in real life- if you hit me, I hit back. shikena.

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dakmanzero, ok na you win. you can argue no be small. na u sabi programming pass; we agree. No body has been able to say anything on this issue that pleases you. Why is it so? Is it that other guys are not well learned or skilled in programming like you?

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Hey sbucareer, I like your customized courier/fixed-width font posting approach. Makes sure that your posts always stand out! And insightful posts they are.

However, your last post has some misleading assertions: You said a big software company used cobol to write SAP and ABAP. That isn't entirely correct.

In fact, SAP is the name of the company, and they used their OWN language, a FOURTH-GEN language called ABAP, which is by the way a modern language that supports objects and advanced abstraction, to create the SAP R2 and R3 enterprse resource planning packages.

In fact, at first the SAP ERP packages were not written in ABAP. ABAP was initially intended as a data manipulation language to be used in conjunction with R2. Over time, however,

THE ENTIRE SYSTEM WAS REWRITTEN IN ABAP!!!! WHICH IS EXACTLY THE G&!%^"%"^"^^"^ POINT I HAVE BEEN MAKING SINCE MORNING!

TO REWRITE YOUR ANCIENT PROGRAMS IN NEW LANGUAGES IS NOT LAME OR IMPRACTICAL! SEE, SAP DID IT!!! JESUS CHRIST!

However NEITHER IS IT COMPULSORY! of course cobol code in existence will do just fine. If not, it wouldnt be in existence, ne? However as time and technology moves on, the code will need to be rewritten because that old code is not portable. Starting new projects in nonportable languages is asking for trouble. ABAP is obviously a portable language as it was originally designed to run on top of a hardware-independent platform ie SAP ERP.

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SBUCAREER, thanx men. I understand and agree with ur points.

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[b]Co[/b]mmon [b]B[/b]usiness [b]O[/b]riented [b]L[/b]anguage, a computer programming language designed and used primarily for business applications.

Well I think above explains it all. The reason why COBOL seems to have died was it inability to address client/server operations. Looking beyond client server, which is what is happening now, we have like JNI/JNDI we use object oriented-messages to communicate to different disperse infrastructure.

Millions of COBOL codes are out there today and are going just fine. The things is that much more simple and supported business language are here like .NET, Java and PHP etc.

If you look at the world biggest software Company that produced Enterprise application like SAP and ABAP, they use COBOL to write them. To write a services and expose their API to other languages that want to use COBOL is dead easy.

Programming inventors knew this problems and have addressed it in their language by providing native API to integrate any language.

Reference

ABAP & COBOL

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I hear you. Every body has what he/she likes.

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Ishmael - It seems as though you already had a fixed stance b4 posting this thread!

Exactly!!!

Darkman has raised the most objective, learned and conclusive facts about this question, to me, any further talk wud be like dribbling back to your Box-18! (aka Gege s'eyin).

Good you said "Some"! Fact is in virtually every top class school, focus is mainly on C/C++ and some other "modern languages". Cobol and fortran are just discussed in History Comp. Sci. classes! Well, as I said, the original question,

FORTRAN And COBOL Languages: Are They Obsolete?

is already answered in Brief:

Also, Ishmael, lets be Objective here:

HELL, some people even still prefer to watch live soccer matches on DSTV on their 1980s Box Black and White TVs! (e.g Me.).

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I still write qbasic programs :-)

once I was stranded at Gateway hotel with no link, no software, no nothing and I had to quickly code up a replacement for a logon script gone bad for a conference that involved 50plus laptops and autoconfiguring wifi connections. All I had was qbasic! And it served me well, lololololol! the details will just be boring, though,

Nah, no hatred to people using fortran, cobol, etc.

Not discouraging anyone. In fact, if you people actually read my posts rather than just jumping to conclusions you'll see the many arguments FOR legacy languages I give, and you wont be responding to my posts attempting to discredit me with points I have already raised!!!!!

So, for the 2,000th time I will repeat my position:

USING LEGACY LANGUAGES IS NOT BAD!!!!!!! IT IS THE NOTION THAT "REPLACING OLD NONPORTABLE SOFTWARE WRITTEN IN LEGACY LANGUAGES WITH MODERN LANGUAGES IS LAME AND IMPRACTICAL" THAT I DISAGREE WITH!

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  Listen for once.

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Dakmanzero, you don’t need to discourage people. What you feel is the best for you could be the worst thing ever to some other persons. A lot of guys still develop applications with older languages like FORTRAN, COBOL, PASCAL and QBASIC; and they do it well; they love what they do cos that is what they want.

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No, they are not.

You are thinking of the F programming language, which has been stripped of practically everything that makes fortran fortran.

However, remember I did NOT say that fortran is obsolete. Not by a long shot. Only that it isn't very portable. It wasn't designed to be.

fortran 2003 was designed to address many issues that you can see here:

http://www.kcl.ac.uk/kis/support/cit/fortran/f2003_new_features.html

portability is not one of them. fortran 2003 is an amazing modern language designed for use with scientific and mathematical programming due to its extensive and rich maths libraries- but it has a narrow problem domain and does NOT solve the problem of nonportable legacy code holding back progress in other areas.

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Dakmanzero, FORTRAN was developed when portability was not a priority; yes, agreed. But don’t forget that the language has undergone series of revisions and reviews, and portability was one of the areas that was touched or looked into. As I’m talking right now Fortran 90/95 and Fortran 2003 are portable versions of FORTRAN.

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Could u kindly excerpt the section on portability for the benefit of readers of this thread? Thanks!

An example of a project that suffers due to fortran's lack of portability is the Cambridge Crystallography Subroutine Library- there are other examples, too. The problems are mainly due to the fact that fortran comes from a time when portability was not a priority.

http://www.ill.fr/dif/ccsl/mk4man/c2node1.html

A quote:

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Look 4 dis book, its on the internet. OBJECT ORIENTED PROGRAMMING VIA FORTRAN 90/95 BY Ed Akin, Rice university, Houston

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really?

That's interesting. Could u give a link or two? I'd like to see that.

It would really be impressive if they can achieve such a feat without modifying the languages to such an extent that legacy code would be incompatible! If they did break compatibility however, then these languages should be regarded as modern languages, similar to their legacy cousins in name only.

Remember, all imperative languages are structurally derived from fortran. A noncompatible OO iteration of fortramn is no different from any other modern imperative in this regard.

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Dakmanzero, I disagree with you. OO FORTRAN and OO COBOL are portable; at least to some extent.

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Portability means sufficiently distinct from the hardware to enable the language maintain its independence.

C was designed with portability in mind, and most major languages since then have adopted it.

It means that your code isn;t tied to a specific implementation of the language. A portable language can theoretically never be obsolete, because it will always be compilable/runnable on the latest hardware with minimal changes.

Nonportable languages like cobol and fortran however are dependent on the hardware/ os they were designed for-hence the problem. When the implementing company ceases support, you are screwed, and moving to better hardware is difficult.

Thats why fortran and cobol skills are best used in maintaining existing installations that are too big/complex to upgrade trivially, or making 'glue' layers like clocky and his team were doing to enable interoperability with more modern systems

However to implement a NEW system with these languages is unwise at best. You don't want to be tied to a particular implementation.

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DAKMANZERO, I think you’ll have to agree with what clocky and bossman have said. I have a question also to ask: What makes FORTRAN and COBOL not to be portable? What do you mean by portability of a programming language? It may be different from the what I know.

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Yeah, its true, fortran/cobol are still being used. Languages that were popular in the past, are still in existence everywhere.

However, the question is, is it wise to start new projects using those languages? I believe not- more because they are nonportable than that they are old. I would give the same argument against VB version 6 (not .net, which is portable and hardware independent) because Microsoft has dropped support, effectively making it a legacy language.

The uses of fortran/cobol today is mainly in maintaining legacy systems, which means old systems that are still in use. As these systems are retired, the need for these languages will fade, but for now the skills are very much in demand. However it is wise to mention that the implementations of these languages that you will be supporting are usually upon proprietary, rare, and expensive operating systems- simply being good at watfor77 won't get you a multibillion dollar job at a multinational!

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Bossman, well said. But I wonder why other guys are still arguing about FORTRAN and COBOL still being used by big companies; may be you will need to give them names of these companies for them to believe. But as for me I believe its still being used, else no body or company would be talking about it, not to talk of using it. Some schools in America and Europe still teach students these languages, its not only in Nigeria as some one had earlier said.

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Every language has its pros and cons. You definitely do not want to do any kind of RAD or design User interaction interfaces with COBOL, when there are other languages such as VB, Java, etc. that are well suited for that. OTOH, you do not want to do any kind of data processing that involves millions of records with any other language but COBOL. That's why at a lot of big IT shops, the COBOL applications are still there to handle the back-end stuff, but all the front end is done in other languages.

For example at my previous client, all the user interaction was handles using Servlet and JSP, but the data itself and processing is still done on the mainframe using COBOL. IBM has gone to great lengths to make sure the Java & COBOL interaction using websphere works well.

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Bossman, thanx a lot for ur contributions. I’m now convinced that people and companies still make use of COBOL and FORTRAN. But why is it that a lot of guys think or believe they are old-fashioned despite the upgrade versions that are as good as the newer languages especially in the area of OO programming? Is it because they are difficult to program with? I can see a lot of guys here are condemning them. Well. I’m into VB programming, but still like the techniques of QBASIC, FORTRAN, PASCAL and COBOL languages. At least learning and knowing them is helping me in my VB programming, so I don’t think it’s a waste learning how to use them. I still write a lot of custom statistical and numerical analysis programs, and I find FORTRAN very suitable to do that. I will still welcome your opinion if you have an alternative programming language to suggest for me.

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Bossman, I agree with your entire post! My current place of work is an excellent example of this exactly what you describe, and I do not deny that at the present, mainframe/legacy skills are a definite plus.

However, I *do* disagree with the 'its not going anywhere' bit at the bottom. It *is* going away. Its just a matter of time.

Finally, lets keep my points of view in context:

Fortran and cobol obsolete?

My answer is no. Because though fortran has given birth to a legion of imperative children, COBOL remains cobol, and as such does not have an obvious modern succesor.

Is it a good thing to keep things in these languages around?

NO. Even though it is profitable to maintain such kludges, that would be like a doctor saying polio is a great thing cos it keeps him in business. We may get paid to maintain legacy crap, but it remains crap unless it is portable. For Gods sake, the C language is prehistoric too, but it is viewed as modern simply because it is portable, unlike dinosaurs like cobol and fortran. Cockroach versus Apatosaur. Who survived till the modern age, eh?

And as for clocky, if you would rather descend to the level of senseless name-calling, understand that I have written you off as a person of any intelligence whatsoever, and thus would be glad to engage you in a bout of mudslinging insults. bring it on.

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Exactly. that was my point in my earlier posts. I really didnt understand the useless moral lectures from darkman or whatever he/she called himself/herself.

I have left him/her to wallow in his/her own ignorance.

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Majority of the very large companies such as banks, insurance companies, etc.  have a lot of COBOL that you will not believe it! These are companies that process a lot of data and there is no programming language that does it as well as COBOL. These applications have been out there functioning for years, so there is no reason to rewrite it. (If it ain't broke, don't fix it!).

What these companies are doing is adding a web front to their applications. But their mission-critical data still resides on the mainframe. The last three clients that have worked, all have web fronts accessing data on the mid range, and this data is propagated to the mainframe. I have worked at a couple of major insurance companies. These are companies that have thousands of developers, of which 90% are mainframe developers.

As I am typing this, I am at a clients in downtown Chicago, another very big Health Insurance company, a good majority of the consultants in this room are doing mainframe. As anyone in this field  will tell you, having both mainframe and Object-Oriented Programmong (OOP) skills is a plus. Check out monster.com for OOP related jobs, on a lot of them they always specify that mainframe skills is a plus. The bottom line is, there is a lot of mainframe code out there, and it's not going anywhere.

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It must offer what no other language offers before it can be reckoned with. It wont be much good if the coding format is not similar to the popular programming language. Its difficult to get help on FORTRAN.

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Have u guys not seen this before?

News

Forpedo Includes Run-Time Polymorphism

Forpedo has been upgraded to include support for run-time polymorphism, as described here. Run-time polymorphism is an important part of Object-Oriented Programming (OOP), and is supported in Fortran 2003, but not earlier standards. With Forpedo you can mimic run-time polymorphism in Fortran 90/95 programs, making the transition to Fortran 2003 easier when compilers of that standard become readily available.

Don't you guys think that the latest version of FORTRAN is fully objected oriented now?

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Theory is where everything you are living today, was in the past.

I've been into computers for the better part of my life, and I've seen mere ideas become reality and *then* accepted fact! Its a lovely experience and you can try it!

That's one of the best things about computing- in our world, the world of code, ideas can become reality! And they do, by far more often than they do in the dreary, mundane non-digital world, where ideas remain ideas forever.

If you can abstract it, it CAN happen in the digital world! And the total obliteration of crappy legacy nonsense is much closer than you would think.

If you really are world-weary and cynical enough to turn up your nose at such a possibility, I urge you to read up on the TCPA, or trusted computing initiative. It is, far from being an idealistic fantasy, a terrible, sinister reality that is already taking root- witness windows vista, the intel core duo, the EFI in intel imacs, we recently took order of IBM thinkcentre servers and guess what? TCPA signatures in the root of the drive.

Anyone basing anything of value on legacy-encumbered, unportable systems is soon going to have to face a harsh reality! could YOU imagine a world without floppy drives? a world where operating systems in excess of ten gigabytes are freely available and distributable over a worldwide network of billions of diverse computing devices? These were mere dreams when I started programming on my 32 kilobytes strong BBC computer back in the late eighties, when I amused myself burying my nose in one-year-out-of-date copies of PC world, where men like John Dvorak predicted things that have come to pass almost a decade ago!

My friend, in the world of code and coding, it pays to think ahead, it pays to dream, to imagine. Because here where we are, dreams are made real. And the day that ends is the day I give up my lifelong fascination with the timeless poetry of code.

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@ topic

Yes, they are obsolete. It seems they still teach it in schools but I think lecturers should look more into C++, Java.

I wouldn't say Fortran is OO oriented although its got functions (which are like methods in java) that act seemingly so.

Fortran might be good for engineering, its got lots of maths functions (they say, I couldnt find them) .

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Wake up from your dream man ,  u seem to read too much junk and theory,  The real world is not as utopia as u wish it to be.

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key word: No longer supported.

They will soon run into issues of media incompatibility, parts scarcit,

Jesus! This was a discussion about fortran and cobol being obsolete! See how the thing done metamorphosize.

Funny enough, name-calling aside, it does indeed seem hat we are in agreement about quite a number of things.

So, lets round this up:

I guess it didn't make sense for your firm to rewrite the code for them, since you weren't being paid a sum commensurate to such a task. Indeed it would be impractical for you to do such. And, I reluctantly agree, lame, (tho I'm not so sure that what amounts to a huge act of charity qualifies as lame!). But it would not be lame and impractical for THEM to do so! In fact it would benefit them in the long run, ne?

Glad you agree that the world would be a better place, legacy free. And rest assured it will be! Although it is not the most wholesome of methods, the Trusted Computing Initiative will soon make sure of that. I assume the only holdout against this onslaught of DRM and 'managed' programming languages will be FOSS software, and they are focused on portability, which is also an opponent of obsolete legacy systems!

As Richard Stallman said, code should be allowed to die. Standards should be allowed to live. Ignoring these basic rules is what leads to the mess of obsolete, cuddy code mucking up our systems and giving us all a bad name.

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It was lame and impractical in our own case because the legacy system still does work perfectly even though it was no longer supported . Therefore the cost of a total redevelopment far outweighed simple maintaince that were carried out.

The world would definately be a better place if it was free of legacy code but in reality it definately would never be,  take it or leave it.

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Yeah, you are absolutely right

We have a consultant at the company I work for who makes obscene amounts, so huge I cannot mention them here writing ridiculously simple translation layers, wrappers, etc for some of our legacy systems, whenever we need to connect them to modern 'channels'.

He has succesfully reverse engineered a large, poorly supported system that we and a number of other companies in our line of business depend upon. Since he is the one and only person around who can do this, he can demand for whatever he wants and he is paid! I swear you will pass out if you hear what he makes.

We are currently in the process of putting an end to that and guess what? He is in a state of panic. All of a sudden it costs more to pay him, and less to simply replace the legacy system, hardware, infrastructure, everything! The new system will support open interfaces and will integrate better.

So, in summary, that the legacy languages (in this case it is RPG, the report generator, similar in construction to COBOL and ugly as hell) are relevant is absolutely true. However, the need to replace them with newer, more portable, more open systems is neither LAME nor IMPRACTICAL. And to demonstrate a preference for the legacy-free approach does not demonstrate IGNORANCE.

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Nobody is talking about rightousness here. The augument is that these langugues are still relevant to todays busnessis because there are lots of code laying around in this langugues. And i can tell you with a fact that companies pay huge for people that can help them maintain these systems if required.

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Thanks for proving my point!

Emulation is a performance-sucking kludge, and backwards compatibility is a sometimes neccesary evil, but evil nonetheless. Legacy free is good. That is the beauty of PORTABILITY.

My point: just because something is difficult to do doesn't mean that managing a second-rate solution is right.

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Ignorance is bliss, educate yourself here http://foldoc.org/?legacy+code

Big companies dont deliberately write code in these languages these days but they still do because they sometimes have to provide backward compatiblity.

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<<snip>> don't even know what a fourth generation language is.

Anyway, it's not just because it was written in a THIRD gen language or whatever.

It is written in a NONPORTABLE language.

Because big companies use crap doesn't make it right.

Afterall, Yahoo uses PHP, ne? And I agreed with you on another forum that php is a rather ugly language due to its weak typing.

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Majority of furtune 500 companies have legacy code writtin in your so called nonportable langugues driving there business. Even the US defence department and NASA have a lot of code writtin in Fortran, Lisp and smalltalk langugues

Nobody in his right senses would justify rewriting a perfectly working application just because it is writen in a Fourth generation language.

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Lame? impractical?

I suppose it would be impractical and/or lame from a consultants' point of view.

I imagine what you probably meant to say was 'rewriting legacy code would have been too much work- and why do ajayi work, afterall na my faddah own di bank?'

In summary: code lying around in a nonportable language is a bad thing. To rewrite it is neither lame nor impractical, but neccesary. Just say you would rather *you* didn't have to do it.

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Writing an application with about 1 million lines of code just because u want to provide new services for some new customers? oh pls, Thats not only lame its just not practical. The Fortran code works perfectly ok and there is no reason whatso ever to attempt a rewrite. The bridge code were just mere API'S to some underlying logic much where called via JNI from the java interface and considering that this code was called by JNI, it performed just as well as a Fortran code and much more faster than a similar java code.

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Why not just rewrite the legacy code?

I imagine this bridging solution will incure a serious performance hit.

Fortran should not be too difficult to translate to a new language? Its not like COBOL where entire programming concepts will have to be rethought- a fortran program should be quite easy to rewrite in any modern imperative language?

My Final year project depended almost entirely on programming concepts illustrated in fortran, which I implemented in VB. Wasn't hard at all- in fact the code looks so similar.

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The reason Walmart and the likes like various banks still use it is becasue of the need to support legacy code that was writtin in the 70's and 80's . I have been involved in a project like that We had a legacy Credit derivatives code written in fortran for an investment bank. They wanted to be able to provide new services for some high profile coustomers via web services. This was not possible to do in Fortran so what we did was that we developed a bridging code in fortran to a new application which was developed in Java . Clients still access the legacy code but through a web service interface developed in Java

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Thanx guys. Its just dat some are saying its ok to learn it while others are saying its not ok. Which ever sha i think its still ok 4 one to ve a little knowledge on fortran and COBOL too. I,m already into visual Basic programming. Still need your advice.

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Walmart uses COBOL?

what for?

I can't imagine pos systems being written in cobol? what do they use it for? do they still use dumb terminals and mainframes? how do they set them up in diff. stores?

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Yes people/company still use em. You will be surprise to hear that Walmart, Target and most of the big retail stores still use Cobol today.  Its one of the requirement for their in-house programmers. If you have the chance/time to learn fortran or cobol, do it. Thing is, be the best (or at least strive to be) in whatever comp language you are using or decide to use.

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