COBOL is one of the oldest programming languages and has been pronounced dead many times.

The abbreviation stands for COmmon Business Oriented Language and was primarily developed for finance, business and administration.

Still running in many banks, processing financial transactions in the background every day all over the world, I decided to teach myself some COBOL.

Yes, I know: It is not sexy, but it will pay and it is actually fun learning something pretty different from modern programming languages.

Since I am waiting for my new PC to be delivered and I am sometimes inpatient, I wanted to try some COBOL programming on my MacBook.

Knowing that COBOL is a very old language, I was prepared for some effort to get things going.

Surprisingly it was quite easy. Looking for something to train basics, I found GNU-COBOL.

GNU-COBOL is an open source implementation of a COBOL compiler available for MacOS.

In COBOL you can implement loops using either GO TO or PERFORM.

Since jump marks like GO TO  are notorious and considered bad coding practice, I will focus on PERFORM in this article.

Just be aware that you will find programmers using GO TO and yes, I do blame them for that no matter which programming language or how experienced they are.

GO TO should be abolished!


Programs use variables to store and process data at runtime.

This article gives a brief introduction to COBOL literals, constants and variables including some examples.

Variables are also referred to as Elementary Types.


Literals occur in the PROCEDURE DIVISION without being declared.

Strings like the text in the following code snippet are considered literals