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INCITS Approves Revised ISO/IEC COBOL Standard as an American National Standard

Contact: Maryann Karinch
Karinch Communications

INCITS Approves Revised ISO/IEC COBOL Standard as an American National Standard

Washington, D.C. April 21, 2003 - In support of the large number of enterprises that continue to rely on COBOL, the InterNational Committee for Information Technology Standards has approved as an American National Standards an updated version of the COBOL standard (ISO/IEC 1989:2002 - Information technology - Programming languages COBOL).

"The new standard makes COBOL a first class player in the object-oriented world," said Don Schricker, chairman of INCITS/J4 and convener of SC22/WG4. "It improves interoperability, international character set handling, and data validation, while greatly enhancing COBOL's traditional strength of file handling through the addition of file sharing and record locking."

This edition of the international standard introduces the following significant technical enhancements:

  • features for object-oriented programming
  • additional features for detection and reporting of exceptions
  • a Boolean data type for bit handling and Boolean operations
  • native binary and floating-point data types
  • a national character data type for processing multiple-octet coded character sets
  • cultural adaptability, multilingual features, and tailoring for a given local language or culture
  • increased portability of arithmetic
  • free-form source and library text
  • compiler directives for portable specification of processing options
  • conditional compilation
  • an enhanced report writer
  • features for data validation
  • several enhancements to the CALL statement, including recursion
  • improved interoperability with other programming languages
  • user-defined functions
  • a screen handling facility
  • file sharing and record locking
  • support for ISO/IEC 10646-1 and ISO/IEC 10646-2 for data interchange

"Replacement costs for COBOL systems have been estimated at $25 per line," Schricker continued. "With between 180 billion and 200 billion lines of COBOL code in use worldwide, that means that replacement costs would be in the hundreds of billions of dollars, so we consider this standard a very important service to commerce and government."

INCITS ( is the primary U.S. focus of standardization in the field of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) encompassing storage, processing, transfer, display, management, organization, and retrieval of information. As such, INCITS also serves as the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) Technical Advisory Group for ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee 1. JTC 1 is responsible for International standardization in the field of information technology. INCITS is accredited by ANSI and operates under its rules, designed to ensure that voluntary standards are developed by the consensus of directly and materially affected interests.

INCITS Executive Board of supplier and customer members includes Apple Computer, Center for Global Standards Analysis, CRC Enterprises, Data Interchange Standards Association (DISA), DDC-I, EIA, Farance Inc., Food Marketing Institute (FMI), Hewlett-Packard, IBM, ICCP, IEEE, Intel, Microsoft, Network Appliance, NIST, Office of the Secretary Defense /S&T/ JEOD KTOD ACTD, Oracle, Panasonic, Purdue University, Sony Electronics, Sun Microsystems, the Uniform Code Council, and Unisys.