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COBOL: Optimised and Maintainable Application Programming [Paperback]

Andrew Robert Chapman
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

27 April 2007
The on-line systems failed to meet their start deadline by hours and resulted in the loss of valuable trade and a tarnished reputation, despite the efforts of costly damage control instigated by customer relations. The cause of the problem was the addition of a new application, which had monopolized the hardware resources during the nightly batch run. Even now more money was being spent upgrading the CPUs and hard disk devices, so that the catastrophe wouldn't recur.

The situation could describe any company, anywhere, any when, and any application. Blinkered management and ill-informed specialists still pontificate, that a programmer's time is their most expensive resource and that programs should be written to work, and not to work efficiently.

This book dismantles these traditional ideas and demonstrates how highly efficient and maintainable COBOL Applications can be written, and includes many examples of SECTION and program optimizing as well as discourses into VSAM, JES2 JCL and online programming.

Product details

  • Paperback: 364 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (27 April 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 059543259X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0595432592
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 20.6 x 27.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,205,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

Product Description

From the Author

A typical computer‘s power normally grows in direct relation to
the software it has to process. The equation is quite simple and holds for
PCs and mainframes alike; the more applications, or more complex a program
a computer has to run, the more time the operating system and hardware
requires to complete the task. As commercial software systems have to
complete their work within strict time windows, a resultant increase in
execution time is invariably combated by the purchase of additional
hardware. Whether main memory, CPUs or disk drives, hardware is notoriously
expensive for mainframe computers and still not bubble-gum cheap for home
computer users.
But the above equation doesn’t quite paint the whole picture, because
the majority of software systems are, unfortunately, inefficiently written
and implemented, and it is this inefficiency that results in the need to
upgrade system hardware. Occasionally efficient software systems are
written in modern languages but an efficient COBOL program is a very rare
sight indeed, and yet high performance COBOL programs can easily be
It is, however, an unfortunate fact that the majority of commercial COBOL
programmers do not code for speed and efficiency, and that even less could
code a structured, high-performance program, even if given enough time. If
this were otherwise, then the typical growth rate of mainframe hardware
would be dramatically reduced, as would the resultant upgrade costs for the
companies. This deficiency in a typical programmer‘s skills palette
is a direct result of the way the language has been, and indeed is being,
It is a tragic testimony when I say I have only attended a single computer
course where the example COBOL code could be considered structured. It
appears that COBOL is a hand-me-down language, that has been handed down
from the programming dawn of time. COBOL optimisation, efficiency and even
structured coding were not high on the list of priorities in the pioneering
days and the impact is still being felt today. With the advance of time and
introduction of “modern“, “exciting“, languages I
am now led to believe that it is next to impossible to find a University
even offering a COBOL course! Whether true or not, special training courses
in efficient COBOL programming are few and far between and the majority of
performance conscious programmers tend to be, like myself, self-taught.

COBOL systems are still extant world-wide in thousands of large
commercial systems, where the mass processing of large amounts of data is a
business necessity. These systems, constructed over hundreds of man years,
by armies of programmers, still form the core of business electronic data
processing needs and are being cared for by an ever dwindling precious
resource - the COBOL programmer.

COBOL programmers have over the years become rare birds and good COBOL
programmers even rarer. The language has struggled to keep pace with its
glamorous competitors that are associated with all the alluring marketing
buzz words. Combine, for example, the word COBOL with game, AI or real-time
control for a never before heard of phrase. Even when united with GUI and
INTERNET a surreal image is conjured up in the mind. Thus a situation has
arisen, where companies are content with programmers that can literally
spell COBOL and are happy with staff who concentrate all their effort on
developing correct source - programs that produce, as far as is humanly
possible, the desired result, regardless of subsequent performance and
hardware costs.
Furthermore, constant technological optimisations advancing the speed of
modern hardware masks to a great extent coding inefficiencies. Typical test
installations normally offer programmers a limited selection of data with
which to test programs. Test data that hardly tests functionality to any
great extent cannot be used to gauge a programs ultimate performance. Often
then, it is only when the program is placed into production that the true
system throughput becomes known but optimisation, unless the performance of
a new application is truly miserable, is normally given low to zero
The writing of correct COBOL programs that execute quickly using minimal
resources is never a business priority, such sensitive tasks being assigned
to the realm of the assembler language gurus. Which is a great pity, as the
writing of high-performance, structured COBOL takes no more time and can
lead to massive reductions in the run-time costs.

In order to produce an optimised COBOL system it is not enough that a
programmer write a suite of optimised COBOL programs, although this can
constitute the majority of the work. A system is normally comprised of many
components, file and database design, even JCL's should all fall under a
good programmers knowledge base, and form the basis of the interface with
database administrators and system programmers, that allows an optimised
system to be crafted. As a result, this book also discusses those ancillary
areas of a system that complete the performance optimisation of a COBOL

There are many good books available, for those who wish to delve
deeper into the technical side of these subjects alighted on in this book.
This book was not designed to be an in depth technical manual for all the
systems available to a programmer, but rather a technical reference book
for an application programmer, arming them with enough information to
enable them to produce wildly fast, highly efficient and maintenance
friendly COBOL systems.

From the Inside Flap

This book is intended as a technical reference supplement
for commercial COBOL software developers and maintenance programmers who
wish to increase their program's execution time performance and system
throughput while at the same time decreasing program maintenance times. A
good working knowledge, not only of COBOL, but also of computing
terminology and methods is assumed in this book and correct implementation
of the techniques described in this work will result in the production of
faster executing and at the same time more readable and maintainable code.

Most of the examples used in this book were developed in IBM VS COBOL
II for OS/390 MVS. The rest were coded in Microfocus‘ COBOL for MS
DOS. Nevertheless, all the coding examples lend themselves readily for
simple conversion to other systems. The majority of example code used in
this book is taken from sites I have coded for in Germany during the last
ten years. As a result, many of the code comments are in German - or at
least my interpretation of the language. However, this should present
little hindrance to an experienced coder, fluent only in COBOL and

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating 10 Mar 2008
I stumbled across this book whilst searching for a COBOL reference book to help me get back into COBOL programming after several years away from the language.From amongst all the books I bought, and despite its low purchase price, this book has proven itself to be a most excellent buy. Starting with a language reference section, the book moves on to discuss a structured program design, whilst still retaining its emphasis on program efficiency.Later chapters of the book contain an absolute treasure chest of sub-programs, optimising examples, and technical discussions on all areas of commercial COBOL application programming, including indexed file usage, on-line programming and JES (this chapter alone imparting more information than most specialised books on the matter!). I was actually even able to implement one of the included utility programs for my latest assignment, which reduced the application's run-time from thirty minutes to under five, and helped give me a good start and reputation in my new job.I couldn't recommend this work to a novice programmer, its target audience is most definitely a programmer with COBOL experience, and in this respect the book is a veritable goldmine of practical solutions, ideas and information. But I certainly recommend buying the accompanying CD, which not only contains a wealth of code and applications, but also a PDF version of the book, with which one can electronically search for text and keywords.
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