Introduction to Programming (COBOL) - CIS12

Welcome to the introduction to programming using the COBOL language. COBOL is a widely used structured language that will teach you the concepts of structured programming - the most widely used programming style on the market today. With this base, you will then move on to learn a more object-oriented language such as C++ or Visual Basic. (Incidentally, there is also an object-oriented version of COBOL that is being introduced).

If you are taking this as a Web based course it is extremely important that you either own a computer or have daily access to a computer. For students taking the course over the Web, the computer is your only source for information and the way you will communicate with the instructor. If you do not have a computer available and you are not comfortable working on the Web, you should be taking this course using the classroom option (see below).

History of COBOL:

Before I do anything else, I want to address the usefulness of COBOL. Several of you have heard the rumors that COBOL is dead! This is the same rumor that I heard when I first started programming in COBOL in 1966. In fact, COBOL is a stable language that is used by many companies when the code needs to be reliable - it has a solid reputation.

For more than thirty years, it has been fashionable among certain information technology professional circles to proclaim the imminent demise of the COBOL language. According to the fad of the time, COBOL was soon to be replaced at one time or another by ALGOL, PL-I, Pascal, and Ada among others. All of them have become niche languages while COBOL continues to thrive.

The inconvenient fact for those who predict its demise is that COBOL is still the most widely used business programming language. There are more business programs written in COBOL than all other business programming languages combined and there is more new code written in COBOL each year than in any other business programming language. COBOL has continued to thrive through the decades because it is not, to paraphrase a certain automobile commercial, "your fathers COBOL." The COBOL language standard has been and continues to be updated to incorporate the latest programming technologies the latest of which are the specifications for object oriented COBOL and Internet connectivity.

In addition, given the huge financial investment businesses have in COBOL programs, its continued wide spread use and the concerted and successful effort to keep it current with the latest programming technologies, COBOL will be with us for along time to come. An in depth knowledge of COBOL will continue to provide our students with many programming job opportunities. Some of our programming students end up programming in COBOL, others end up programming in other languages we teach and some end up learning a new language based on the variety of programming languages they learned at BCC.

The Web site:

The Web site that you are currently visiting will contain all information for this course. It is a resource for students in the classroom and the method of delivery for students taking the course over the Web. The class notes and sample programs will all posted at the site as well as the assignments. There is a week by week schedule to help the student keep understand what is required and keep on schedule. I usually update the site four or five times a week, so be sure to check it on a regular basis. Note: Assignments will not be handed out in class, they are available on the Web.

The site for CIS12 also has a bulletin board or board room where I can post information that is important and you can post information or questions. Other students can respond to your postings as well as myself. There is also a chat room. We will set up a specific time when students can gather for conversation about any aspect of the course if there is a demand for it. Please note that hackers/spammers/whatever have found the boardroom. I will make every attempt to keep it clean, but unfortunately there has been an instance where the SexHacker left a message. Please let me know if inappropriate messages appear at the site.

On the second page of the Web site, there is a link called Postings/Notes. Here I will post all information that is important to students taking all of my courses. For example, if I cancel classes, I will try my best to post it there.

 I have moved my web site to a new domain address. If you find something that does not connect, please let me know about the bad link so I can correct it. Hopefully everything will go smoothly, but perfection I do not expect!

The way this course works:

Students taking this course have three options:

  1. They may choose to take it as a traditional classroom/lecture course and attend all or at least most classes
  2. They may take the class entirely over the Web meaning that they will get notes and sample programs over the Web and they will communicate with me mainly through the board room for general interest questions and e-mail for specific questions.
  3. Students can blend the two approaches described above. If they have questions about the material, if they are confused about a specific topic, or if they just feel like attending class they are welcome to do so. If it is inconvenient to attend class or they feel that they understand the material and don't need the classroom activity, they can work through the Web site.

The information posted on the Web site will be the primary material in this course. Students can buy the recommended textbook or they can use the material at the site as their primary text. If you buy the recommended textbook, understand that is for reference purposes - to give you another source for information. The course will follow the material covered in the Web notes and examples. All exam questions will be from these notes and examples or information covered in assignments or postings.

If students have a home computer or access to a computer at work, they should plan to buy a home compiler for use in writing and running their COBOL programs. Students who do not have a home computer must schedule a significant amount of time in the K-Building computer labs. Lab assistants, knowledgeable in COBOL and Web use, are available to help you get started. Information about the MicroFocus compiler is available at the site. Other compilers are also available on the Web for download and purchase, but MicroFocus by Merant is the compiler used in the labs and will give you the most compatibility for problem solving.


All students taking the course must have an email address. If you don't have one currently you can get a free address from the college by going to administrative computing in the middle of the first floor in K-Building. Go up the ramp and ask for the information on an email address. As soon as you have an email address send me an email so I can put you into my system.

There are also sources for free e-mail on the Web. Juno, Hotmail and NetZero are two examples of free e-mail.

Students taking the course over the Web must communicate with me at least once a week via e-mail just to let me know they are still there!

For everyone in the class: If you miss more than two classes in a row, please send me an e-mail letting me know that you to still exist!

For in class students, assignments should be turned in two class days after they are given. For Web students, assignments should be turned in the same or follow week. If an assignment is posted on a given week, it must be turned in by Friday of the following week or the assignment is late. The highest grade you can get on a late assignment is a B+. Programs will have a specified due date that should be met. If a program is more than a week late then the highest grade it can earn is a B+. Note: Some assignments have a choice for an A, a choice for a B etc. If these assignments are late, the assignment will drop a grade. I accept late work, but the penalities explained above apply! The problem is that there is a lot of work and if you get behind you risk completing the course. In addition, 10% of your grade is based on participation, quality of work, getting things in on time etc., so chronic lateness will affect your grade in this way as well.

Web students should send me assignments via email. In most cases, in class students should pass in assignments via email as well. They can also hand in assignments at the end of class or put them under my door or in my mailbox. By mid-semester, I would like all assignments passed in via email. Students should pass in only one assignment per email. The course name of CIS12, your name and the assignment name should be on the subject line. If you have questions or need help, send a separate email with CIS12, your name and either the word question or help in the subject. I respond first to those emails and file the assignments to be corrected when I have accumulated a group. On most assignments, if you get a bad grade you can either resubmit or do a make-up. If I have heavily corrected the assignment and the answers are there, needless to say you cannot resubmit. Make-up assignments will be posted on request, if appropriate.


If you need help, see me or email me and we will figure out the best response. Better to see as soon as you see signs of a problem! You can send me drafts of assignments with particular questions over e-mail and I will respond as soon as possible. With rare exception I check my Web site every day and on days when I am not at BCC, I usually check it multiple times (that means Wednesday and over the weekend). I am willing to set up review sessions or question and answer sessions for in class students, Web students or both. Questions and answers can also be done in the chat room.