Business Plan and Convener's Report
JTC1/SC22/WG4 - Programming Language COBOL

July 25, 2002

Period Covered:

August 2001 - July 2002

Submitted by:

Ann Bennett
Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 22/WG 4
IBM J63/F34
555 Bailey Avenue
San Jose, CA 95141

1.    Management Summary

1.1    Scope

Development and maintenance of ISO/IEC standards related to programming language COBOL.

1.2    Project Report

1.2.1    Completed Projects

None in this period.

1.2.2    Projects Underway

22.01.07 Revision of ISO/IEC 1989:1985

The revised ISO/IEC 1989 is currently in FDIS ballot, which closes 09/04/02.

The revision provides major new features, including: cultural adaptability, large character set support, object orientation, exception handling, new data-types (bit, floating point, native binary), portable arithmetic, conditional compilation, user-defined functions, file sharing/record locking, and improved interoperability with other programming languages. Object finalization for programming language COBOL (Type 2 TR)

A concurrent registration and approval ballot for PDTR 19755 is in progress and closes 09/07/02.

1.2.3     Cancelled Projects


1.3    Cooperation and Competition

WG4 cooperates closely with INCITS COBOL Technical Committee J4, to whom SC22 has delegated the technical development and maintenance of COBOL.

WG4 has liaisons with the following groups:

There is no apparent direct competition with any other standards development organization.

2.    Period Review

2.1     Market Requirements

COBOL continues to be widely used for development and for enhancement and re-engineering of existing applications. Many factors drive the market for COBOL standardization:

  1. Technology advances and the resulting spread of computers to end users makes it mandatory that computer systems adapt to the languages of users. This gives rise to a need in COBOL for support of large character sets and cultural adaptibility. The current draft includes substantial support for large character sets and cultural adaptability, but additional requirements remain. These include special handling for UTF-16 and cultural date handling.

  2. The trend in the industry is to web-enable COBOL applications, with COBOL running on a server interacting with a non-COBOL user interface. This gives rise to the need for enhanced interoperability with other programming languages and system services. A variety of new datatypes, user-defined functions, and call enhancements are provided in the current draft to support interoperability. Additional datatype and interface requirements have been identified.

  3. Market pressure for new technology led COBOL vendors to cooperate on object-oriented design through the standardization process. Early implementations of the object-oriented features in the draft are now available and users are designing them into new applications. However, the lack of COBOL O-O class libraries, particularly for collection classes, is seen as hindering the use of object-oriented features in COBOL.

The current FDIS addresses many of the market requirements for COBOL, but not all of them. Continued evolution of the international standard for COBOL is essential to provide the benefits of new technolgies and new environments to COBOL users worldwide.

2.2     Achievements

2.3     Resources

WG4 meets as needed, usually once a year, and works by electronic correspondence between meetings. Experts from five "P" member countries participate in meetings: Germany, Japan, The Netherlands, the UK, and the USA. Two experts from "O" member New Zealand participated in the most-recent meeting.

Detailed technical development is delegated to INCITS J4. J4 has 9 members participating in detailed technical development - - 5 COBOL vendor organizations and 4 user or mixed vender/user organizations.

WG4 relies on WG20 as a resource in the areas of cultural adaptability and character handling. WG4 has made use of TR 10176 for specification of extended letters in programming language identifiers and of DTR 14652 for specification of uppercase to lowercase foldings for extended letters in identifiers.

3.     Focus Next Work Period

WG4 will focus on the following:

3.1     Deliverables

ISO/IEC 1989:2002 is expected before year-end 2002. A PDTR for Object finalization is planned for early 2003.

3.2     Strategies

WG4 relies on INCITS J4 to carry out the detailed technical work and to identify issues needing WG4 direction.

3.2.1     Risks

No risks are foreseen.

3.2.2     Opportunities

No opportunities have been identified beyond those noted in the Work Program Priorities.

3.3     Work Program Priorities

WG4 has the following priorities:

4.     Other Items

This section includes items that are part of the Converner's report, but not part of the Business Plan.

4.1     Convenership

I regret that I cannot continue to serve as convener of WG4 due to a change in my career path. I am certain that the U.S. will nominate an excellent replacement convener.

It has been my pleasure and honor to work with SC22 delegates, conveners, chairpersons, and secretariats and WG4 members these past years.

4.2     Action Requests at the Forthcoming Plenary


4.3     Schedule

Project 22.01.07, Revision of ISO 1989:

FDIS close

September 2002

Final text to ITTF October 2002 or sooner

Project, Type 2 Technical Report for Object finalization:

Concurrent registration and
first PDTR approval ballot end

September 2002

Second PDTR ballot start April 2003
DTR ballot start January 2004
Final text to ITTF June 2004

4.4     WG4 Meetings

4.4.1     Recent Meetings

5-8 November 2001, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA     (co-located with an INCITS J4 meeting)

4.4.2     Future Meetings

10-13 September 2002, Nara, Japan

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