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

July 23, 2004

Period Covered:

August 2003 July 2004

Submitted by:

Don Schricker
Convenor, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 22/WG 4
4012 Nancy Margarite Lane
Las Vegas, NV 89130

1.    Management Summary

1.1    JTC 1/SC22 WG4 Statement of Scope

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

1.2    Project Report

1.2.1    Completed Projects

22.01.07 Revision of ISO/IEC 1989:1985

This document was published in 2002.

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)

This TR was published in 2003.

1.2.2    Projects Underway

22.01.08 Native COBOL syntax for XML support (Type 2 TR)

The pdTR will be submitted for review this winter.

22.01.09 COBOL collection classes (Type 2 TR)

The pdTR will be submitted for review this winter.

1.2.3     Projects Withdrawn


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.

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. 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 XML support in the COBOL language.
  2. Market pressure for new technology led COBOL vendors to cooperate on object-oriented design through the standardization process. Implementations of the object-oriented features 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.
  3. The dynamic nature of data processing today has given rise to the need for variable length data items and variable length tables. These will be addressed in the next revision.

Continued evolution of the international standard for COBOL is essential to provide the benefits of new technologies and new environments to COBOL users worldwide.

2.2     Achievements

  • Approval of the New Work Item for a TR on Native COBOL syntax for XML support and development of a pdTR
  • Approval of the New Work Item for a TR on COBOL collection classes and development of a pdTR
  • Drafted TC1 for the 2002 standard
  • Processed defect reports and drafted RoR 1
  • Completed design work on the major features for the next revision

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. China and Ukraine have expressed an interest in participating in the new work of WG4.

Detailed technical development is delegated to INCITS J4. J4 has 6 members participating in detailed technical development - - 4 COBOL vendor organizations and 2 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 folding for extended letters in identifiers.

3.     Focus Next Work Period

WG4 will focus on the following:

  • Defect processing for ISO/IEC 1989:2002, including publishing of two Technical Corrigenda
  • Developing Technical Reports: one for collection classes and one for XML support
  • Developing a future revision of ISO/IEC 1989. This report requests a subdivision of the work item for a revision to be published in 2008.

3.1     Deliverables

A PDTR for collection classes and a PDTR for XML support

If the request for a subdivision of the work item is approved, a WD for the revision

TC1 and RoR1 for the 2002 COBOL standard, and possibly TC2 and RoR2 as well

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:

  • Development of a TR for XML support
  • Development of a TR for collection classes
  • Processing of defect reports for the revised standard and correction of defects by technical corrigenda
  • Development of a future revision

4.     Administrative Information

4.1 WG4 liaisons

WG4 has liaisons with the following groups:

  • SC22/WG20 - Don Schricker
  • SC22/WG11 Rod Grealish

4.2     WG4 Meetings

4.2.1     Recent Meetings

10-13 September 2002, Nara, Japan

26-28 June 2003, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA    

4.4.2     Future Meetings

18-21 October 2004, The Hague, The Netherlands

5.     SC22 Plenary Actions Related to WG4

Subdivide the work item to create a revision of the COBOL standard with the following schedule:


Concurrent registration and WD approval ballot start

July 2005

CD ballot start

November 2006

FDIS ballot start

April 2008

Final text to ITTF

December 2008




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