The Null Device

Java as the COBOL of today?

Having recently acquired the Java language, Oracle are looking for a way to make it hip and exciting again and attract youthful, cutting-edge developers (they're the ones with the brightly dyed hair and facial piercings). However, that may be a big ask:
Java has evolved from a groundbreaking, revolutionary language platform to something closer to a modern-day version of Cobol. In just 15 years, it has moved beyond maturity into a silver-haired stage of staid dependability. Java offers stability, not agility; reliability, not innovation. It's the language of large, enterprise software projects, ones that link legacy systems and promise high availability.
Other than being the corporate enterprise standard, Java is also a rather conservative language, a C++ with training wheels designed to equalise the playing field by slowing the virtuoso coder down to what his pointy-haired manager can understand, and not encouraging dangerous agility as, say, Python and Ruby do. It being owned by Oracle probably doesn't help either.

There are 4 comments on "Java as the COBOL of today?":

Posted by: Greg Mon Apr 5 05:51:55 2010

I think it's funny, or something, that the language's new owners think in terms of an "image problem", and view their language's popularity among "people with piercings" as a sign of its vitality. It sounds like a real-estate investor eyeing off ungentrified suburbs for signs of hipness. I was amused to see there is a new programming language called "Groovy". The name "Java" was designed to make programmers think of good coffee. I'd suggest they rename it to "Piercings", except that's so 90s. Maybe a self-optimizing language called "AutoTune"?

Posted by: acb Mon Apr 5 11:52:31 2010

The name Java was probably invented by a hacker, with the connotations of "Caffeine! Awesome!" that are part and parcel of the hacker culture. Somewhere along the way it ossified into the enterprise standard it is now.

As for "groovy", that's 1960s-vintage slang, and only used referentially or ironically these days. Which does nothing to dispel the idea that Java belongs to staid, nostalgic fiftysomethings with one eye on their retirement funds and stock portfolios.

As far as more current "hip" technology names go, Facebook has a PHP->C compilation layer named HipHop.

Posted by: TLC Mon Apr 12 16:33:42 2010

COBOL is a purpose-driven language that still has a purpose... and that purpose still has never been matched. When you need to process vast volumes of information which concerns "dollars and cents," AND to maintain precise control over exactly how that data is processed every step of the way WITHOUT compromising throughput, COBOL is still a tool-of-choice even for new development.

By comparison, Java is no better than PL/1; no better than Ada. Both were "designed by committee," as COBOL of course was, but those committees plainly felt that they could be as sloppy as they wanted to. They built languages so extravagantly complicated that, if you DID need to generate systems that were "simultaneously ultra-high performance AND precise," you just couldn't do it.

Sometimes you need "a smart logistics system," and sometimes you've got a mountain of coal over here that needs to be way-over-there yesterday. For that, you need a freight train. COBOL is that. And it won't drop a single lump of that coal.

Posted by: unixdj Mon Apr 12 23:20:44 2010

> Its stuffy, old-fashioned syntax has been criticized for requiring too much "boilerplate" code, which aids manageability but hinders rapid application development.

I wonder how exactly boilerplate code aids manageability.

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