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Literary criticism meets COBOL

Cobol Anecdotes
  • Friday, 05 July 2013, 22:37 @ CEST
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A team of American scholars have performed a detailed computer analysis and they confirm that the language COBOL was invented by William Shakespeare (and not by Bacon, Elizabeth I, Walter Raleigh, Marlowe, Ben Johnson, or Don Knuth.) Taking a large sample of known COBOL programs, and works by the above authors, they performed a detailed analysis and confirm that COBOL matched the Shakespearean style almost perfectly. It also enabled them to identify various other works as COBOL programs which were previously thought to be poetry. For example the following is now known to be a genuine COBOL program.

"Let us ADD our INCOME to our CAPITAL, as the squirrel adds to its autumn horde. Aye, there's the SUM that makes a TOTAL WEALTH. 3000 DUCATS? Is this an EXPENDITURE I see before me?
Marry 'tis best 'twere TAKEN AWAY, like as the magpie taketh away the jewel of great price. But hist! Here cometh the INTEREST, and 'tis of no mean interest, i' faith! I had lief ADD a percentage of this, than clasp my fair Rosalind's spleen."

Scholars have occasionally suspected that COBOL programs are supposed to have a 'hidden agenda', rather than being straight works of art in themselves. One bizarre theory is that they may contain numerical calculations embedded in them -- indeed some scholars claimed that a Baconian cipher was involved. This seems implausible however.

Analysis of FORTRAN programs is next on the list -- can 'Into the Valley of Death GOTO 600' really be by Alfred Lord Tennyson, or is just a pastiche of his style? Nobody knows for sure.

On the other hand, scholars are fairly sure than the C language was devised by James Joyce -- mainly because, like Joyce, most of it is totally unreadable.

Taken from, authored by Jonathan R. Partington.

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