December 8, 2020 is a date that will live in … the hearts of the Cobol free software community? It marked the arrival, at long last, of GnuCOBOL 3.1.1
It wasn’t easy.
Two years ago, the GnuCOBOL project was chugging along. Extensive work on the Report Writer feature was in its own Subversion branch with over 100 commits awaiting merge into the main branch. It wasn’t clear when everything could be merged and made available as a new release. It wasn’t even clear how.
Besides that, documentation was lagging. The homepage was in need of a facelift from its Geocities-era vibe. And the official release was 2.2, from 2017.
Over here at COBOLworx, which wasn’t COBOLworx yet, we were hard at work on other stuff. We realized we could give the project a boost. The project maintainer, Simon Sobisch, graciously handed us the keys, er, reins, or, well, a shovel, whatever. And we set to work
It was not all our doing. Not even close, just check the commit log. But we did clean out the stables, and throw on a fresh coat of paint. We hope you’ll find the new home page and online Programmer’s Guide easier on the eye, and more convenient to use.
Not content with nicer colors and cleaner links, we also thought, oh, why not do the impossible? Why not bring source-level debugging to the world of free Cobol compilers? Thus was born GnuCOBOL Debugging Extensions, affectionately known as cobcd. It works old-school and new-school: on the GNU gdb command line, and with Microsoft’s VSCode IDE, and now with restrictive licensing removed in, VSCodium. Because what 21st century programmer in one of the original Dinosaur languages doesn’t want a tool with Latin-sounding name? (You can use it in Emacs, too, if that’s how you roll.)
Unlike the Romans, neither we nor the project will rest on our laurels, not least because, to be honest, no one presented us with any laurels. But we are, really, really glad 3.1.1 saw the light of day in this Year of the Infinite Wednesday. And we, along with everyone else, no doubt, look forward more and better in 2021.