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Many previous column about Cobol begat a firestorm of responses. Obviously, there are deep feelings -- both pro and con -- about that ancient programming language and the needs of the information systems domain.
One of the most frequent suggestions made by those who believe Cobol (or some other older, application-focused language) can be displaced by newer languages is the "language vs. library" argument; "Can't libraries of support routines make up for the lack of domain-focused language features?"
In my experience, in any discussion of the transition from old programming languages to new ones, that question inevitably arises. Particularly with respect to C ++ vs. Cobol, the question takes the more specific form: "Can't class libraries make up for the lack of such things as fixed-length string manipulation and file-handling capabilities?"
The obvious answer to the question is "Yes." Yes, one can accomplish the same thing with library routines that one can accomplish with language features. But that begs the deeper question: "Should one?"
Programming languages are, of course, tools to make problem solution as convenient and easy as possible. The trend among computer scientists in …