Paul Klint with "Cobol, 4GL, DSL and Beyond"


Cobol has a prominent position in the history and development of programming languages and is still very relevant today. In this presentation we follow the evolutionary development of the business applications that originated with Cobol. Cobol's perceived verbosity and lack of productivity  triggered new technologies like 4GL languages that were supposed to replace Cobol. With limited success. In more recent times, domain-specific languages (DSLs) and low code platforms are competing, once more, to replace Cobol. How do they compare and what are their relative advantages and disadvantages? Is there a chance that they will be more successful than 4GLs? I will sketch a strategy to capture essential business knowledge in DSLs and to incrementally introduce them in a legacy technology landscape.


Paul Klint, software engineer, is a Research Fellow at Centrum Wiskunde & Informatica (CWI) and Professor Emeritus of the University of Amsterdam. He was founder and first president of the European Association for Programming Languages and Systems (EAPLS), initiator of various international partnerships, and co-founder of the Software Improvement Group (which he is no longer involved in). In addition, he has advised many companies and governments nationally and internationally. Since its inception and until 2023, he has been a member of Adviescollege ICT Toetsing (AcICT, Currently, he is committed to two start-ups: (development of domain-specific languages, analysis and transformation of software, and SolidSands (validation of C compilers,  His research interest include meta-programming, software evolution and DSLs. Klint is co-designer of and core contributor to the Rascal meta-programming language (