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Jerry Garfunkel
While attending hundreds of ANSI, ISO, CODASYL, PLSG, SPARC, WG4, CEG, ECMA, SMTG, OOC, WG11, WG10, X3J4, SC22, X3 committee meetings around the world,  I found myself "doodling" a lot.  Mixed in with my meeting, conference and panel notes over 20 + years, are hundreds of pages that look like this.
 
Colleague Don Nelson - the Godfather of COBOL - created masterpieces of doodling art at each meeting.  I wonder if (and hope) Don saved his "doodles."  Don went to Stamford University and lived his adult life in the Bay area around Palo Alto. Micro Focus, my client and employer for many years were headquartered in Palo Alto. So the Bay area became a frequent destination for me. I befriended Don and his wife Lee and spent many nice dinners around the world with both of them.
One of the notable periods in COBOL's history was the attempt to stop the evolution of COBOL in the early 1980's.  (Notice I referenced the 1980's rather than the '80s.) Led by Joseph Brophy of Travelers Insurance, a campaign was launched by a coalition of business leaders to challenge the purpose and the legality of issuing an updated version of the ANSI standard COBOL  - ANSI COBOL 85, the successor to ANSI standard COBOL 74.  So much happened in the application development community in the decade between COBOL 74 and COBOL 85,  primarily structured systems design and program development. The more that COBOL 85 was delayed, the quicker it was becoming irrelevant to programming methods and procedures in the commercial application development community. Excaserbating this problem, COBOL 85 had been "frozen" in new content in 1979. That is all the new technology in COBOL 85 could have been available in compilers ny 1980.  The challenge to the next COBOL standard caused a 5 year delay in introducing the new features of COBOL 85.  Most of these new features facilitated structured programming techniques

Like my friend John Piggott who felt pride in contributing to the COMMON GOOD some of the "giant steps" that COBOL took in its earliest years of development came from the manufacturers "donating" other proprietary development tools, i.e. Flowmatic, and all the official attributions printed in front of all CODASYL standing documents.
In some sense this spirit of "the common good" has waned over the years as a result of a more competitive business community. More specifically, over the last 2 and a half decades (it being 2005 presently), the competitive playing field has narrowed in scope an now has only one, simple, easy-to-measure criteria to measure success - the bottom line. He who returns the most on an investment wins - simple. It became less relevant how you accomplished this task and more important that you maximized r.o.i. for your stakeholders. As a result many other priorities (mostly social) have been put aside.  These other priorities represent counter forces to the most (only?) important measure of success - the bottom line.This requires a paradigm shift.

Don Schricker, another outstanding scholar in the COBOL community, is the current (and longtime) chairperson of the (ANSI) NSITS X3J4 Committee.  He took over the chairmanship of X3J4 from Don Warren of Wang. Don Schricker has been involved in the COBOL standards community for  as long as I have been. We joined the CODASYL COBOL Committee (CCC) within two months of each other in 1979.  When I first met Don, he lived in Minnesota and represented NCR on the CCC.  Later, Don moved his family to San Diego and later to New Hampshire (metropolitan Boston) where he worked for Wang. He later joined Micro Focus, Ltd where he and I were colleagues for some years.   Don continues to represent Micro Focus and to chair X3J4.  He now resides in Las Vegas, Nevada.  It takes an extraordinary amount of talent (technical and political) to steer the COBOL language development effort through its course . Don has made it look easy for many years.


Approximately two months of speaking and committee engagements.
I've met so many good friends in so many good places and have had so many good times, as a by-product of my COBOL committee participation (IT Standards). Some of these business associates became life long personal friends. Professor John Triance, formerly of UMIST and Micro Focus, is one of those friends. I first met John at a CODASYL COBOL Committee meeting in Manchester UK in 1980. We became good friends quickly and have remained so for twenty-five years. We've watched each others' family grow up.  John and his wife Doreen have visited me in America many times; I have been their guests in Birkshire, frequently.
Wim Ebbinkhuijsen, has been the leader of the Dutch COBOL delegation to the International COBOL Committee (ISO/SC22/WG4) for many years. His name appears in all of my  notes from the International COBOL Committee meetings over the years around the globe. Wim and I met in Vienna Austria in 1984. We quickly became good friend sand remain so today. I have spent many wonderful hours, days and weeks with Wim (and his family). Wim joined my family in 1991 in Austria to celebrate my mother's 80th birthday.  We have had some great adventures together. Wim still is one of the most active international members of the COBOL committee and well respected by his peers.
At the Vienna meeting of ISO SC22/WG4 COBOL committee, in 1984, I left the committee room late one morning along with the Dutch representative (Wim Ebbinkhuijsen) and the French representative (George Lewin).  We went across the street to a neighborhood pub. Over lunch I wrote a draft proposal for the Amendment process that I had proposed to the American COBOL Committee sometime earlier. It went nowhere in the American Committee.  The Amendment process allowed us to update the COBOL language more often in shorter cycles and generate less incompatibility issues. The proposal had the support of all the non-American delegations. Only my own American delegation opposed it. As a result of that meeting, I was tagged as a "rebel" within the American delegation, a label I wore with no shame within the  American IT Standards community (ANSI X3). I was beholding to nobody except the imaginary constituency I felt I represented - COBOL application programmers.

Other wonderful memories with Wim (Ebbinkhuijsen):
> walking along the beach in Nice, photos of friends
> Vienna squares and bridges in the evening - and the opera
> straw votes with real straws in London (a little "blitzed")
> the "coup" in 1984/85 when WG4 took control of COBOL and forced COBOL 85 publication
> the wonderful women we have both met

I always admired the IBM representatives at the various COBOL committee meetings because they generally were the target of many personal challenges. Some thought that simply because IBM was IBM  gave IBM an extra responsibility of defending its king-of-the-hill position. 
It demanded an extraordinary amount of diplomacy, patience and technical expertise to rise to the occasion.  Marilyn Sander was just such a COBOL expert. She had everyone's respect on the committee.  She also had a good sense of humor - perhaps a requirement. She was always an excellent IBM technical ambassador, whom I thought was under-appreciated within her organization.

CCC = The Codasyl COBOL Committee  •   NCITS (ANSI) X3J4   = The American COBOL Committee  • ISO WG4 = International COBOL Committee
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This page was last updated January 7, 2006

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