The Hard Lessons of the Sixties:
From Exuberance to the Realities of
COBOL and the IBM 360 Project
FORTRAN HAD ALSO IMPRESSED THE IBM CUSTOMERS who saw it in 1957, and that got the attention of IBM's senior executives. Suddenly they saw this programming project, long regarded almost as an indulgence, in a very different light. Whatever this FORTRAN stuff was, it seemed to work, and customers were excited by the prospect that it would help them overcome their programming headaches. This, IBM's management understood, was a competitive advantage. FORTRAN could help IBM sell more computers. Not everyone at IBM was enthusiastic, as Frances Allen, who had joined the company in July 1957 at the age of 24, would soon learn. Her first assignment was to teach FORTRAN to the company's programmers, and it was hard duty. "There was tremendous resistance within IBM," Allen recalled. "The programmers were convinced that no higher-level language could possibly do as good a job as they could in assembly."
Over the years, the most widely-used programming languages have shared two characteristics: each has addressed a specific need in the industry at a particular time, and each made an effort to be relatively easy to learn. As the number of programmers has grown, the biggest cost in time and money associated with the adoption of a new programming language is the training cost - what