Review: “A Guide to COBOL Programming” (and others) by Daniel D. McCracken

I just wanted to stick this quick note in with my other COBOL posts.

Whilst reading the recently published book “The History of the FORTRAN Programming Language”,  mention was made of McCracken’s book, “Digital Computer Programming” written in 1957. This was the first book on the subject.

Intrigued, I went looking for “Digital Computer Programming” and found a copy on ebay for a reasonable price. It can be found online here. It was quite an interesting book and illustrated how bare to the bones programming was. Assemblers were still extremely primitive.

I went on to track down his book on FORTRAN, “A Guide to FORTRAN Programming”. Again available on ebay for a reasonable price. While I never wrote much FORTRAN, this version of FORTRAN was extremely close to what I remember the ‘old’ programmers using at my first job. VERY primitive compared to the FORTRAN ’66 I had learned.

His book, “A Guide to COBOL Programming” was more difficult to find, though still reasonably priced. It ended up coming from the UK from a company that was reselling old UK library books.

This book was written in 1963 and was based on the 1961 COBOL standard. I found it quite interesting and was surprised at how close it already was to the 1966/1974 versions I spent many years programming in. Not to dis FORTRAN, but COBOL’61 was so much easier to read/write than those early versions of FORTRAN.

If you are interested in Computer History, I can recommend all of the books mentioned. They give a great insight into what programming was like in the early days.

I’m still trying to get 2 other McCracken Books: “A Guide to IBM 1401 Programming” and (being a big Pascal fan) “A Guide to Algol Programming”. I’ve yet to see the 1401 book anywhere. The only time I found the Algol book, the owner clearly knew its rarity and it was priced accordingly 😦


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