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Jenna Phipps
Last Updated May 24, 2021 8:04 am

COMTRAN stands for Commercial Translator and is one of the earliest programming languages. COMTRAN was developed at IBM in 1957 and was the predecessor to COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language). As an early computer language, COMTRAN could perform basic business programming operations, such as financial and human resources tasks.


COMTRAN was developed at the same time as FORTRAN, an algebraic language also designed at IBM in the 1950s. FORTRAN and COBOL have lasted longer in business technology than COMTRAN; both are still in use. Some enterprises that have legacy systems use COBOL, which was also designed to compute highly accurate business data.


One highlight of COMTRAN was the PICTURE clause, a character string that contains information about an elementary item in the program. PICTURE clauses are permitted up to 90 characters and can use specified symbol and character combinations. They aren’t intended for indexed items in the language. COBOL also uses the PICTURE clause, a feature passed down from COMTRAN.