FORTRAN was developed first, gained traction first and fits a completely different use case than COBOL. The reason COBOL retained such dominance in the 70ties up into the 80ties is that there was a divide between academic CS research (where languages like ALGO, Lisp and C became popular) and the business world that COBOL was designed to serve the needs of. To put it simply: they were different groups of programmers with different needs who did not see the overlap for a long time because they were siloed from each other. This divide still exists to a lesser degree today: it’s why Excel has basically become a runtime environment and programmers from academia struggle to ship production ready code.

Author of Kill It with Fire Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones)

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