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Communications of the ACM

Communications of the ACM

The COBOL sorting verb

The COBOL-61 specifications have recently been augmented with a number of extensions, one of which is a SORT verb. COBOL was designed initially for use in the processing of data-files stored on serially-accessed input-output devices. In applications of this general type of processing, the sorting of data files is frequently found to be necessary. Furthermore, it is often convenient and economical to carry out other operations at the same time, such as pre-editing or pre-selection of data records as they enter the sorting process, or editing, merging, or report preparation as the records emerge from the sort. It is a great convenience to the user to be able to express all of these operations in the same procedural language that he is using for his other data-processing applications, instead of having to use a sorting system in which first pass and last pass own coding must be expressed in some other language. Furthermore, COBOL itself is not well adapted to the writing of efficient sorting programs. Accordingly, a sort function appeared to be a very desirable addition to the COBOL specifications.

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