.NET greenfield development in Micro Focus Visual COBOL 2010

I thought I’d start off the technical part of this blog by doing some greenfield .NET development in Micro Focus Visual COBOL 2010.

Why greenfield development when so few COBOL developers out there are doing new functionality in COBOL, let alone using the .NET Framework? Well, because it is easier to get across some important concepts to traditional COBOL procedural programmers that I had to learn the hard way, adapting existing code to work well in this environment. It’s also a lot more fun.

I’m going to write the background stuff first … After all those of us who work in the COBOL world are rarely allowed near any UI these days. Lord knows, if we were allowed to learn anything new we might become dangerous! From my point of view, the interesting stuff is under the covers and if you get the underlying code right a monkey can knock up a UI (and if you look at most enterprise apps they probably did). That’s not to say putting together an attractive, effective user experience is an easy thing however … but that is another topic for another day …

The project I’ve picked is not meant to be commercial or even complete but it’s something that is straightforward to understand but complex enough to demonstrate the concepts. Earlier this year I volunteered to help set up a new I.T. system for my daughter’s small school. Needless to say, the project ended up being a lot bigger than I planned as the school really didn’t use a networked admin system just several stand-alone applications on separate Windows XP boxes. A decision had already been made to purchase an existing software package that had been written some time ago based on Access ‘97 and I won’t go any further … This got me thinking how you’d put together a simple School Admin system “done right”. Along the way we’re going to play with some interesting technology like providing support for multi-threading (using .NET Framework 4.0 Tasks) and database (using Entity Framework Code First development).

The next post will be the first one that contains code. We’ll take the basic building blocks of a school: people (being composed of students, teachers, parents and support staff), classes, resources (for example rooms) and staff and build a simple object model using code … Not bloody UML!

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