"The use of COBOL cripples the mind; its teaching should, therefore, be regarded as a criminal offense."
- Edsger W. Dijkstra

A little geneology/historical background for COBOL:

1943 -- ENIAC First general purpose electronic computer
1948 -- UNIVAC First commercial computer
1952 -- A-O First compiler (of sorts)
1954 -- FLOWMATIC First English-like programming language
1957 -- FORTRAN, a language based on algebraic formulas
1959 -- First COBOL specifications introduced by CODASYL
1960 -- First COBOL implementation
1968 -- ANSI develops ANS COBOL Standard

According to LegacyJ Corp., one of several companies trying to revive COBOL by transforming it into a web scripting language (*shudder*) and trying to support Web based interfaces to legacy COBOL code:

"There are over 180 billion lines of COBOL in use today, with an estimated 5 million new lines added each year. There are as many as 2.5 million programmers who have primary skills in COBOL, far exceeding any other programming language. Investments in COBOL technologies, staff, hardware is estimated to be over 5 trillion dollars."