If you know anyone that programs computers, then that person knows all about conditional logic, because it’s about 90% of any program they write. Okay, maybe not that much, but it’s one of the key ingredients of writing a program.

IF condition(s)
THEN commands...
ELSE commands...

That’s usually where it begins. You see that in a programming textbook, and you’re off to the races. The hardest part of learning this is setting up the conditions, and knowing how to indicate that the commands that follow are to only be executed if the condition(s) are true. This isn’t as hard in some computer languages as in others. Well, not hard, really; just some languages are a little more tricky than others.

I know a little bit about a number of programming languages, and a lot about others….

  • COBOL – The language I used the most heavily throughout most of my career. I still think in terms of it whenever I get into a programming situation.
  • FORTRAN – The first language I learned, ergo the one I had the most trouble with. After the class I took, I never used it again.
  • ALGOL – I took a course in writing compilers (programs that turn programs written in a language into machine language that the computer can understand) where we wrote an ALGOL compiler in ALGOL. Yeah, all right. Came in handy later, because all the system software on Burroughs (now Unisys) computers is written in ALGOL.
  • PL/I – A language developed by IBM that was supposed to replace COBOL, that looked just like ALGOL. I never took a class in it, but since I knew ALGOL, I could help people who had trouble with PL/I, mostly my suitemate Tom.
  • Information Expert (IE) – A proprietary language developed by MSA, a former employer. I did all the training for MSA and its successor companies for IE, so I got to know it really well.
  • Focus – If you had people in an IE class who knew Focus, then you could count on them saying “IE is just like Focus!” Except it really wasn’t.
  • System/370 assembler (BAL) – I decided I needed to know assembler, because it made certain programming tasks easier. IBM used to show the generated assembler code when you compiled a COBOL program, and between that, the IBM yellow/pink/green card (that listed all the assembler commands) and a book I bought cheap, I learned it well enough to bluff my way through a few engagements.

And that’s just the mainframe languages. I know lots of others that get used on UNIX-like systems (Perl, Ruby, Python) and that get used on the web (PHP, HTML and CSS, mostly).

I don’t use any of these anymore. I’m retired. If I ever end up working again (and that’s doubtful), I’ll probably have to learn a whole bunch of new languages. If that day ever comes, I’ll worry about it then.



Stream of Consciousness Saturday is hosted by Linda Hill over at her blog. After this, she probably regrets choosing “if/then” as the prompt… And you will note that I started the post with “if” and ended it with “then.”


Author: John Holton

I'm a writer and blogger who writes and blogs about things that interest me.

11 thoughts on “IF-THEN-ELSE #socs”

  1. I have trouble learning foreign languages including computer languages. I remember when PCs first came out how you had to learn a language to operate them. Was it FORTRAN? You had to type in a command in a certain language to get the computer to do what you wanted. Then point and click was invented, and mouses, and you could also type in English sentences to look for things. That’s when I started to enjoy the computer. πŸ™‚


    1. I think it was BASIC, and you could buy other languages like Delphi. Microsoft delivered Quick BASIC with CP/M and MS/DOS, and stopped when they realized no one cared. That was the text-based world with primitive graphics.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my goodness, you hurt my brain. lol I almost felt like I was back in school with the DOS!
    I’m glad there are people like you to do these things.


  3. When it comes to computers, I frequently encounter ESO problems. (Equipment Superior to Operator) The first computer I had any dealing with back in the Dark Ages was so enormous, it filled an entire room. floor to ceiling. I had to enter all of the data onto IBM cards, and then load ’em up, and wait forever (felt like forever) for the computer to make sense of all the data. (for medical research)

    Programming? No way. Like they say, there are 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary and those who don’t. I don’t.


    1. I come from the old world of punch cards and huge machines. I once watched a quarter’s worth of work fly into Lake Michigan when the box fell off my bicycle and burst open, and Chicago’s wind carried the cards away. I never want to have to deal with that again.


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