In 1960, two different computers compiled and ran the same COBOL program. Twenty-five years later COBOL was considered a grand success in industry and was barely mentioned, except critically, in academia. Shneiderman looks at COBOL's relationship to industry and academia, discusses COBOL's strengths and weaknesses, and describes the contributions that it made to the fields of computer science and computer engineering.
This paper draws heavily from Jean Sammet's "An Early History of COBOL" (http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=1198367). Reading Sammet's paper is not required to understand what Shneiderman is talking about, but it does provide a great deal of additional background information.