These formats are used for internal floating-point data items. Such data items can be used in all syntax where a numeric data item can be used and where the syntax is a part of the ANSI'74, ANSI'85, ISO2000, OSVS, or VSC2 COBOL language definition. Such data items cannot be used where integer data items are required unless explicitly allowed by the rules for a specific COBOL verb. An internal floating-point data item cannot be used in other syntax unless a specific rule allows it.

The internal storage format can differ from operating system to operating system. In all storage formats, four pieces of information are encoded:

  1. The exponent - the power of 10 to which the specific numeric value is multiplied.
  2. The exponent sign - an indication of whether the specific numeric value (significand) is multiplied by a "whole" number in the series, 1, 10, 100, and so on, or by a fractional number in the series 1/10, 1/100, 1/1000, and so on.
  3. The significand - the specific value, which when multiplied by a power of 10 provides the numeric value of the data item.
  4. The significand sign - an indication of whether the resultant value of the data item is negative or positive.


Items that are USAGE COMPUTATIONAL-1 (COMP-1) are usually referred to as single precision floating-point items while items that are USAGE COMPUTATIONAL-2 (COMP-2) are usually referred to as double precision floating-point items. Depending on the operating system or mathematical support libraries available to this COBOL system, different constraints can exist for single and double precision floating-point items. There can be constraints on the maximum exponent sizes, on the maximum significand sizes, or both. See your operating system or mathematical library floating-point support documentation for additional information.

COMPUTATIONAL-1 and COMPUTATIONAL-2 are equivalent to Single Format and Double Format, respectively, for operating systems that conform to ANSI/IEEE Std 754-1985, IEEE Standard for Binary Floating-Point Arithmetic.

It is important to understand that internal floating-point representation is not a continuous numeric spectrum. Internal floating-point representations are not standard from operating system to operating system. For example, in one representation of internal floating-point values, the following shows internal to decimal equivalence:

Internal (Hexadecimal) Storage Decimal Value (Scientific Notation)
x"AD17E148" -0.12345673E-23
x"AD17E149" -0.12345810E-23

Therefore, any application which tested for or expected an internal floating-point item with an exact decimal value of -0.12345678E-23, would never find it, while in some other system of internal floating-point storage, that value might be found while the values listed above would never exist. Therefore, any application which tests for exact equivalence between internal floating-point items and other numeric values (including external floating-point items and floating-point literals) cannot be portable and may result in different logic flow even when using the same input data.

For internal floating-point items, the size of the item in storage is determined by its USAGE clause. USAGE COMPUTATIONAL-1 reserves 4 bytes of storage for the item; USAGE COMPUTATIONAL-2 reserves 8 bytes of storage.

When the IBMCOMP Compiler directive is on, padding bytes can be generated before an internal floating-point item with a SYNC clause; these bytes are not part of the item, and are never affected by data stored in the item.

Within the COBOL system, COMP-1 items are accurate to 7 decimal digits and COMP-2 items to 16 decimal digits. However, for mainframe compatibility the DISPLAY statement shows 8 decimal places for COMP-1 and 18 for COMP-2. Any operations using floating-point items should take the limits of accuracy into account, and should disregard decimal places beyond the limits of accuracy.