Can’t File for Unemployment? Don’t Blame COBOL

July 26, 2020

WIRED reported recently that back when everyone was filing for unemployment at the beginning of this pandemic, COBOL was not necessarily to blame for all of the errors encountered. For those unaware, the 60-year-old programming language had a revival of sorts, as local governments scrambled to find people that could modify the old programs they were still trying to use, all while claims were failing to be processed. Now, experts agree that more than likely the failure wasn’t with COBOL, but instead with the web servers that were responsible for hosting the front-end of these COBOL-supported services.

DJ’s Take

COBOL, which stands for Common Business-Oriented Language, still powers many large banks, airlines, and government agencies. It is hard to replace, since these are production systems and government agencies often have tight budgets. A project of such magnitude would require considerable funding. That’s also likely the reason large, established banks and airlines still use COBOL applications instead of upgrading to something newer. Plus, you have the chore of training employees with new technologies and the disruption that brings. Computer languages have their strengths and weaknesses, but the problem here is not the COBOL language. The problem we face is a lack of developers that know how to code in COBOL.

Ian’s Take

I think we have a lot of talent when it comes to COBOL. You’ll find that most of that talent is older programmers.  In fact, I posted a link to LinkedIn three months ago, specifically about this topic. The link takes you to Input Magazine, and it is sponsored by IBM when they were looking to find talented COBOL Programmers.

Also, IBM was offering training to get those who weren’t familiar with it to get better at COBOL.  When I went to the IBM website, I saw many people who were willing to offer their services. I think we have the developers. I think that this is a classic case of Supply vs. Demand. Because this is such a sought after skill, COBOL programmers can charge however much they want. If you want COBOL programmers, you can find them here.

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