Hey, Boomer! Would you process my unemployment claim, please?

At first I thought the headline was a joke: Wanted urgently: People who know a half century-old computer language so states can process unemployment claims.

On top of ventilators, face masks and health care workers, you can now add COBOL programmers to the list of what several states urgently need as they battle the coronavirus pandemic.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has put out a call for volunteers who know how to code the decades-old computer programming language called COBOL because many of the state's systems still run on older mainframes.

My programming languages from back in the day inluded FORTRAN, PL/1, ALGOL, LISP, BASIC, and assembly language for Linc-8, PDP-12 (machine language for these two as well), and PDP-11. I didn't learn COBOL because that was considered a business language (COmmon Business-Oriented Language) and I worked on the scientific side of things. But it appears to have had remarkable staying power, and Porter knew it well. Not that I see him going to New Jersey anytime soon.

"The general population of COBOL programmers is generally much older than the average age of a coder... Many American universities have not taught COBOL in their computer science programs since the 1980s."

So, Boomers to the rescue. It pays to keep people with arcane knowledge around.

I predict that someday we will regret letting our amateur radio network fall apart.

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 9, 2020 at 7:15 pm | Edit
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Will they hire Porter as a remote consultant?



Posted by Kathy Lewis on Thursday, April 09, 2020 at 8:36 pm

I believe they are a little off the mark as to where the issue lies. COBOL is the backend of their systems. It does the BATCH processing of the data gathered during the day. Their websites that are overloaded, crashing and full of C and Java memory leaks that attempt to gather the data from applicants in real time is probably where the real bottlenecks exist.



Posted by Dad-o on Thursday, April 09, 2020 at 8:46 pm
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