… COBOL programmers?
For the uninitiated, COBOL is a programming language that has been around 1959. It stands for Common Business Oriented Programming Language. 1959 would generally be considered pre-historic times in terms of computers and programming but …
Most people know Java and C++, but good ol’ COBOL is still alive and kicking. In the US, around 80 percent of in-person transactions and 95 percent of ATM swipes are based on programs written in COBOL. The problem is there’s not enough people to maintain the current COBOL-based systems.MÁR MÁSSON MAACK, “Ancient programming language COBOL can make you bank, literally”, Apr 10, 2017. https://thenextweb.com/finance/2017/04/10/ancient-programming-language-cobol-can-make-you-bank-literally/
The topic arose in my Zoom conversation with some Computer Science friends yesterday afternoon. We’d all programmed in COBOL in one form or another at university and perhaps beyond. For me, it was in the WATBOL dialect. But, there’s a real shortage of COBOL programmers. Those who are long in the tooth when it comes to programming are retiring. As you can see from the statistics above, there are many mission-critical applications that rely on it.
COBOL’s claim to fame is that programming is very much like writing in English unlike the cryptic forms that other languages take. Unlike other languages, data structures are addressed very early in COBOL courses because that’s what it does best.
The problem is that there have been so many new languages and new opportunities for programmers. Managing business systems, while so important, aren’t really glitzy sought-after careers. Are the opportunities to learn there for anyone interested? I did a search at ecampusontario and found only two offerings from Ontario universities and colleges. One is offered at the University of Guelph and the other at Algonquin College. As we know, just offering a course isn’t a guarantee that it will be run; that’s dictated by numbers.
How about in K-12? I would suggest that it’s a hard sell. We are currently offering courses designed to draw with turtle graphics, make robots move around, run games and simulations and more… It’s a tough crowd, trying to get that Computer Science registration from students. The thought was to start early and put efforts into getting girls into coding would get students interested. But has it?
COBOL also isn’t a recreational type of programming language. I know that when I get the urge to write something around here, I don’t think that it would be fun to write an inventory program.
While you might not be a Computer Science type, you really should pay attention because your banking and finances rely on it!
So, your thoughts?
- Before this post, did you know that a beast like COBOL existed?
- Have you ever programmed in COBOL?
- Should programming of any sort be compulsory in Ontario schools?
- Programming classes have long been the turf for male students. How should education address equity of opportunities for all students?
- A long time ago, there were two separate Ontario curricula – Computer Science and Data Processing. It was Data Processing that dealt with business programming. Should it make a return?
- Why hasn’t business moved their databases to something modern other than this “Legacy Language?”
- Speaking of “Legacy Languages”, do you have any other languages that come to mind that would fit into that category?
I’d be interested in your thoughts on the topic. Please share them in the comments below.
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