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Battle of the Ages; Stereotypes Collide

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the old-vs-young dept.

IT 319

JCOTTON writes "A CIO.com article By Phil Murphy explains that "The hype around the shortage of qualified legacy technologists grows each day. Pundits would have us believe that 1.5 million COBOL programmers will suddenly disappear one day, leaving any company with legacy technology in dire straits. The truth is that there are far more programmers with legacy skills looking for work than there are jobs for them, as evidenced by organizations like Legacy Reserves, which functions as a training and job matching service for unemployed or underemployed programmers wishing to modernize their skills." This article explains many of the issues facing "the upper half" of Information Technology workers."

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In Korea (1)

murraythegreat (780556) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081471)

only old people program in cobol come one, you knew it was coming

McFossil. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081478)

"Pundits would have us believe that 1.5 million COBOL programmers will suddenly disappear one day, leaving any company with legacy technology in dire straights. "

That reminds me. McDonalds is hiring.

Re:McFossil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081526)

"Pundits would have us believe that 1.5 million COBOL programmers will suddenly disappear one day, leaving any company with legacy technology in dire straights. "
The funny thing is once the galaxan empire realizes we have 1.5 million COBAL programmers, they will invade and snatch them all up to maintain their computer overlords, who's code is in great need of modernization to support the new hardware archatectures that they built for themselves, and since they were originally programmed in COBOL it will be easier to just keep them written in COBOL...

Re:McFossil. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081915)

I for one welcome our galaxan computer overlords!

Re:McFossil. (2, Funny)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081536)

Actually, no they're not. At least not around here. I called a couple weeks ago. They're actually cutting jobs from the drivethrough. Pretty sad when McDonalds is laying off workers.

So much for keeping up on VB6... (2, Funny)

parvenu74 (310712) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081480)

And here I thought there was going to be a great need for VB6 and that I would be viable for the next 20 years on that alone... Time to learn the new language of the month, I suppose.

Re:So much for keeping up on VB6... (4, Funny)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081591)

Time to learn the new language of the month

what is it this month?

Ruby? C#?

Or are we back to Java again? I had the month by month list, but I lost it.

Re:So much for keeping up on VB6... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081689)

Language of the month is Python in December (so you can meet those end-of-year deadlines) or possibly Ruby (if you're attracted by shiny things), and Perl in January (because of my perpetual New Year Resolution - "This year I will learn Perl" - usually abandoned by February when I can't remember %'s from @'s)

Re:So much for keeping up on VB6... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081699)

I think we're about do for a holiday bash

Re:So much for keeping up on VB6... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081779)

due

Learning new languages is relatively easy... (1)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081729)

Unfortunately, most employers are looking for production work experience with those languages.

That's what causes the classic "chicken-and-egg" problem where there are many skilled technical people out there who could actually do the work required but who aren't seen as being qualified because of their lack of formal experience with a specific technical tool.

Microsoft Confirms it... (3, Insightful)

Schwartzboy (653985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081768)

VB6 is dead. Start cranking out .NUT and C# on the double, drone!

Seriously, I think I remember reading that MS said that end-of-life for VB6 is coming up in 2006 or so, but can't find the article where I read that. If it exists, it's likely buried deep within MS's site.

The best advice I could give to someone who's been buried under a pile of MS technology for most of his/her education/career would be to go out and pick up some non-MS languages. That way, if Redmond (or its language of the month) disappears tomorrow, there's a chance that you'll still be employable, and you'll gain a perspective on programming that you might not otherwise have. That's just my opinion, though, and I'm sure there are thousands of MS flamers who would say that once you've gone down that path, you're damaged goods anyway. Take this sort of rambling in either direction with a tumbler of salt.

Re:So much for keeping up on VB6... (1)

dnhughes (142695) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081823)

There's always going to be some need for ageing technologies. Just make sure you know what else is going on in the field. Pick up another language or two and use it in some small projects. This way you'll feel more comfortable when you have a need to use it because another technology has been EOL'd. I'm still using VB6 only because management won't spring for .NET and we're a MS partner so they don't want to use anything other than MS technology... typical uninformed management.

But what I want to know is.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081913)

...where can I use my extensive knowledge of FORTRAN 77?

What's COBOL? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081482)

I started programming after the days of COBOL. I wonder what everyone else will be using when I'm desperately looking for a Java job...

Re:What's COBOL? (1)

lack1uster (627987) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081889)

COBOL was slopped together from sweat and old shoes back in the day in the hopes that any idiot (management) could pick it up. Which begs the question, why doesn't management just learn COBOL and finish the job?

Learning Cobol (2, Funny)

MikeBabcock (65886) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081485)

I just searched Google for Learn Cobol [google.ca] and only got 417k results. Not that popular a subject anymore I suppose.

Learning Cobol-RPG. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081508)

"I just searched Google for Learn Cobol and only got 417k results. Not that popular a subject anymore I suppose."

Neither is RPG, which I learned with COBOL, FORTRAN, PL/1 and PASCAL. Ah, the classics.

Re:Learning Cobol (2, Funny)

WIAKywbfatw (307557) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081522)

Heh. "Elect an idiot" [google.com] only got me 107,000 hits. I guess it's just not as fashionable a topic as it was, say, a month ago.

You don't need more than 417k (2, Funny)

Uptown Joe (819388) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081557)

to run Cobol.

slashdot making it even less popular! (1)

jcims (316827) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081758)

Odd thing was the count at google.ca for 'learn cobol' w/o the quotes was 417k, but for google.com it was 224k. Now, about five minutes later, google.ca is at 224k for the same query.

google.az still at 417k.

hmmph

Re:Learning Cobol (1)

turnage (543637) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081937)

I just searched Google for Learn Cobol and only got 417k results. Not that popular a subject anymore I suppose.

I know it was intended as a joke (and even found it funny), but learning the COBOL language in a "learn COBOL in 24 hours" book and doing something useful with it on an AS/400 are entirely different things.

test 123 (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081486)

test 123

COBOL? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081498)

In South Korea, only old people code in COBOL...

Hooray. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081512)

Our billing system is down.

Yay!

Upper half? Unfair connotation (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081516)

If they are unwilling to adapt, so be it. I spend a lot of time keeping up on the latest trends to ensure that I am always current. If a bunch of geezers are unwilling to do the same, why should they be given the preferential "upper half" connotation?

Hmm... (3, Funny)

which way is up (835908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081521)

They have been predicting the demise of programmers since the invention of COBOL in the 60s. It was supposed to turn ordinary business users into programmers thanks to its easy, English-like syntax. We're still waiting. Now this writer is talking about running out of programmers capable of maintaining code that was presumably easy to write and maintain?

Re:Hmm... (1, Interesting)

DarthVain (724186) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081593)

I hope the above is modded funny. I did COBOL programming when I was back in school. "Easy English-Like syntax" and changing buisness users into programmers, does not fit the description I remember. I remember Assembly lanuage was more of a bitch to write in, but for an advanced generation lanuage it sucked. I still remember the prof. deducted points off my final COBOL project becuase he 'didn't like' recursive programing, jerk.

Re:Hmm... (1)

RailGunner (554645) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081778)

That's funny - I had a CSE professor deduct points for NOT using a recursive function. Instead, I used an iterative solution because there was a level of recursion that would blow the stack and crash the program if I had done it his way.. When I pointed this out, the Prof's response was "I don't care about memory or the stack, I just want to type less."

Further proving that those who can, do, and those who can't, teach.

Read up... (4, Interesting)

cr0sh (43134) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081828)

Read up on your history of programming languages, of Grace Hopper's writings on COBOL, and if you can find them (very difficult), contemporary advertisements/reviews of COBOL for the time - you will find that indeed, it was marketed as a "simple, english-like" language for business people. At the time, it was very simple - compared to custom assembler for each mainframe (which was almost always different between machines even from the same manufacturer, like IBM), COBOL was a breeze!

Re:Hmm... (1)

j0e_average (611151) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081645)

Good comment!

business users into programmers thanks to its easy, English-like syntax

This is funny on two fronts...first, you can generally code and compile a "Hello, World!" program with only a few lines of code....unless you're using COBOL.

Secondly, the language that turned ordinary users into programmer-wannabees was VB[A] -- often with disasterous results.

Now, I must get back to my development of Enterprise solutions using MS Access and Excel Macros! (not)

Re:Hmm... (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081703)

Yep... I still recall when VB was being touted as the "programmer killer". Silly. The one thing Im starting to worry about now is Model Driven Architecture. MDA is starting to get a bit of press these days Im noticing and Ive started hearing soe disturbing simular statements from business analyst/PM types... "All we do is get the analyst to draw a some use case and sequence diagrams and were all sweet"

Sigh.

Repeat after me "The is no such thing a silver bullet". That statment is still as true and wise today as when Brooks said it.

Re:Hmm... (1)

Eccles (932) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081669)

Now this writer is talking about running out of programmers capable of maintaining code that was presumably easy to write and maintain?

No, quite the reverse. The article claims there is a surplus of COBOL programmers. I guess they did write code that was too easy to maintain...

Re:Hmm... (1)

Trurl's Machine (651488) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081720)

They have been predicting the demise of programmers since the invention of COBOL in the 60s. It was supposed to turn ordinary business users into programmers thanks to its easy, English-like syntax. We're still waiting. Now this writer is talking about running out of programmers capable of maintaining code that was presumably easy to write and maintain?

I think you mistake COBOL [infogoal.com] for ALGOL [umich.edu] . The latter was indeed advertised for it's "ease of use" and it started a long line of (supposedly) user friendly languages, through it direct descendant - Basic - to contemporary Visual Basic [microsoft.com] and AppleScript [apple.com] . Cobol was rather advertised as being "business friendly" because it allowed ease separation of data and code and that - allegedly - suited it better for business/office data processing than its main competitor, Fortran [fortran.com] . Noone could seriously predict "demise of programmers" in early 1960's. There were no personal computers in present meaning - even the so called minis of the PDP family, still required a separate room, had a price of a small airplane and were operated by dedicated staff wearing lab suits.

The learning curve isn't COBOL itself... (4, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081912)

...but rather the database and transaction (or batch) environment that the COBOL itself runs in.

An IBM CICS programmer familiar with DB2 would have a tough time coming into a Unisys A-series shop that uses COMS and DMSII, not to mention the culture shock when his JCL-conditioned mind runs into a job control language like WFL. :-) Although he might survive the shock if he's been exposed to REXX...

The Gist of the Article (1)

amigoro (761348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081528)

Battle of the Ages -- Stereotypes Collide

  • Seasoned IT staffers stereotype consultants as too young to know anything
  • Consultants stereotype the IT staff as mired in ancient technology

Time for a Reality Check

  • CIOs don't have the luxury of time.
  • Internal staff resent lost opportunities to learn and advance.
  • Some consultants are experienced in comparatively few technologies.
  • Internal staffers know the existing systems and business processes.
  • Some internal staffers are intransigent, happiest with older technology.
  • Consultants heighten tension by deferring operational tasks to internal staff.
  • IT staffers' animosity builds, fueling passive resistance.
  • Knowledge transfer garners little attention until it is too late.

Moderate this comment
Negative: Offtopic [mithuro.com] Flamebait [mithuro.com] Troll [mithuro.com] Redundant [mithuro.com]
Positive: Insightful [mithuro.com] Interesting [mithuro.com] Informative [mithuro.com] Funny [mithuro.com]

MOD parent dumb thai (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081564)


and you can fuck off with your shit site (oops i just added it to rbls)
iam suprised you can afford the internet, i guess those child prostitues do earn you money

prepare for the end of USA (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081529)


hmm lets see USA has lost in 20 years autos,textiles,plastics,electronics,manufacturing, steel,fishing the list goes on, computer skills are going the same way becuase USA can no longer add value to the services they offer, amusing for the rest of the world if nothing else
of course weapons are still a growth buisness because thats what un-civilized people do

Re:prepare for the end of USA (1)

Emperor Shaddam IV (199709) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081574)

Hmmm, but we still make most of the CPU's and Operating Systems the world uses. Hell, even all the programming languages are English based. You guys overseas don't know about the "Secret" virus program we have to disable all systems in the world running outside of the US in the event of doomsday. Besides, we have our music, movies, and clothes in EVERY corner of the world. Culture is one way to conquer the world. Note this message is all in jest and not flamebait. :)

In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081542)

In Soviet Russia, COBOL codes you.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081588)

In Soviet Korea, the old people are programmed in COBOL.

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081684)

It's an interesting question BTW: do (many) people in India (or ex-USSR) know COBOL?

Re:In Soviet Russia... (-1, Offtopic)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081714)

Which is an interesting question, BTW: do (many) people in India, or ex-USSR, know COBOL?

Perl! (1)

sjrstory (839289) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081547)

Perl is probably one of the more versatile languages out there, and IMHO it's the most useful for novices and beginners alike. (Note I did not say easiest, but with that said Perl is pretty easy once you get the hang of it). 0.02

Hmm... (2, Interesting)

which way is up (835908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081549)

People still using COBOL can migrate to COBOL.net. Fujitsu implemented a this abmonination. [c-sharpcorner.com]

Re:Hmm... (1)

g0at (135364) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081807)

Oh goodie, Microsoft and their revolutionary visionary ideas to the rescue! Thankfully I will now be able to use my legacy fish.NET while playing on a beach equipped with a volleyball.NET, after calculating my profits.NET from the day's sales.

Without Microsoft, fish, volleys and accounting would be doomed!

-b

Of course it's a coincidence. (2, Funny)

Ronald Dumsfeld (723277) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081554)

Of course it's a complete coincidence that when the story mentions COBOL, the /. fortune cookie I get says "VMS must die.".

Re:Of course it's a coincidence. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081780)

I got that fortune, too. VMS will never die. The OpenVMS Hobbyist Program [openvmshobbyist.com] will keep it alive!

IT workers make tons of money (4, Funny)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081556)

Thus sayeth IT technical college.

Electrical Engineers get all the respect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081602)

and fast cars, easy women, big paycheques... The university told me so! Never mind that my friend with a master's in EE is answering telephones! I gotta go give all my money to the YOUUUU-KNEEEEE-VEEEER-SEEE-TEEEE!!!!
So I can be broke and tired during the best part of my life, AND be a good obedient slave!

Re:IT workers make tons of money (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081774)

Yes, we do, but only those of us who are willing to go to unpleasant places and work for people in green (or tan).

Anecdotes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081562)

Let the anecdotes begin! My friend's uncle has left the field of programmer/analyst (is that a valid title in english? I'm in Quebec and in french that's how it's called.) after 25 years.
The thing that most people forget in this type of story is that human beings change with age. They become higher level thinker, new interests develop and get more impatient with their old interests as they get older. The fact that there are a lot of older programmers no longer in the field means that maybe the guy left the field on his own to start up a furniture shop. Like my friend's uncle....

This isn't an article... (3, Informative)

acvh (120205) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081568)

it's a fscking advertisement.

Not that there aren't a few good soundbites in it, but come on, a consultant defending consultants isn't news.

It appears that they're hiring again (4, Interesting)

Brian Stretch (5304) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081573)

now that the geniuses with their MBAs have figured out that overseas outsourcing is an even bigger disaster than domestic outsourcing was. ("But how can that be! It's CHEAPER!") I'm hearing from recruiters again. IT is such a huge force multiplier that it's stupid to do anything that will jeopardize its effectiveness. Labor cost is only one variable in the multivariable problem, kids.

Sure, the PHBs will whine about the need for cheap H1-Bs that they can abuse, but I don't see Congress being all that sympathetic at the moment, or at the very least they're too fragmented on the issue of immigration in general to get anything done.

Boom times are here again! Well, no, but at this point somewhat better than average middle class employment will do.

Re:It appears that they're hiring again (1)

CountrySon (832124) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081805)

Fine, but I fear that the (metaphorical) feet of overseas outsourcing and H1B use are so firmly in the door that our IT landscape has been forever altered. Not everything can (or will) be rolled back to what it was. Overseas outsourcing, in particular, is bound to improve because it's been given so many second (and third, and...) changes by the mediocre MBAs who're running our society.

Why do people tie themselves like this? (3, Insightful)

gateman9 (733995) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081576)

I dunno, I never have liked to tie myself to one language or another. Maybe it's the CS major, but I find that all languages have things in common, and that I can quickly become proficient in each.

Sure I have my favorite languages, but I treat each language I come across equally; hell, I tolerated and become proficient in Scheme of all things. This way, if the flavor of the day goes away, I can simply pick up a book on the new flavor, figure out how it does business, and get to work.

Good principles and techniques transcend language boundaries.

A thinking man's barriers. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081719)

"I dunno, I never have liked to tie myself to one language or another. Maybe it's the CS major, but I find that all languages have things in common, and that I can quickly become proficient in each."

Yes they have things in common, but they also have different ways of approaching the same problem. For example the imperative way of programming, verses say the functional way, or the procedural way. Sometimes the barrier isn't the language, so much as it is "the way of thinking" that goes with it.

Re:Why do people tie themselves like this? (2)

monkease (726622) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081733)

Really, it's an argument not only for adaptability, but versatility as well.

Not that dropping out of college hasn't been a good move for some people [microsoft.com] , but there is something to be said for having a well-rounded education.

Re:Why do people tie themselves like this? (1)

_Potter_PLNU_ (627430) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081746)

The CS Major, at least at my university, taught us to understand the principles behind the programming syntax. That's why it is easy for anyone that has a CS degree to be able to pick up a book on a new language and understand it right away. You don't want to have to continually learn the basics all over again. It allows you to be flexible.

I have heard that it's better to be extremely proficient in one or two languages and not have your skills spread thin all over the place. That is why I'm concentrating on C++ and not learning new languages until I get a job and need to learn something else.

It usually isn't voluntary. (2, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081761)

However, when one is looking for work, it seems that one is usually labelled as a "specialist" in whatever technical platform and language used in the last position.

A person with both good knowledge of C and good knowledge of COBOL is usually seen as being a "COBOL programmer" if their last work experience was mainly writing COBOL code.

It sounds silly, I know, but that's what I've seen (and what many others I know have also seen) in the current job market.

Re:Why do people tie themselves like this? (1)

mutterc (828335) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081773)

Unfortunately (especially for me), generalization does not typically help you gain employment.

Usually, to get most any job, you must have N years' experience doing the exact same job. You may be proficient in Scheme, but unless you've been paid for a few years to work in Scheme, you'll never get past the HR droid at a company looking to hire a Scheme developer.

Re:Why do people tie themselves like this? (1)

ipjohnson (580042) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081776)

Actually my knowledge of scheme played a big part in getting my current job (writing C# & C++ and then integrating it with Lisp)

Unemployed PL1 Programmers are Unemployed Too (2, Funny)

Lucas Membrane (524640) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081580)

Sally Struthers is going to be on TV asking for money for aged COBOL weenies, and I learned PL1 when I heard that it was going to replace COBOL and Fortran. So, think of poor me -- almost forty years dealing with people who didn't know that COBOL was inferior, and all I've got to look forward to is 40 years having a hard time getting charity because I've got a disease that doesn't have a Sally Struthers, Mary Tyler Moore, or Jerry Lewis. I may have to start drinking and get depressed so that Jason Robards and Terry Bradshaw will be on my side.

Unemployed PL1 Programmers are Unemployed Too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081660)

"Unemployed PL1 Programmers are Unemployed Too"

Apparently the redundancy department is still employed.

It sucks being a legacy programmer. (5, Funny)

muntumbomoklik (806936) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081584)

I'm -still- trying to find a job with my Turtle Logo skills.....

wow... I can help! (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081596)

Anyone need a 6502/6510 assembly language programmer? I'm a little rusty, but if I can just find my old book by Compute!'s Gazette, I'll be ready to go!

Re:wow... I can help! (1)

Xiaran (836924) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081727)

Hey I can provide Z80 services ? I think I could still code away in CPM if I had to. Wanna start a consultancy startup ? :)

Re:wow... I can help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081918)

Need an APL programmer to join your team? All I need is the goofy keyboard.

COBOL is easy... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081611)

I learnt is in school years ago, in 1990, a simple program looks like this:

IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.

PROGRAM-ID. HELLO WORLD.
AUTHOR. ANONYMOUS COWARD.
DATA DIVISION.
WORKING-STORAGE SECTION.
77 DAUBE PIC X(11) VALUE "HELLO WORLD!"
PROCEDURE DIVISION.
DEBUT SECTION.
  1. PRINT DAUBE.

  2. STOP RUN

Tabulations was hard in cobol...
Also for old cobol program there was no COMPUTE statement, you had to do something like:
ADD A TO B GIVING C.
later it was
COMPUTE C=A+B.
easier :)

Re:COBOL is easy... (1)

DeckardJK (555299) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081646)

Make it stop... I think I just threw up a little in my mouth. A few days out of the semester was good enough to make me stay away.

Re:COBOL is easy... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081846)

One question: is it a requirement in COBOL that programs be written in an outdoor voice?

Re:COBOL is easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081906)

I remember the all Cobol on our System in College was done in uppercase. So, YES. :)

Re:COBOL is easy... (1)

RumpRoast (635348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081917)

I think, yes. I took a COBOL class long ago, I hated it.. so bad that I really just didn't get the language at all. I was surprised, as the other classes that I had taken at the time (mostly C), made perfect sense. I was all OMG WTF LOL COBOL BBQ if you get my meaning.

The article has some good common sense (1)

davidsheckler (45018) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081624)

Of course this assumes common sense is used in implementing a new technology. It all comes down to upper management. A few will have a clue (usually those with an IT background) but the rest will make up for it with a moronic decision to hire Ernst and Young to to replace 50 million lines of custom legacy COBOL code in 6 months with another COBOL application written for the insurance industry in Australia.

Say goodbye to 70 million dollars and 200 legacy programmers.

Re:The article has some good common sense (1)

philbowman (707419) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081694)

Nah, they're more likely to replace something that's been working well in COBOL for 20 years with something in .net - which MS will change out of all recognition in five years leaving it just as unmaintainable if not more so. And never mind the programmers, what about us MVS (aka z/OS) Sysprogs, eh?

COBOL Dominion Theology (4, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081627)

> Pundits would have us believe that 1.5 million COBOL programmers will suddenly disappear one day, leaving any company with legacy technology in dire straits

Sounds like the Rapture to me.

For Root himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the BOFH, and the trump of Root: and those
buried face-down, 9-edge first [houghi.org] shall rise: Then we which are fat-fingered from typing, and remain shall be caught up together with them in the job queue, to meet the Scheduler in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Scheduler, 8"
- 1 COBOLonians 4:16-17

I'm goin' to hell for that. But if you make me program in COBOL again, I'm taking you with me, rapture or not.

Re:COBOL Dominion Theology (1)

Archangel Michael (180766) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081723)

Aint no such thing as a Rapture.

- Old programmers never die, they just branch to a new address.

- Old programming wizards never die, they just recurse.

8" and Pass The Ammunition (1)

DLWormwood (154934) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081959)

and so shall we ever be with the Scheduler, 8"
- 1 COBOLonians 4:16-17
I'm goin' to hell for that.

I don't know, if God has any sense of humor, you probably assured yourself a mansion in heaven for that piece of work. I'm of the opinion that those who take the Holy Bible too seriously are breaking the 1st Commandment, elevating a written work to "false god" status.

Other side of the coin... (4, Insightful)

B5_geek (638928) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081658)

I know I will get flamed by some out-of-work programmers out there,

but...

There are too many companies that refuse to move out of the computing Bronze-Age; bite the bullet and upgrade.

The town that I work in (Blue-collar auto-industry) is filled with tool & die shops. Typical scenerio: The owner left the assembly line of Ford/GM/whatever 20 years ago and created his own company. He bought a DOS app to run his business on a 286-server/workstation, and he is surprised and insulted to find out that XP won't run on it.

I have seen shops that Net revenue >$10 million/year, and they depend on a app written in BASIC!!!! as their life-blood.

Holy shit people, it might be time to upgrade!

There is a reason we don't (all) still use Horse & buggys. There is still a market for companies to make horse-shoes and buggy whips, (and I bet that company has a monopoly) but there are valid reasons to upgrade.

There will always be a need for Legacy-based skills, but for the love of $deity don't hold onto old tech that you think "Well it used to be good enough!" .

Re:Other side of the coin... (3, Insightful)

PhilipMckrack (311145) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081748)

There will always be a need for Legacy-based skills, but for the love of $deity don't hold onto old tech that you think "Well it used to be good enough!" .

But if it is still good enough, why change? Rewriting large apps will introduce new bugs and problems. I work at a company that writes programs in COBOL. It might be nice to my resume to redo everything whatever the flavor of the month language is, but why? Our apps work great and our customers really like them.

If it's Not Broken... (2, Interesting)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081808)

...Don't Fix it.

I've dealt with these guys. They are satisfied with what they're getting out of that type of system and will keep it till the power surge blows it away. Hell, I wouldn't be suprised if some of them checked Ebay [ebay.com] for replacement hardware. I'm sure they know were they put those 5.25 floppies.

Upgrade to what? And why? (3, Insightful)

Richard Steiner (1585) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081817)

When I worked for a major airline, the flight planning system I supported and helped enhance was written in Fortran and running on a Unisys 2200 mainframe (which is an older architecture but also a fairly reliable and *modern* platform in terms of its actual hardware).

Fortran was (and is) a perfect language for the type of problem being solved, since a lot of it actually does involve semi-complex calculations.

The mainframe platform is also ideal, as the system is designed as a centralized software app running on a large-scale server and being used by folks all over the world on remote terminals (be they "green screens" or web clients).

Sometimes the older languages and platforms in use really *are* a good fit. Or is it change for changes sake that you're asking for?

Re:Other side of the coin... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081919)

Why is it time to upgrade? If it works, don't fix it! I've seen shops that did upgrade, and are worse off for it - newer apps might be buggy (the bugs in the older software were worked out years ago), Windows is less stable than DOS, you have to replace almost all your hardware (new Windows won't run on many older machines), and in the end - are you really better off just because you "upgraded"? Are you really producing more?

If you do upgrade, make sure it's for the right reasons. There needs to be a return on the investment and/or an increase in productivity.

but the problem may be worker revulsion (1)

museumpeace (735109) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081662)

at old technologies, not that the programmers "vanished".

Apparently labor markets are among the least efficient: supply and demand seem wildly uncoordinated...its a market even more influenced by psychological factors than the stock market!

I am NOT showing this article to my boss. I have a job turning old Ada programs into C++ and if I don't puke to death reading the code first, the difficulty that management percieves in finding less inexpensive college hires who know [or want to learn] this suddenly old language will keep ME employed until I retire.

Most important issue always is missing (1)

ceeam (39911) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081665)

When they say about shortage, don't get it wrong. Quite probably they are after the people willing to work for a daily bowl of ramen or similar (aka "replaceable slaves"). Why do you think you are always asked whether "could we do it in VB?".

After all - you _are_ geek, you should enjoy cleaning dust out of office PCs! (Or coding VB which IMO is an equivalent).

Dire need of a dictionary (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081678)

"Straits", man. Not "straights".

Re:Dire need of a dictionary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081924)

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea,
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight for it two say,
Weather eye and wring oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long,
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no,
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.

I don't think so. (1)

deletedaccount (835797) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081679)

Wow, will my 18 months of p-system pascal will suddenly become valuable in the workplace? How about my year as a Sage Retrieve (COBOL but nastier) programmer? I think not.

Hmm... (1)

which way is up (835908) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081704)

You think being a COBOL programmer is tuff? Try being a FrontPage dependent HTML developer left over from the dot-com days...

Re:Hmm... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081784)

Ouch.

Windows Arrogance and Stereotyping (4, Insightful)

Spencerian (465343) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081732)

I see, daily, an annoying point where IT users are OVER-trained in one technology set, which blinds them to more efficient and effective resolutions to company computer service and infrastructure.

My business concentrates on Mac OS X systems used in a publishing environment. They work much like their Windows counterparts and could even be integrated with the larger domain for more efficiency. But when I speak of this to others they look at me with confusion and, maybe, heresy?

These people act as if Macs are toys or inferior in some way. Of course, this is far from the case, but their training has changed how they see technology. This really isn't the old Mac/PC debate. (Apple lost the first war. But they still found an important place in today's computing world.)

No computer technology is perfect, of course. But the mistaken ubiquity that IT is Microsoft and Microsoft is IT makes all other non-MS technicial initiatives and products harder to sell in concept or through a store.

Java (2, Funny)

cerberusss (660701) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081737)

I guess I'll be talking to those guys at Legacy Reserves, because I heard that Java is the new COBOL...

Its not hard to learn (1)

Cookeisparanoid (178680) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081756)

In the same way modern coders learn "modern" langauges like Visual C#.net Java so you they can go and learn older langauge. I had to learn business basic when I joined a company it was a bit different having to use the most unforgiving editors and limited syntax but clearly within the reach of most programmers.
Also while there are probably less than 100 throughbred basic programmers in the UK if we really want software developed there are massive software houses in India full coders with cobol basic and a variety of other languague skills.

Sell, Sell, Sell.... (1)

stoicio (710327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081818)

There's the build, the lead-in, and the product. Sounds like he's selling Amentra to me. It's advertising YAY!!!!!!

The programmers are still in need they shouldn't (1)

iceco2 (703132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081819)

There are better reasons to get rid of legacy code then lack of programmers.
Any semi decent programmer can learn a new(or old computer language) with out too much diffuclty.
A few months ago a bunch of programmer friends of mine were sent to a COBOL course(for some it was a refresher course) because the company had legacy code to be maintained. COBOL is still a needed skill as are many other aging technolgies but even if there is no fear in skilled personnal vanishing, A company with a bit of foresight will still strive to be rid of legacy code.
The fact is most computer systems become obsolete with in 5 years of making. Patching and repatching ancient code produces complex ugly unmaintanable code with no clear theme behind it, this is obviously bad. And this is the main reason we should get rid of legacy code.

Me

U.S. Department of Labor says the same thing (3, Interesting)

Original Buddha (673223) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081820)

http://www.bls.gov/search/ooh.asp?ct=OOH

Pick just about any job and in the listing you'll find something like this:

Employment of XXXXX is expected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations over the 2002-12 period. However, job opportunities are expected to be very good because a large number of XXXXX are expected to retire in the coming decade, creating many job openings.

Does anyone truly believe this? No. The only group of people that typically exploit this figure is someone trying to sell you something.

It would be worse to be in dire fags (1)

orzetto (545509) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081822)

leaving any company with legacy technology in dire straights

Now, that would be a pain in the ass.

Straits, dammit.

Multiple Languages, Anyone? (4, Insightful)

natoochtoniket (763630) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081894)

I am frequently surprised that so many people consider themselves to be an X-Language programmer (for some particular X-Language). I think of myself as a computer scientist, or perhaps as a software engineer, but avoid labeling myself with any particular technology. After learning 40 or 50 languages and forgetting most of them, I have come to realize that I can learn a new language in a few days, and become comfortable with the library and environment in a few weeks.

A carpenter is not a hammer-er, or a saw-er, or a drill-er. He is expected to be able to quickly learn and use any of those tools, as needed for the project. A new project can use a new tool (language, os, whatever) as needed for the application. When an old program needs maintenence, it may require some re-learning of the old tool, but that should not be difficult.

I suspect the harder problem is preserving the old development systems and tools. If the compiler (or some other tool) hasn't been used in several years, there is a good chance that it won't work. Or, that we can't find it at all because it didn't get loaded onto the new host before the old host was scrapped. Or, that the old hard-copy manuals (how to use the tools) have rotted and/or been discarded in the trash.

Slash won't let me put in the funny subject I .... (0)

smcdow (114828) | more than 9 years ago | (#11081922)

... had in mind for this post. I tried to use "Score: -1, Troll" as my subject, but when I hit preview I get this: "Cat got your tongue? (something important seems to be missing from your comment ... like the body or the subject!)". So, I had to change the subject and now the joke is ruined.

So, for what it's worth, here's my original <strike>troll</strike> posting:

Ugh, COBOL. Bleah.

Oh well, at least it's not Java.

As an older worker I have new skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11081947)

I just don't have the exact combination of all 28 disparate skills every job seems to require. Though I do lack that one essential skill, lying. "Why yes, I am a certified Cisco network engineer, certified Oracle dba, and I know how to write device drivers for both Linux and Microsoft windows. Isn't everyone?"
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