Don’t get consumed in the Media Hype

When I read blogs and articles discussing COBOL and then scroll through the negative comments underneath, my first thought is to write a post to continue to defend COBOL and disprove all of the negativity.   But that is not where I ended up today.

I am at point in my career where I hope to be able to bring programming value for another 10 – 15 years.  I have learned in recent years to develop applications in Visual Basic, .NET, C# as well as continued development and maintenance of COBOL applications.   It was 34 years ago that I was taught the COBOL programming language but my appreciation of what COBOL could offer in an organization did not happen immediately in my first job after college.

My first job after college took me through computer operations where I was a night computer operator on a Digital VAX mainframe for over a year.   It was in this position that I began to see the huge benefits of COBOL in a BATCH processing environment.   The speed of COBOL handling thousands and thousands of transactions and the detailed reports being produced was amazing to me!  I was then mentored by one of the COBOL programmers for about 4 months in COBOL programming techniques and was given some smaller projects that I could work on while doing my nightly operations.  I was able to get up to speed very quickly and began to maintain and develop some COBOL programs.

So, with that being said, I can truly understand why someone that has never seen or worked with COBOL may not appreciate the history and current day value that COBOL can and does bring to the table.

As you see from my history, it took me awhile to really gain that knowledge and appreciation of COBOL even though I had already spent a huge chunk of time at the University, in the computer room, learning and writing COBOL.

So why continue the arguments?  I’ve arrived at a place where I feel that there’s no need to.   Detlef a.k.a “The COBOL Kid” and I are going to go into some deep discussions over the next weeks to explore and hopefully shed some light and understanding on the need for COBOL in 2015.

Recently, I found this comment in the string following a blog post discussing IRS budget cuts and COBOL.

Good one!

I recently was asked by a college student if I could teach him COBOL. It wasn’t that he wanted to be a true professional COBOL’er but it was the fact that he read these Blogs and magazine articles at a deeper level (without formulating an immediate opinion) and realized that there is going to be a need for COBOL programmers in the near future and maybe he could step into the picture somewhat with some basic training.  He understood the language and opinion that the experienced programmers were sharing.   And this brought me full circle.  It may not be as much about raising the dead (although this fits perfectly with COBOLZombies), but maybe we are being directed towards a need to begin sooner than later the necessary training and mentoring today’s and tomorrow’s pool of programmers.


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About Doug

Doug Evans is the Technical Manager of Migrations and COBOL Solutions Support for Infosol, Inc.

One Response to Don’t get consumed in the Media Hype

  1. The COBOL Kid says:

    Great Blog Doug.
    As you know I have started to teach (or let teach) COBOL to my Employee. I was looking for a younger COBOL Programmer but could not find anyone. People showing up have not even heard about COBOL but did Visual Basic 10 Years back in school before they went to Army. Not the people I was looking for. At the end I decieded for someone who just taught himself the VBA language for his needs in his previous Job.
    This Guy was just interested in Programming and I let him learn Visual Basic .Net as this was affordable for my Company at this time. After that he had started a project called “Enterprise Manager”. A Tool that allows to group multiple applications into a a tab and assign these a number of runtime variables. The number of tabbed groups is limited by memory. While working on this I let him learn COBOL on-line by a great Teacher. This just took 10 half day sessions over a couple weeks and is just a couple month ago.

    Right now he is working at customer side in a big COBOL Project where on of the Key fields in mostly all files/screens/Programs has to be preceeded by an additional new Key field.

    To bring it to the point. Instead yelling around as others that you can not find young COBOL Programmers (and I am thinking why do they not teach them) I took the chance to teach one myself.

    My employee did not know anything about COBOL 14 Month ago. After 4 Month in my Company we were visiting a Micro Focus Event in the Porsche Musem in Stuttgart. We learned about the World Wide Warranty System from Porsche which is completely written in VISUAL COBOL. When my employee saw this and all the other customer base from Micro Focus he was amazed not knowing more about COBOL. He heard before only that COBOL is dead. I myself heard about the Deadness of that Language in 1982, that is only 3 decades ago.

    Yes, we all should start doing something. There will be plenty of work in the future. With COBOL.

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