Face masks, ventilators, doctors, nurses, medical facilities – all have been in high demand ever since COVID-19 became our reality. But who would’ve thought that we would also require COBOL programmers?
Source: New York Magazine
Yes, you heard that right! New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has recently made an extremely odd request. Apparently, he needs help from computer programmers, who are well-versed with the decade-old programming language called COBOL.
Social distancing and remote working has resolved many issues but has also given rise to another problem. In the past two weeks, approximately 362,000 New Jersey residents have filed a petition for unemployment due to the despicable Coronavirus. In fact, a 1,600 per cent increase has also been witnessed in the state’s unemployment rate. The system keeps crashing as it is now being overloaded with requests that are yet to go through. The catch here is that this system is built on the COBOL.
Murphy held a conference over the weekend to give an update on how the state’s tackling with the pandemic. He even made a blunder by mistakenly referring to COBOL as COBALT. He said, “… on our list of volunteers, not only do we need healthcare workers, but given the legacy systems, we should add a page for COBALT [sic] computer skills because that’s what we’re dealing with in these legacies.”
Although many people didn’t realize the mistake, programmers were quick to identify that the governor was referring to the programming language that dates back to the 1960s.
“COBOL, for those who are unfamiliar, is a computer language that is over 60 years old, and was once the staple of software development across industry and government. By the late 1980s, however, it had become sufficiently obsolete that many universities did not even include it in their computer science curricula.” - explained cyber-security expert Joseph Steinberg on his website.
This is the reason why most young and upcoming programmers haven’t learned how to work around this coding language. What is interesting to notice here is the fact that at least 95% of the ATM swipes are powered by COBOL. In addition to this, 43% of banking systems are built on this programming language. Every day, a whopping number of $3 trillion is handled by the same computing language.
So, the problem here is that the government requires programmers who are older in age. The average age of a regular COBOL programmer is mandated to be 50 or above. A decade ago, people who were computing geniuses were concerned that they would run out of COBOL programmers entirely. The younger lot is not learning this computing language, and the one’s who're equipped are thinking of retiring.
During the press conference, the governor further noted, that, “Literally, we have systems that are 40-plus years old. There’ll be lots of postmortems and one of them on our list will be how the heck did we get here when we literally needed COBALT [sic] programmers.”