Many Cobol Coders Are Still Going Strong (4 letters)

It’s hysterically funny that “45% of the respondents whose organizations use Cobol said their ability to hire Cobol programmers was either ‘worse’ or ‘much worse’ than their ability to hire programmers for modern languages such as Visual Basic, C++ and Java” ["Cobol Coders: Going, Going, Gone?" Technology, Oct. 9]. The reason it’s funny is that computer scientists were saying that Cobol was dead back in the 1980s and 1990s. (Personally, I’m an MIS person and never believed it, since I know how much Cobol permeates the business world.) College administrators and corporate management believed them. So colleges dropped it from their curricula, and corporate managers told people with Cobol skills that their “skills needed updating” and didn’t hire them. I am now a part-time teacher at a community college and have another job that has nothing to do with programming.

In the late 1990s, when I was at another college, I convinced a faculty committee to retain Cobol, but the college’s management overruled it. When my current college’s computer science/IT program underwent a curriculum review a few years back, I wrote a memo trying to keep Cobol in. It technically is still there, but it’s never offered. (I teach Visual Basic and other computer courses — not Cobol anymore.)

Virginia C. Wilch

Adjunct assistant professor
Suffolk County Community College
Selden and Brentwood, N.Y.

My thanks to Computerworld for reporting on the continued use of the mainframe and Cobol. There are many Cobol programmer/ analysts who have learned new technologies while continuing to support the mainframe “workhorse” applications. Some of us would be interested in helping companies continue to use their Cobol applications, but we do not want to relocate.

If these companies would work with us to support their Cobol applications via telecommuting, with perhaps a monthly trip to their location, they will find willing developers to hire. We are out here and available.

Betty Sims
Systems analyst
Richmond, Va.

The article says that “a large percentage of [Cobol programmers] are nearing retirement age.” However, the actual figures cited show a very small percentage of coders in the over-age-55 category. The current retirement age in the U.S. is 67, at least if you want full Social Security benefits. This suggests there’s a good 12 years or more left for the vast majority of Cobol coders. Fears that the supply of coders will dry up are as exaggerated as rumors of the death of Cobol itself.

Douglas Kretzmann

We will never run short of Cobol programmers. But we don’t depend on schools to train them. We can do that in 30 days. All we need are candidates with good logic ability and a true interest in helping businesses accomplish their goals.

Dean Christensen
IT director
Lincoln, Neb.


Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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