By GCN Staff

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COBOL just keeps hanging on

Many of the federal government’s older mission-critical systems still run on COBOL, a programming language developed in 1959.

Despite the growing prevalence of modern programming languages such as C++, .NET and Java, the Common Business-Oriented Language is still responsible for more than 70 percent of the world’s business transactions, according to a report in FCW.

But unlike cloud and mobile computing, big data and social media, COBOL has developed a reputation as outdated and “uncool,” said Micro Focus’s Ed Airey, speaking at a recent COBOL Developer Day.

As a result, only about one-quarter of colleges across the country are teaching COBOL in their curriculums, and only 20 percent of those schools require that programming graduates take it.

The coming shortage of COBOL programmers will affect the government’s legacy IT systems and core databases, which suck up approximately 70 percent of the government’s $82 billion IT budget, leaving only 30 percent to spend on innovative technologies.

As agencies look to modernize their IT systems, they must decide whether to replace their COBOL code or repurpose it. This can be an expensive and difficult endeavor — the Defense Department has struggled with it for 15 years.  For those reasons, it is likely that systems running COBOL — at least on the back end — are likely to be a mainstay for many more years to come.

Posted by GCN Staff on Jan 06, 2014 at 10:26 AM

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Reader Comments

Sun, Aug 3, 2014

Rewriting a COBOL system in a 'modern' language, or using COBOL in a new application, is simply a ROI-based decision. Each situation is unique. Quantify the costs and the benefits and the decision becomes an easy one. The rest is just politics, opinions, and BS.

Wed, May 7, 2014 James W. Monterey

Here is to hoping that it hangs on for a while! I have a vested interest though - I own a niche job board dedicated to it: http://COBOLJobs.co Anyway, a lot of programmers make fun of COBOL, but what they really don't like is the corporate culture that often goes along with it. Java is the same way. Kids love it college but graduate to a farm of cubicles they decide they hate it. Hip or not, COBOL is here to stay for the near term.

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