Old Software Never Dies…

…it just keeps byte-ing.  All of a sudden, with payroll and government financial systems being stressed, large institutions are desperate to find COBOL programmers.  Foolishly, they pensioned off all those crusty old codgers, instead of keeping a few on staff to tinker and optimize and untangle all the old code running payroll and inventory and scheduling and…


I made Captain at SAC HQ wrangling a room filled with COBOL programmers back in the late 70’s.  Every n00b was given a stack of horribly-written report generators and tasked with (a) making the code beautiful and comprehensible and (b) making it modular so we could eliminate duplicate software.  Trained up some sharp programmers, and dumped cabinets of obsolete code (4000 lines per drawer) in about a year, and fielded lots of new, super-useful products (cool stuff for strategic reconnaissance and nuclear weapons targeting).  When I shipped out, a kid fresh out of a 2-week COBOL school could maintain that code.  Saw my last deck of COBOL punched cards at Randolph AFB around the time  the Berlin Wall fell. Dang, I miss the Cold War. COBOL, not so much.

Charles Martin has a great article describing the survival of COBOL, and a nice introductory tutorial.

Tip from CM blogging at the Instapundit.

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