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Why is the 61-year-old COBOL programming language still needed?

Development | Programming languages
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Is there anything special about it? Or is the programming language still used by someone ...
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The answer is pretty basic — legacy systems need to be maintained. And suddenly those systems are seriously stressed.

In more detail…

COBOL was the programming language of choice for business programs up to the 1980s. It was a good choice for that sort of application back then. Those business applications grew and grew as the business grew, and became more and more vital to the business’ operation.

When you think of these programs, don’t think of a term project for a programming class. Don’t think of a complex video game. Think of hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of lines of code for each application, that has taken decades to accumulate. That is too much to rewrite in a more modern language. The budget, the time, and occupying your best programmers who know the business mean it is something that just won’t get done.

So the system cruises along, supporting the business. Things don’t change much and don’t change quickly, and most of the bugs have been found because the system has been in use “forever”. So you don’t need many programmers who know the system and can program in COBOL. You do need some to maintain the system, but not many at all.

Now along comes an emergency that disrupts the business. Example: COVID-19. The most critical example in the news this week was the overload on the system that supports applications for unemployment. Four times the load on the system that it was designed for. Suddenly, you need coding first aid — and all that code is COBOL! So you need to beef up your staff with people who know COBOL.

on May 06th, 2020 (10:03 pm)
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