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Monday, April 23, 2012


Where else is COBOL being used?

When I get asked this, my first impression is that the person asking feels all alone in their use of the language, almost ashamed, believe it or not. 

The media, tool /software vendors, consultants, and even college professors have made the statements telling us all how COBOL is the "old" and we should be doing the "new".  They've done a good job promoting the fact that if you are using the new gadget then you must be missing out.

My answer to them is always the same.  COBOL is an ever advancing language and is as current and modern as anything else out in the market.  COBOL is in use every day in literally thousands of companies.

But the number is shrinking.

And I believe it is because of this perception that "we must be all alone".

Well, I've got news for everyone...  COBOL is still alive and kicking.

The problem is that no one is waving a flag saying "We use COBOL".

Yes, usage is down.  The numbers will continue to shrink until reaching an equilibrium or point of balance. 

Here's why - Back when COBOL took the stage, there were only so many options available to a company.  Nowadays, there are literally hundreds if not thousands of ways to create and deploy a business application. 

How many companies will be using COBOL in 5 or 10 years?  Idunno. 

I think a very scientific number will be "a bunch of them".  Not as many as there were, but enough to be significant.

Today thousands of software companies, banks, insurance companies, manufacturers, and credit card processing companies are spending millions of dollars on their COBOL applications.  And they will continue to do so.

As for those of us who write COBOL applications and are trying to figure out what they should focus on for the future, my advice is simple: 

Learn a framework like .NET and become somewhat language independent.  Learn as much as you can about how to leverage things like .NET and other technologies that are used within your shop.  And use your expertise with COBOL to become the expert at briding that gap. 

My buddy Doby!
Learn some new tricks!