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COBOL for COVID?
Old 04-06-2020, 05:13 PM   #1
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COBOL for COVID?

I bet there are a few old pros around here who could pitch in.

I took a survey course about programming languages that included COBOL but would be useless.

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If you know how to code COBOL, the state of New Jersey wants to hear from you.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says that the state is looking for volunteers with skills that can be used to help in the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, and one of those skills is knowing your way around a 61-year-old programming language used on big, old, mainframe computers.

https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/06/new-...nt-system.html
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Old 04-06-2020, 05:50 PM   #2
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Wow. I recall taking COBOL in college about 42 years ago. It was very sensitive to misplaced symbols and spaces. You could insert one incorrect semicolon, then when you would run the program it would generate about 30 pages of error messages, which were printed out on computer paper. I burned through a lot of paper that semester.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:01 PM   #3
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I have done maintenance programming in COBOL (all caps).
The first thing you do is spend weeks just looking at the code to try and get an understanding of the overview.
Second, you add comments for you—and the future you—to remember what the code does.
Then, you need to do regression testing, if the tests exist.
You do not write a actual line of code for about a month.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:09 PM   #4
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Literally, we have systems that are 40 years-plus old, and there’ll be lots of postmortems. And one of them on our list will be how did we get here where we literally needed COBOL programmers?
ROFL. I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever worked on an government technology project can answer that question without a massive postmortem. The legislature didn't want to appropriate money to reinvent a system that was still working.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:13 PM   #5
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I worked around the stuff but they're almost done debugging the only COBOL program I wrote. Been seven years since I retired.

If they want an opinion on system 370 assembly language I'd look at it. But I don't have an assembler or editor..... and I'm not traveling anywhere.. .no midnight phone calls... no yelling at me.... no freaking deadline set by someone who knows nothing. On second thought no.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:19 PM   #6
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ROFL. I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever worked on an government technology project can answer that question without a massive postmortem. The legislature didn't want to appropriate money to reinvent a system that was still working.
I read an RFP the IRS sent out back post Y2K. They had problems. I remember old assembly code that I'd guess they weren't sure the source and the load.....

They admitted to multiple stovepipe systems that were slightly redundant and slightly different. It sounded like a big cluster. Someone got a contract but I'm not sure it's ever been completed.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:25 PM   #7
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Then they're probably using DB2 for the database, or, dare I speak it, IMS ! Nooooooo !!
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:29 PM   #8
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didn't we have to call back all the cobol devs for Y2K?
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:39 PM   #9
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That was the first programming language I used after graduating from college in 1982. It certainly required good typing skills.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:40 PM   #10
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didn't we have to call back all the cobol devs for Y2K?
Well, COBOL was still going strong in 2000. Plenty of new COBOL code being written. But I do remember some folks taking a break from whatever they were doing at the time, and voluntarily doing Y2K 'fixes' in COBOL and PL/I because the pay was pretty high. Those folks were 'job shoppers' (contractors) who could hop from job to job.
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Old 04-06-2020, 06:44 PM   #11
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CIS in the 80's: COBOL and Turbo Pascal!
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:00 PM   #12
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Then they're probably using DB2 for the database, or, dare I speak it, IMS ! Nooooooo !!
VSAM
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:23 PM   #13
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Back in the early 80s, I was a lowly Geography major who had an interest in computer science, so in my junior year, I took the FORTRAN class with all the incoming freshman CompSci majors. I loved it and got an A. The next semester most of the survivors of that class moved on to take the COBOL class. I figured, what the heck, I think I'll take it too. The professor was a notorious know-it-all that took pleasure in weeding out the students who might not really be cut out for CompSci.

After the first test, when I got one of 2 A's in the class of about 100, he pointed me out in the class and told everyone that I was a Geography major and that I had aced the test while half the class of CompSci majors had failed it. He then told me I was more than welcome to switch majors. I was happy with my grade, but mortified that he had pointed me out to the rest of the class like that. I could just feel the eyes burning through me.

Anyway... I liked COBOL. It wasn't my favorite language (I think that was Pascal). By the way, I stayed with Geography and then later went into computer software tech sales (with some minor programming in script languages). I would not be able to help NJ at this point. But this thread brought back a memory for me, for sure.
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:26 PM   #14
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My dear old Dad was a programmer who retired in 1985 and was griping how when the company "merged" the new company insisted on switching to COBOL, which he considered even then to be antiquated. He also told me that in the late '90s they wanted to call him back to check old code for Y2K issues. His response was, "None of my programs have that issue! How dumb can you be??"
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Old 04-06-2020, 07:30 PM   #15
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"Volunteers"? As in free technical expertise? Yeah, right. Maybe for $80/hour, maybe.
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Old 04-07-2020, 01:44 AM   #16
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didn't we have to call back all the cobol devs for Y2K?
Yes. I was a programmer then, but not in COBOL. I remember reading in both the business press and the Information Technology press there were more than a few top level executives who were not at all happy that the Y2K COBOL programmers at their company were being paid more than they were - and on the longer projects the programmers were buying new cars that were better than their own.
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Old 04-07-2020, 03:46 AM   #17
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ROFL. I'm pretty sure anyone who's ever worked on an government technology project can answer that question without a massive postmortem. The legislature didn't want to appropriate money to reinvent a system that was still working.
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Old 04-07-2020, 05:36 AM   #18
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Took a CS class in high school in the early 80s. We had a punch card machine at the HS and entered (punched) our programs there.

We then had to go to the local college, join their public computer club, then run the punch cards on their mainframe at a very low priority. Oh the humanity!

HS teacher has an adjunct appointment at the local college so I guess it all makes sense.

Made me appreciate the 300 bps DECwriters later down the line...
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Old 04-07-2020, 05:54 AM   #19
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But what a scene it was at the midnight punch-card running centers! I was not in computer science, but I had friends who used the cards, and I vividly remember the noisy and crowded midnight life in the basement of the Computer Science building on campus, as the lowliest of college students ran their cards and generated results. Does anyone else remember the scene? Must have been the end of the '70s.
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Old 04-07-2020, 06:12 AM   #20
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I learned COBOL in 1983 while in college. I had already learned PL/I and was learning Pascal, similar to PL/I. When I began working in 1985, I wrote a few programs in COBOL but about a year into my career I was taught SAS (similar to PL/I and Pascal). Just after learning SAS, I rewrote a clunky 500-line COBOL program in SAS (about 50 lines) in about 15 minutes and it not only worked better and was faster than the COBOL version but was far easier to modify when I needed it to do something different but similar. I never wrote another program in COBOL again.


But, having learned COBOL, that knowledge was very useful throughout my career because my company's major programs (I was just an end-user) were written in COBOL and I often had to view pieces of those programs to figure out what they were doing, including record layouts I had to replicate in SAS for my programs. I was the only end-user in my division who knew COBOL, a valuable asset. So, my COBOL knowledge was not wasted.
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