News New Jersey Pleas for COBOL Coders for Mainframes Amid Coronavirus Pandemic

Apr 5, 2020
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Younger coders have no idea how much COBOL is in use out there. Older developers that are in late stage careers don't show up on community sites much because they are focused and know their stuff. Pro tip: If you are looking for steady, high-paying employment with more regular hours and the need for little mobility, learn COBOL. It's not the sexy thing, but it always, always pays the bills. Like New Jersey needing to hire COBOL developers while everyone is getting furloughed/laid off.
 

King_V

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Eh, maybe. I think COBOL programmers were the first to be let go. I suspect it's not easy getting a job as a COBOL programmer.

"Those systems will never need changes, and nobody wants to pay for public infrastructure and support because OMG GOVERNMENT EVIL and OMG MY TAXES and OMG GOVERNMENT WORKERS ARE ROBBING ME" etc etc.

It's like a LOT of infrastructure today - sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts and giveaways for the 1%. Funny how everyone else is supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, take out loans, etc., yet the upper echelons aren't held to that same requirement.
 
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Makaveli

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Eh, maybe. I think COBOL programmers were the first to be let go. I suspect it's not easy getting a job as a COBOL programmer.

"Those systems will never need changes, and nobody wants to pay for public infrastructure and support because OMG GOVERNMENT EVIL and OMG MY TAXES and OMG GOVERNMENT WORKERS ARE ROBBING ME" etc etc.

It's like a LOT of infrastructure today - sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts and giveaways for the 1%. Funny how everyone else is supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, take out loans, etc., yet the upper echelons aren't held to that same requirement.
The rules are always different for the rich.
 

PaulAlcorn

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Eh, maybe. I think COBOL programmers were the first to be let go. I suspect it's not easy getting a job as a COBOL programmer.

"Those systems will never need changes, and nobody wants to pay for public infrastructure and support because OMG GOVERNMENT EVIL and OMG MY TAXES and OMG GOVERNMENT WORKERS ARE ROBBING ME" etc etc.

It's like a LOT of infrastructure today - sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts and giveaways for the 1%. Funny how everyone else is supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, take out loans, etc., yet the upper echelons aren't held to that same requirement.
Actually, COBOL programmers are in high demand, and have been for some time. Rare skillset.
https://thenextweb.com/finance/2017/04/10/ancient-programming-language-cobol-can-make-you-bank-literally/
 

alextheblue

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As such, New Jersey is looking for volunteers, likely of the retired sort, to help solve its problems.
If they actually asked for volunteers, they need to get their heads checked. Anyone willing and qualified should (and will) command the big bucks. Not to mention this would be a serious hump-busting undertaking on short notice. Lots of states are having their unemployment systems fall apart, though.
"Those systems will never need changes, and nobody wants to pay for public infrastructure and support because OMG GOVERNMENT EVIL and OMG MY TAXES and OMG GOVERNMENT WORKERS ARE ROBBING ME" etc etc.

It's like a LOT of infrastructure today - sacrificed on the altar of tax cuts and giveaways for the 1%. Funny how everyone else is supposed to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, take out loans, etc., yet the upper echelons aren't held to that same requirement.
It has nothing to do with that. First of all, this is a State level system, and thus NJ was responsible for this. That aside, they get TONS of money... NJ taxes are not exactly low, nor is it a bastion of libertarianism. The money just doesn't go to such boring things until they actually BREAK. The politicians in charge of these states spend it on things that benefit them.

I'm sure they've been told for years that these systems were woefully overdue for an expensive overhaul. Politicians aren't particularly motivated to spend money on such POINTLESS things until they actually come apart. After all it doesn't buy them votes, nor does it enrichen them and their friends.
 
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King_V

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Actually, COBOL programmers are in high demand, and have been for some time. Rare skillset.
Hmm, I might be prejudging based on a previous employer. Older guy, did Java, but also did COBOL. Some of the company's code was still in COBOL.

They let him go (and, honestly, half of the relatively small IT department) even though he was close to retirement. Older, higher pay, and, well, the new director of IT knew how to game the system: if you cut costs in the department (salaries = cost), your raise and bonus would be more impressive.

They of course did have to hire outside contractors, more expensive, to take up the slack. But contractors came out of a different budget than the salaries for IT staff. That didn't count - on paper, it looked like a huge savings in the IT budget. This was a private company, no less.

Still, the mentality in the US about government employees and government infrastructure has been steadily pounded in to a selfish chunk of the electorate of "these lazy, government workers feeding at the trough are sucking off at the teat of YOUR tax dollars."

If they actually asked for volunteers, they need to get their heads checked. Anyone willing and qualified should (and will) command the big bucks. Not to mention this would be a serious hump-busting undertaking on short notice. Lots of states are having their unemployment systems fall apart, though.

It has nothing to do with that. First of all, this is a State level system, and thus NJ was responsible for this. That aside, they get TONS of money... NJ taxes are not exactly low, nor is it a bastion of libertarianism. The money just doesn't go to such boring things until they actually BREAK. The politicians in charge of these states spend it on things that benefit them.

I'm sure they've been told for years that these systems were woefully overdue for an expensive overhaul. Politicians aren't particularly motivated to spend money on such POINTLESS things until they actually come apart. After all it doesn't buy them votes, nor does it enrichen them and their friends.
Born and raised in NJ, and approaching the half-century mark. There's rather horrifyingly large percentage of the populace that thinks having the best public schools, social services that only MODERATELY struggle rather than falling apart, and so on, are the worst enemies of the good, honest taxpayers, and the cause of all financial woes. This narrative keeps getting sold.

Keeping infrastructure going doesn't buy votes because a lot of people here (not to say at all that NJ is the only one, we're actually pretty good, in spite of the army of the selfish) simply think that anything that doesn't help them directly or fall into the dogma of "what's good for the (not really) job-creators is good for me."

Sorry for the rant - I've just seen too much of the mentality here, given that it's overall a relatively liberal state. But I'm in agreement - if infrastructure doesn't buy them votes, someone will get voted in who will ignore infrastructure and enrich themselves and friends, while giving a few token pennies to everyone else. And half of everyone else will sing the praises of that candidate for the extra pennies.
 

alextheblue

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Keeping infrastructure going doesn't buy votes because a lot of people here (not to say at all that NJ is the only one, we're actually pretty good, in spite of the army of the selfish) simply think that anything that doesn't help them directly or fall into the dogma of "what's good for the (not really) job-creators is good for me."
What I'm telling you is that it's not the populace that is largely the issue. It's the politicians. This issue is pervasive in all states, regardless of the political make-up of the populace. I personally DO feel they take too much money, and blow it like coke on a hooker's back. But it's not really just the raw dollar amount, it's the cruft, the waste, the fraud... the corruption.

It's even worse on a national level. For example the 1400 page stimulus bill (which had lots of meat for both parties) benefited the wealthy more than the poor, and money was indirectly funneled into purely political causes as well. That's why people complain that they're taking too much, because if there wasn't so much fraud and waste, they wouldn't need to beat as much out of us.

Side note: People would complain a lot more if you received 100% of your gross income, and they showed up at your house to physically demand what they are owed. Really visualize that scenario for a minute, the full paycheck in your bank, the knock at the door - the man in the suit has a card scanner in one hand and the other in a pocket.
 
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pug_s

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I don't think you need to look for the retired community for cobol programmers. I worked for a bank at the time in the late 1990's who employed about 2 dozen college grads in preparation for y2k.
 

USAFRet

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I don't think you need to look for the retired community for cobol programmers. I worked for a bank at the time in the late 1990's who employed about 2 dozen college grads in preparation for y2k.
Those people are now almost 50 years old.
Maybe not quite "retired", but up there as far as pay requirements.

And current "grads" would have to learn a whole different way of doing things.
 
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My magnum opus was converting a ten-thousand line Cobol program with 32 input files, 855 goto statements and two internal sorts into a structured program. Credit goes to debug tracing under Microfocus Cobol and Diff on the IBM mainframe that I used to verify that three months of inputs through my replacement gave identical results to the original maintenance nightmare. The original programmers two decades earlier were given an ultimatum of producing the program in a month or all being fired. A real world application of the mythical man month in that the narcissistic CEO given a six month timeline added six times the staff and gave the one month ultimatum. Kudos to the ones who worked night and day and got it done. Nightmares for everyone who had to fix or enhance it years later. But that is what my BSCS degree taught me to deal with. I haven't used Cobol in 30 years but still know IMS and DB2 SQL along with JES2 for job control on an IBM mainframe. Does NJ really need retired programmers, in my case having risen to Sr Staff Analyst level? If they have Microfocus Cobol I would really be tempted. Easytrieve Plus would be the icing on the cake but report writer was still okay. And I'd hope they have a great sort and date conversion library. And no dangling else clauses without at least an error code for debugging!
 
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irqthecat

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Ran across this some years ago. Predicted the future
I'm ignoring Y2K
Jack was a COBOL programmer in the mid to late 1990s. After years of being taken for granted and treated as a technological dinosaur by all the Client/Server programmers and website developers, he was finally getting some respect. He'd become a private consultant specializing in Year 2000 conversions.

Several years of this relentless, mind-numbing work had taken its toll on Jack. He began having anxiety dreams about the Year 2000. All he could think about was how he could avoid the year 2000 and all that came with it.

Jack decided to contact a company that specialized in cryogenics. He made a deal to have himself frozen until March 15th, 2000. The next thing he would know is he'd wake up in the year 2000; after the New Year celebrations and computer debacles; after the leap day. Nothing else to worry about except getting on with his life.

He was put into his cryogenic receptacle, the technicians set the revive date, he was given injections to slow his heartbeat to a bare minimum, and that was that.

The next thing that Jack saw was an enormous and very modern room filled with excited people. They were all shouting "I can't believe it!" and "It's a miracle" and "He's alive!". There were cameras (unlike any he'd ever seen) and equipment that looked like it came out of a science fiction movie.
Someone who was obviously a spokesperson for the group stepped forward. Jack couldn't contain his enthusiasm. "Is it over?" he asked. "Is the year 2000 already here? Are all the millennial parties and promotions and crises all over and done with?"

The spokesman explained that there had been a problem with the programming of the timer on Jack's cryogenic receptacle, it hadn't been year 2000 compliant. It was actually eight thousand years later, not the year 2000. Technology had advanced to such a degree that everyone had virtual reality interfaces which allowed them to contact anyone else on the planet.

"That sounds terrific," said Jack. "But I'm curious. Why is everybody so interested in me?"

"Well," said the spokesman. "The year 10000 is just around the corner, and it says in your files that you know COBOL".


source: Cobol Jokes | Funny Humor by Joke Buddha
 

Takasis007

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OMG it has been years since I have used COBOL coding. I think the last line of code was in 96. For large batch processing it works well. Around the time I graduated from college, they were starting to get object oriented programming for it. I had the misfortune of trying to figure out what it was creating as early object oriented programming created a very large amount of trash code and it was absolutely not optimized. Debugging was a nightmare since just having a single line of code not lined up properly threw like pages upon pages of error codes. There is a massive amount of code out there and no guarantee the original source code still exists. My stumbling block was always the JCL.
 

Takasis007

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OMG it has been years since I have used COBOL coding. I think the last line of code was in 96. For large batch processing it works well. Around the time I graduated from college, they were starting to get object oriented programming for it. I had the misfortune of trying to figure out what it was creating as early object oriented programming created a very large amount of trash code and it was absolutely not optimized. Debugging was a nightmare since just having a single line of code not lined up properly threw like pages upon pages of error codes. There is a massive amount of code out there and no guarantee the original source code still exists. My stumbling block was always the JCL.
K so not literaly the last line of code in 96, just the last I coded. LOL.
 

cgoldkorn

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"The state will have competition, though; Connecticut is already leading a joint project with three other states to recruit COBOL coders to overhaul its own aging mainframe infrastructure. "

Mainframe infrastructure is CPU, Storage, Network, air cooling, eletric power and Operating System. COBOL is just a high-level programming language like PL/1 and Fortran, and it will generate only application code because that was the way it was designed. BTW, COBOL means COmmon Business Oriented Language.

"Why stick with Mainframes? The systems are basically unhackable (there simply aren't many COBOL hackers out there) and they also offer the ultimate in reliability, as evidenced by their 50-year run in New Jersey. "

They are unhackable not because of COBOL hackers shortage, but because they were designed from ground up as such since IBM S/370 CPU and OS/VS2, VM/370 and DOS/VS were launched. COBOL is a business language and has no direct interface to any IBM Operating System part.
 

Giroro

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Younger coders have no idea how much COBOL is in use out there. Older developers that are in late stage careers don't show up on community sites much because they are focused and know their stuff. Pro tip: If you are looking for steady, high-paying employment with more regular hours and the need for little mobility, learn COBOL. It's not the sexy thing, but it always, always pays the bills. Like New Jersey needing to hire COBOL developers while everyone is getting furloughed/laid off.
Unfortunately, Young coders don't gain enough knowledge in school about the inner workings of computers to easily learn COBOL, or any of the old low-level languages.... and often any of the current low level languages.

That is why when I hear a range of "$55 to $85 an hour" I balk at how low that number is compared to, anecdotally, the massive hoops I have heard big companies are jumping through to bring in talent from overseas.
Because attracting one of the few dozen or so people left on earth who know how prevent you from rebuilding your entire 50 year old system from the ground up is worth a whole lot more to certain companies than $110k/yr.
So if New Jersey thinks some hot shot guru from Sweeden, or wherever, is going to immigrate to the US to work for free.. well I don't see it happening. So good luck trying to train locals from scratch, or whatever. Because the local culture old-school programmers whom are perpetually six months from retirement aren't really the type to go job hunting.
 
My magnum opus was converting a ten-thousand line Cobol program with 32 input files, 855 goto statements and two internal sorts into a structured program. Credit goes to debug tracing under Microfocus Cobol and Diff on the IBM mainframe that I used to verify that three months of inputs through my replacement gave identical results to the original maintenance nightmare. The original programmers two decades earlier were given an ultimatum of producing the program in a month or all being fired. A real world application of the mythical man month in that the narcissistic CEO given a six month timeline added six times the staff and gave the one month ultimatum. Kudos to the ones who worked night and day and got it done. Nightmares for everyone who had to fix or enhance it years later. But that is what my BSCS degree taught me to deal with. I haven't used Cobol in 30 years but still know IMS and DB2 SQL along with JES2 for job control on an IBM mainframe. Does NJ really need retired programmers, in my case having risen to Sr Staff Analyst level? If they have Microfocus Cobol I would really be tempted. Easytrieve Plus would be the icing on the cake but report writer was still okay. And I'd hope they have a great sort and date conversion library. And no dangling else clauses without at least an error code for debugging!
I present you the Frederick L Brooks award for knowing Mythical Man Month.
 
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bit_user

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Politicians aren't particularly motivated to spend money on such POINTLESS things until they actually come apart.
A more troubling variation on this is that they're not inclined to take unpopular public health measures until people start dying. There seems to be a disturbing calculus at work, where they're judging how bad things have to get, before the lock-down will seem justified to the majority of their supporters. Even though acting sooner could save lives and maybe even enable things to get back to normal, sooner, they fear getting out ahead of public opinion.

Now, it's worth noting that this wouldn't even be so bad, if our public health planning, preparations, and supplies had been in better shape. But, I guess simply being a responsible manager of the public good is no longer a vote-getter.

It's the politicians. This issue is pervasive in all states, regardless of the political make-up of the populace.
Politicians of all stripes have a natural inclination to use public resources to benefit their supporters, whether it's in the form of purchasing, direct subsidies, or tax cuts.

I don't see that ever changing. The only way to counter it is to demand more transparency and to hold politicians to account. Sadly, the decline of newspapers is really hurting the quality of state and local governance.
 
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bit_user

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There's no way they're running a 50-year-old mainframe. Fake news headline. Sad to see.
The article was updated to state "40 years", with a citation of a local publication.

It should be noted that the number of years needn't mean a single piece of hardware was in continuous operation for that entire period. Instead, they might simply mean that the same codebase was being continually run on that lineage of hardware and operating systems.
 

bit_user

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Unfortunately, Young coders don't gain enough knowledge in school about the inner workings of computers to easily learn COBOL, or any of the old low-level languages.... and often any of the current low level languages.
C is pretty low-level. How hard is it to transition from C to COBOL?

Not that I'm seriously considering it, but I have had to cleanup some horrendous messes in C, on a few occasions.
 

King_V

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What I'm telling you is that it's not the populace that is largely the issue. It's the politicians. This issue is pervasive in all states, regardless of the political make-up of the populace. I personally DO feel they take too much money, and blow it like coke on a hooker's back. But it's not really just the raw dollar amount, it's the cruft, the waste, the fraud... the corruption.
Oh, I agree on the waste, fraud, etc. - but it's not all politicians, and not all the programs. And there's most definitely a certain group of politicians that engage in this, and, through years of training, have convinced their constituents that it's the public school teachers, the poor, minorities, immigrants, and so forth. Usually with undertones of racism. "If those lazy (fill in the blank) would just get off their butts and get a job/real job, then my taxes would be lower."

They've been convinced to believe that the one drop in the bucket they've been told to focus on is actually the entire bucketful. It was easy to convince them because they already wanted to believe it, and now someone in "authority" is confirming it.
 

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