COBOL DISMISSED BY US CIO AS SCARY
You wouldn’t want to have been a COBOL developer attending the recent “NYC 2012 Disrupt Conference”. During a live presentation the new US CIO and CTO launched an effort to “disrupt the United States Federal Government” and called for “bad-ass” developers to help power the disruption (source: TechCrunch, Disrupt NY 2012) . During the opening keynote the US Chief Information Officer mocked “I’m recruiting COBOL developers, any out there? Trust me we still have it in the Federal Government which is quite, quite scary.” to which the CTO reacted with a fit of laughter.
The US Federal Government currently have a number of open positions relating to both COBOL and FORTRAN where the successful applicants will be “planning, developing, scheduling, and testing of COBOL software applications in support of IRS modernization and production systems using established standards and system lifecycles.”.
When you consider we rely on our respective countries government (and other large institutions) for so much the idea of utilising a back-end platform that has a 50+ year heritage doesn’t sound quite as scary as the alternatives many of which have heritages dating back just 10 years. There always seems to be a notion, when talking about COBOL, to describe it in “legacy” terms however modern COBOL has just as much going for it as any other object-oriented language plus it can often be much more readable and its emphasis on clearly defined data structures can lead to code, and applications, that often just work and don’t need replacing as often as more recent alternatives.
There used to be a paradigm that software development is 80% design and 20% code which placed a much stronger emphasis on well considered analysis and design but more recently it feels as if this ratio is moving more towards an emphasis on the code itself. The US CTO and CIO used the catalyst of openness and reuse as the drivers for unlocking government data.
What is laughable is dismissing an infrastructure, and the people behind it, simply because of its age and modernising for the sake of it. However, this is probably not something you would want to hear at a disrupt conference.