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Shortfall of COBOL programmers threatens the US government system

A number of U.S. states have begun searching for all specialists who have skills in the COBOL programming language.  Before the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the old software was still somehow doing its job, but when social services received 6.6 million unemployment claims in a couple of weeks, the old servers collapsed.



Finding COBOL programmers was a serious issue. Strictly speaking, this language is not quite outdated yet, the last major update was released in 2014. By its structure, COBOL is much better suited for creating services for government agencies - just as it was decades ago. That is why the American authorities gave preference to such software products, but did not hurry to invest in the training of specialized professionals. And on the free market COBOL was quoted much worse, so young programmers did not hurry to master it.

The main problem is not the lack of COBOL experts, but the fact that this niche remained in decline for a long time. And now we need to somehow rework it, adapt the old systems to what they are not designed for at all. For example, to optimize access to the same unemployment sites from a wide range of gadgets working under different operating systems and using different ways to access the Internet.

It is only theoretically possible to replace old programs with new analogues across the country. In the language of money, trillions of dollars worth of transactions pass through old mainframes on COBOL daily, and no one dares to stop this traffic. But even if there is a daredevil, and even if you take out of your pocket already finished and tested products for replacement, the physical implementation of new systems will take about ten years. So there is only one choice - you have to ask COBOL veterans to return to work, and students - to master the programming language, which many have not heard about.

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