COBOL quote in the news

Chuck Guzis cclist at
Thu Aug 7 15:47:47 CDT 2008

On 7 Aug 2008 at 11:19, Eric Smith wrote:
> It's not at all hard to find COBOL programmers, and they are NOT all 
> retired.  Offer a decent salary, and you'll get them.  What the state is 
> specifically trying to do, though is to cut everyone's salaries, so how 
> likely is it that they'll offer a good salary to a COBOL programmer.
> The real story is that it's a bunch of political posturing.

Oh, you cynic!  I'll come to the defense of the bean-counters by 
saying that knowing how to write a program in COBOL and being fluent 
in COBOL are very different things, just as learning to read Russian 
is one thing and writing like Pushkin is quite another.

COBOL is a huge language for its time.  I recall that the early 
releases of COBOL for S/360 were not complete implementations.  I 
have an IBM document somewhere in my files that states that indexed-
sequential file access wasn't implemented in the compiler.  The 
compile would accept the statements and check them for syntax, but no 
code was generated.  Instead, one had to call a bunch of assembly-
language routines (ENTER LINKAGE) to the work.

Add to the problems of California's COBOL is the likelihood that most 
of this code is probably pretty crufty by now, with all manner of 
ugly modifications shoehorned in.  I also suspect also that the 
application source code is quite large.

Finding enough fluent COBOL programmers who would be willing to 
tackle the job might well be more than just a lame excuse for doing 
nothing.  ISTR that California got burned a couple of times trying to 
convert its antiquated DMV applications to something a bit more 

Does anyone know if California's running this COBOL code under 
emulation?  I remember a customer who was seeking to get rid of his 
7080's and run his COBOL on something more modern.  The problem was 
that it wasn't just COBOL code at that point--there were plenty of 
binary patches in the code, along with large stretches of uncommented 
7080 autocoder.  The customer ended up buying a S/370 configuration 
and running it in 7080 emulation mode.  Unraveling and rewriting the 
code looked to be too much of a black hole.


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