COBOL Makes a Comeback

Author: Charter Global
Published: April 17, 2020

Imagine working on a technology that runs on an old mainframe computer. Imagine using a 60-year-old programming language, COBOL which stands for Common Business Oriented Language. This computer programming language was developed back in 1959, according to the National Museum of American History. Imagine in 2020 using a programming language that was used to create a very significant percentage of business systems during the1960s, the 1970s, and even into the 1980s.

This is not a movie scene flashing back to an era dominated by mainframes, printers with perforated computer paper, and vintage computer monitors with an occasional IBM electric typewriter. It is the reality facing programmers and state unemployment employees who are implementing The CARES Act which was signed into federal law on March 27, 2020, and will expand unemployment Insurance benefits. It is designed to provide financial relief for workers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Implementation of this unemployment program will be performed by individual states.

Challenges facing state unemployment offices

States are incorporating new changes based on The CARES Act into their resource guides. Detailed and instructional information about the pandemic unemployment benefit extensions is still in the process of being released. States must follow guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor to implement The CARES Act.

Most states are trying to implement CARES as quickly as possible, but they are struggling to process the large volume of unemployment claims. More than half of the states in the US, including California, New York, and Pennsylvania, continue to run the decades-old programming language on mainframe systems—including critical unemployment claims systems. Therefore, processing and unemployment claims may take as long as two weeks because of the difficulty of using COBOL. In addition, many developers in today’s technical environment have never used COBOL. This is slowing the government’s effort to get billions of dollars in stimulus checks to millions of newly unemployed citizens.

COBOL programmer’s s are hard to find

Five decades ago, programmer’s s who knew how to use COBOL were in high demand. Fast forward to today’s laptop, tablet, cloud computing, and servers’ technologies and it is a drastically different technical environment. In fact, COBOL programs are generally much older than the average age of current programmers. Another factor that has contributed to the scarcity of COBOL programmers is that many American universities have not included COBOL in their computer science programs since the 1980s.

As a result, businesses have moved away from using the difficult-to-learn aging language, and have incorporated other current and technically relevant software programs.

Less popular, but COBOL is used in certain environments

The number of COBOL programmers has dwindled, but the technology is still in use. According to a 2017 report by Reuters found that there are still 220 billion lines of COBOL in use today. Forty-three percent of banking systems are built on COBOL and 95 percent of ATM swipes rely on COBOL code. COBOL is still used by the federal government, including the federal government, and agencies such as the Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Justice and Social Security Administration, according to a 2016 report by the Government Accountability Office.  The CARES Act was created to help Americans affected by the coronavirus. The economic impact has been drastic. Leaders realize the importance of moving the CARES Act, thus requiring the skills of COBOL programmers. This talent shortage has led to the need for COBOL programmers.

If you’re an expert in COBOL, you are suddenly in high demand because the 60-year-old computer language still powers some government office technology.

Charter Global’s Capabilities in Legacy Technologies

Charter Global is known for its expertise in providing top talent for legacy technologies. We have successfully developed and provided thousands of IT talent to our clients. Among the many services we render at Charter Global, we develop applications and tools using mainframe systems.