Friday, June 25, 2010
Detroit & COBOL – NOT DEAD YET
In 1985, in Dallas Texas, twelve individuals including myself began an intensive 3-month training program to learn Assembler (ALC), COBOL, JCL, TSO, ISPF and VSAM. It was a great class, modeled after EDS’s training where the principals of our company, USLIFE, had receiving their training.
We were told that it would be one of the most intense programs we would ever encounter. They informed us that probably 2 of us would not be able to finish it. They were right. For the next 3 months, I ate, breathed and slept programming. I would wake in the middle of the night and modify code. I didn’t pick up a magazine, newspaper or watch a movie. I didn’t have time. The average work week was 70 hours on-site. But, I learned the language in a way that is stored deeply in my brain cells.
When we finished the course, ten of us, we were ready for work. I was lucky to be placed in a very interesting spot where my next step would be to learn CICS. I got to travel to New York to interface with my group. I was able to do new development. I learned a lot about the life insurance business.
Fast forward 10 years and the Y2K frenzy was just beginning. I knew that it wasn’t a false alarm, but rather a warning signal. Everybody had to get to work and find all those dates that were coded when the year 2000 was so far in the future that we didn’t think it would ever arrive. Most companies took advantage of the opportunity to review all their systems to implement future planned enhancements into the code as long as we were making the date changes. Many replaced out-dated systems with new technology. They cleaned out obsolete code. We did a lot of work that would have been spread out over a larger number of years if we didn’t have the y2k thing going on.
Afterward, there wasn’t a lot of work for awhile. Some people said, it’s over, MainFrames and COBOL are obsolete. New development wasn’t being coded in legacy languages. But, the code is still there and it still has to be maintained. However, as we entered more fully into the twenty-first century a new trend was occurring – Outsourcing. People in India were being trained in COBOL and they were earning a lot less that we were.
Global Business? Not a topic I’m going to get into here and now. There are lots of pros and cons. Suffice to say, MainFrame jobs have been hard to come by the last few years in the US. Jobs have been hard to come by in any field, especially in Michigan.
But something’s happening here, I’ll be in Michigan, Downtown Detroit, on Monday morning, interviewing. The Internet ad said that fifteen MainFrame, COBOL programmers were needed. I applied, they responded, they are researching me and I’m researching the company. They even offer training in COBOL!
GalaxE.Solutions®, Inc., decided to take a leadership role in new IT initiatives and launched its first COBOL Training Program in 2008. GalaxE think it’s important to teach the basics of one of the oldest programming languages, to make a critical contribution to the educational initiatives and body of knowledge in the United States.
For business, finance, administrative and government systems, educating students on the importance and necessity of both learning and continuing with COBOL training will take one very large step toward bringing economic developement back to our home shores. Where are they doing it? You guessed it ==> Downtown Detroit.
Wow, I’m impressed!