Is it worth learning COBOL in 2020

The programming language that doesn't want to die

COBOL will still be around a hundred years from now. Have you never heard of this programming language? There are other topics at the moment: cloud computing, microservices, machine learning and more. What many people do not realize is that a wide range of daily applications are still running on technology from the 1960s. To be more precise: A team led by a lady from the US Navy developed the programming language COBOL in 1959. In words: Common Business Oriented Language. And as with the Navy, the programming language is also neatly divided into divisions and sections.

Worldwide there are probably a little more than 200 billion lines of COBOL and several billion lines are added every year. Probably more transaction processing systems have been written in COBOL than in any other language. The technology can mainly be found on mainframes - so-called hosts - which represent a complex, central and extensive computer system.

Cobol is the future

The processing of mass data and the enormous proximity to the memory offer unbeatable advantages to this day, because in addition to the data throughput, there is also the option of using the CICS technology to transform the mainframe into a modern web server. At the front the system looks modern and at the back there are still a number of COBOL programs that keep everything running. Microservices and COBOL are also perfectly compatible.

Cobol developer salaries

The market is dominated by supply and demand. If the supply is high and the demand is low, the price goes down. But if the demand is high and there is hardly any supply, then the price rises. This also applies to salaries. If you look around, you will quickly find offers of EUR 5,000 gross or more for the "simple" COBOL developer. If you also have specialist knowledge of assembler, VSAM or direct access to Adabas, then nothing should stand in the way of a salary negotiation. The average COBOL developer will likely be over 50. The older generation is retiring and making room for young people.

Easy to learn?

COBOL itself can be learned, but knowledge of the domain requires practical experience. There is the z / os operating system on the one hand, but also a difficult-to-use TSO on the other. You can use clist or REXX. Jobs may have to be started via JCL, and cursors on databases are not always easy to set. You can see: Knowing about the HOST is not just COBOL alone, it is much more than that. It is precisely in the interrelationships between the individual worlds that experience and practical knowledge are evident.

For the reasons mentioned, this programming language will outlive us for a long time. The host is a completely underestimated factor in the 21st century and of course there are fewer and fewer people who are familiar with it. Fewer and fewer universities have the language on their curriculum. COBOL is an opportunity and a challenge at the same time and should not be underestimated at any time.