It looks like the banks aren't alone in being held captive by defunct programming languages. A recent article in the New York Times discusses a situation in California involving termination and cuts in the pay of state workers. The massive cutbacks involved some 170,000 people-full and part time, as well as temporary. According to the article, the move was in keeping with a 2003 court ruling that such measures should be taken if the California legislature failed to pass a budget.Aside from the obvious woes facing Gov. Schwarzenegger around such drastic measures, the California controller claims the state's payroll system is so outdated that it would take months to make all the changes. That's because it uses common business-oriented language-good old COBOL.
Maybe the State of California should look to the financial services industry for some COBOL programmers to help them out. Then again, FIs are facing similar problems around aging systems and the retirement of those who know how to handle them and will probably try to hang on to them with an iron grip.
My favorite quote from the article was from a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University. According to Prof. David Farber, "There are no Cobol programmers around anymore. They retired centuries ago."
Perhaps Farber exaggerates a little. Just a little.