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Author's profile photo Michael Keller

a relative has birthday

A few days ago, the programming language COBOL celebrated its 60th birthday. The german IT news portal “heise online” has published an article. At first glance, this is not worth mentioning. The longer IT exists, the older the hardware, software and methods get. Everything has birthday sometime 🙂

Interesting was a reference in the article to a study by Reuters. It states that 43% of all banking systems rely on COBOL. Although I don’t know the total amount of banking systems, there are many different banks in Germany. Presumably there are also many different banking systems or many different customized banking systems. These systems, like all IT systems, need to be maintained and enhanced.

About maintenance and further development, the study notes that COBOL is no longer popular among developers. If I would ask students, I suppose that would be absolutley true. Unfortunately, many students don’t even know that ABAP exists 😉 Conversely, it seems almost impossible to replace historically grown systems. This results in a complicated situation.

While reading, I remembered the interview with Robert C. Martin (“Uncle Bob”) I wrote a blog about. In the interview, he said that society depends today much more on software as in earlier times (1960-1970). This makes topics such as “Refactoring” and “Clean Code” more important, because there is now much more source code. According to the study of Reuters about 220 billion lines of COBOL source code. In my opinion COBOL and ABAP will still exist in 20 years. So there will be a lot more source code …

What can be learned from the history of COBOL? Depending on the business environment, software doesn’t simply disappear. As a result, a programming language doesn’t simply disappear. Many applications cannot be rewritten in another programming language due to a lot of reasons. This applies to software written in COBOL as well as ABAP and many other programming languages. Therefore my source code may still be in use in 20 or more years.

In summary: Perhaps another good reason to check the ABAP Clean Code styleguide, to share our knowledge and to try writing maintainable source code.


Best regards and thanks for reading



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      Author's profile photo Michelle Crapo
      Michelle Crapo

      I remember the year 2000.   Corporations were trying to find Cobol workers.  It was hard.  Many had to be pulled out of retirement.  They made quite a bit of money for consulting work.   So now we program for a four digit year instead of a 2 digit.  None of the developers thought there code would last that long.

      There are many of my "quick and dirty" or one time use programs that are being used in PRD many times.  And, well, they were pretty poorly written.

      So it's a good point to think you programs will be working longer into the future than you thought.

      Great blog - it made me remember quite a lot.  The Cobol programmers coming back for a short time, it still makes me smile.

      Author's profile photo Michael Keller
      Michael Keller
      Blog Post Author

      If you compare the situation with the computer games industry, it’s quite diffent. If a computer game from the late 1980s isn’t playable in 2019, it’s no big problem. But if you invest in business software as a big transportation company or as a bank, the software often accompanies you over decades 🙂

      Author's profile photo Johan Wigert
      Johan Wigert

      I recently saw a job posting from one of the four big Swedish banks where the bank was looking for COBOL developers. The compensation package was really attractive, and the newly employed developer would receive six months of paid training before being allowed to start working on production code.

      I agree that ABAP will most likely be around for a long time, on-premise and in the cloud. Let us try to write clean code and apply best practices for the code we write. Future versions of ourselves will be thankful.

      Author's profile photo Michael Keller
      Michael Keller
      Blog Post Author

      I'm looking forward to my future version 😉 Because COBOL programmers are still needed by a lot of companies, there is a nice offer called "COBOL cowboys".