Learning COBOL

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I'm a reasonably bright guy (SAT 1400, a year ago) who knows how to use computers but very little about programming them. In normal circumstances I wouldn't have much interest in learning; there's better money elsewhere. However, I've come to the conclusion that in a year's time, COBOL programmers are going to be making immense amounts of money; several hundred an hour. This is a bandwagon I would definitely be interested in jumping on.

Does anyone have any idea how long it would take to learn enough COBOL to be useful in y2k repair? I'm capable of working 15 hours a day on something, if there's a sufficient incentive (sleep is for the weak!). And does anyone know where you CAN learn COBOL- are there any programs available?


-- Leo (leo_champion@hotmail.com), November 12, 1998


Surely there must be some books on COBOL at the amazon.com web site. Although COBOL has fallen out of favor, there still are gobs of old programs that have to be maintained, so you would think there is a source for books on it.

Good luck!

-- Charles Moorehead (cmooreh890@aol.com), November 12, 1998.

Opinion of programmer with 30+ years experience:

If you know "very little about programming" now, you have _zero_, repeat, _zero_ chance of making bucks as a COBOL programmer. There are waaaaay too many veterans around with decades of COBOL experience (not me, BTW).

Do NOT, repeat, do NOT waste your effort on COBOL -- there are millions of better things for you to learn at your age. [I presume you're fairly young if you took the SAT a year ago.] Your life and fortune are in the future. Learn modern stuff -- the money will follow.

-- No Spam Please (anon@ymous.com), November 12, 1998.

"there's better money elsewhere." - So, your pursuit is the maximization of money? 1400? Smart yes, wise no. Better pursue something you enjoy, and the money will follow.

Money is not incentive to work 15 hours/day. Read "Rapid Development" by McConnell - you WILL burn out and relationships with family and friends (the IMPORTANT stuff) will suffer.

Don't waste your life, or your education. Read "What Color is Your Parachute" for real career direction. Learn something about yourself. Try www.keirsey.com to see what job you might be suited for based on your personality. Read "The Textbook of Wisdom" by de Bono for a clue on the way of things. - Signed 800 of 800 in SAT Math 12 years ago.

-- Life Warning (me@beyond.com), November 12, 1998.

Oh, I have career plans that don't involve computer programming in the least. Of course, neither the entertainment industry nor the media will be in good shape come y2k, but a good entrepreneur will always find some way to make money.

The COBOL idea was just a thought- a way to capitalise on something that'll be very big come next year. Failing that, I guess I'll just have to look for some other way to make good money and finance my y2k plans ;)

-- Leo (leo_champion@hotmail.com), November 12, 1998.

As a recent graduate in the school of programming, I can give my $.02. Programming skills are difficult enough. Each and every language requires years of experience to master, and noone other than 30-year vets knows any language fluently. The more difficult task is not in writing the code, but understanding the business applications (which can be very complex) and debugging. I have had many situations where the code seemed fine, but the bugs still persisted, for reasons totally foreign to me (usually a hardware issue, about which I know squat).

I know COBOL--I have not received any offers for Y2K repair work. Nor, at this point, or after 1/1/2000, would I entertain any. I don't need the stress, thanks.

Good luck in your career endeavors.

-- Steve Hartsman (hartsman@ticon.net), November 12, 1998.

I can shed a bit of light on this.........

As a Webmaster/Programmer, I figured that I should hedge my bets a bit by learning COBOL under the assumption that there would be oodles of demand for COBOL programmers. Although, it would only likely take me a few weeks to actually get a grasp of a particular flavor of COBOL and I have plenty of other web/programming experience as well as courses in Assembler Language Programming and Computer Systems from 17 years ago, I have found that the demand just isn't there.

I figured that obviously the first ones snapped up by the companies would be the ones that had years of actual COBOL experience, but it there was SO MUCH work to be done, there next choice would be guys like me who could fit in within a relatively short period of time.

Well, so far I've been proven wrong. Lots of companies are interested in my web development skills but no one has been eager to ask me to join their Y2K team in spite of the fact that I probably have a much higher than average awareness of the problem and potential solutions than many of their current workers.

I can only conclude that most companies are WAY behind and are not taking the problem seriously enough. I still think there is merit in knowing COBOL and there is a possibility in finding employment if you can grasp it quickly enough, but don't bet the farm on it. One last point, there are so many aspects of computers and programming that most languages have in common, that I don't think you can go wrong by learning almost anything. Sure, the syntax varies, but the principles are usually the same.

-- Craig (craig@ccinet.ab.ca), November 12, 1998.

It took me 9 months to learn COBOL II at a business institute a few years ago. I never used it, so I forgot it all now. I remember looking at an old COBOL program and be totally confused and frustrated, it was spagetti code. I got myself into this program thinking I would learn C, but we only brushed on it. But as Graig said, it's not a total waste as you learn programing logic that applies to other languages. You can then learn other languages on your own and faster. (I bought books on C and CodeWarrior compiler to play with when I have time. I can do that now, but couldn't if I didn't get at least training in programing logic.)

I wouldn't recommend you took up COBOL now, so late in the game, with the intent to make fast money. The code you'd be asked to fix is the old "spegatti" code, totally devoid of comments. You'd need to guess what the ol' programmer was thinking, even if you understand the overall function of the program (business application). And those programs have been patched and repatched by a succession of ol' programmers, all with different styles, never commenting on thier codes. Highly frustrating for anyone who doesn't have a passion for this sort of thing ;)

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), November 12, 1998.

You are too late to get into the COBOL boom. Most corporations are doing their COBOL remediation either by using their existing experienced staff, who know the system, or by using software tools that automate the search for dates and the fixes. This is a part of the reason that the market for COBOL programmers has not developed as hoped.

Besides, if you just started learning programming at this point, you would probably do more damage than help things.

However, Y2K problems are not confined to COBOL. There are problems with PC's, networks, spreadsheets, etc.

-- Fran (fprevas@ccdonline.com), November 12, 1998.

Chris, let us in on the reason that you call Craig, Graig???? I've seen you do it several times, so it must be on purpose??? Is it a Canuck thing???

-- Gayla Dunbar (privacy@please.com), November 12, 1998.

Probably for the same reason I called my next door neighbor "Ken" for over a year until he finally broke down and told me his name was Kevin? (blushing)

I'm not just any Cannuk, I'm a Frog Cannuk :P ;)

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), November 12, 1998.

dang! I did it again...I mispelled Canuck (thwaps self)

-- Chris (catsy@pond.com), November 12, 1998.

>>You are too late to get into the COBOL boom. Most corporations are doing their COBOL remediation either by using their existing experienced staff, who know the system, or by using software tools that automate the search for dates and the fixes. This is a part of the reason that the market for COBOL programmers has not developed as hoped.<<

I don't agree with this *at all*

Only 6 fortune 500 companies are even y2k compliant at this point. The rest all "plan to be by 6/99"

The reason there is not a huge demand right now for cobol programmers, is because they are all in total denial. They'll be finding out mid 99 that those telling them they will be ready 6/99, are wrong.

Sooner or later - they will all have to face reality here.

But if you really want to be in demand you'd be better off to learn a current language because, once they've all figured out - how long and in many cases impossible it is to fix the old code. They'll end up having to start from scratch.

I think it'll take two or three years of intense computer programming to get all these businesses up and running again.

I hear time and time again - "there isnt a demand for cobol programmers" it's obvious the country and the WORLD is in denial right now.

It's like if we all had some medical condition - and everyone was denying it exsisted, the demand for doctors would not increase - until we were all forced out of denial - the first few thousand causualties. THEN folks would start to panic, and their wouldnt be enough docs to operate.

6/99 - when the thousnads of businesses who are claiming they *WILL* be done - will be a time to watch. If you want to learn cobol now would be the time, but like I've said 2000-2003 the demand will be for programmers of current languages.

There is so much more involved here - then just knowing how to code however. I personally predict that someone who can code/ who understans business economics, business math, accounting and so forth - can set their own wage - sky is the limit, HOWEVER, (the reason I bowed out in 95) the pressure you will be under will be so great - it may not be worth it at any cost. You'll have to decide, do you want to make 300 an hour - and save a automotive co. or do you want to make 250 an hour and save the world. Anyone who knows enough in 2000 to be able to work on these systems, will really have some tough decisions to make, especially if they have kids. I have a feeling PTSD .... post traumatic stress disorder - will be the #1 medical problem in 2001.


-- Whitney (Y2K Whit@aol.com), December 20, 1998.

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