Phil Murphy, Governor of New Jersey, has lit the Bat-Signal, but this time the hero that is needed is developers that have experience working with COBOL (Common Business Oriented Language). The demand for capable developers is urgent, with legacy unemployment insurance systems currently overwhelmed by the surge in applications that have been brought on by COVID-19.
These legacy systems are over 40 years old and the origin of the language they are written in dates back to 1959. COBOL, erroneously referred to as COBALT by the Governor, was widely used in government systems throughout the 1970’s and 80’s. With New Jersey facing an immediate need for enhancements to their unemployment systems, the governor is scrambling to find developers capable of handling the task.
Joseph Steinberg notes that this is not the first time that antiquated COBOL systems have led to panic, with Y2K also requiring COBOL developers to mitigate potential breaking changes in systems at the time. But here we are, 21 years later, with the governor of New Jersey wondering, “How the heck did we get here, where we literally needed COBALT [sic] programmers.”