IT Horror Story: A World Without COBOL

IT Horror Story: A World Without COBOL

IT Horror Story: A World Without COBOL

Bank ATMs
A failure of COBOL would block access to savings and checking accounts and leave millions cash-less.

With Halloween just around the corner, a real-life horror story is all around us, just waiting to be unleashed. We’re referring to our widespread dependence on COBOL, one of our oldest programming languages. Because it was designed to ensure longevity for enterprise applications, COBOL still runs some of the world's most basic and critical applications, but it has been increasingly dismissed as an over-the-hill programming language that today's developers don't want to work with. That presents the possibility that a severe shortage of COBOL programmers could contribute to a doomsday scenario in which many of the critical services we depend on are unavailable. It's the specter of such a disaster that motivated software-maker Micro Focus to develop a visual COBOL tool that lets companies run their COBOL applications on .Net, Java Virtual Machine and the cloud. "COBOL is the most prominent and reliable programming language, designed for today's mission-critical business applications," said Ed Airey, Micro Focus' product manager for COBOL. Here's a look at 12 applications that depend on COBOL—and what might happen in a widespread COBOL crash.

Tony has been writing about the intersection of technology and business for nearly 20 years and currently freelances from the Albany, Calif., home where he and his wife are raising three boys. A 1988 graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism and regular contributor to Baseline since 2007, Tony's somewhat infrequent Twitter posts can be found at

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