Ancient computer systems struggle to process unemployment claims amid coronavirus pandemic

COBOL is a 60-year old computer programming language that fell into disuse by the 1980s.
COBOL is a 60-year old computer programming language that fell into disuse by the 1980s.

With the economic collapse caused by the coronavirus pandemic, states are processing hundreds of thousands of unemployment claims, and some of them are doing so on very old computer systems.
New Jersey, Kansas, and Connecticut are among those attempting to weather the crisis while relying on systems that run on a decades-old computer programming language known as COBOL. Invented in 1959, coders moved away from it by the ’80s, but COBOL still exists in plenty of banking and governmental systems, and there’s a need for those who understand it right now.
"The general population of COBOL programmers is generally much older than the average age of a coder," Joseph Steinberg, an expert on cybersecurity, told CNN. "Many American universities have not taught COBOL in their computer science programs since the 1980s."
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly said that her state’s Department of Labor was in the process of modernizing from COBOL when the pandemic hit, halting those efforts. Connecticut is struggling to process unemployment claims with what it says is a 40-year-old system. And New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy put out a call for volunteer coders who know COBOL, as the state’s ancient mainframes try to handle over 350,000 unemployment applications in the last two weeks alone.

“Literally, we have systems that are 40-plus-years-old,” Murphy said. “There’ll be lots of postmortems and one of them on our list will be how did we get here where we literally needed COBOL programmers?”

1 comment:

  1. Canada Revenue Agency processed 600,000+ emergency claim in 24 hours using Cobol with new code installed in the past couple of weeks.


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