OK, so the holidays are over, you've either closed, or are in the process of closing out 2009 year-end processing. The 2010 decade has begun, and it promises momentous change before we see the end of it: Leading edge technologies will become commonplace; Still newer technologies will emerge; New business threats and opportunities will arise; And the impact of the Baby Boomer phenomenon will finally arrive.
OK, so I used a tongue-in-cheek title to attract your attention, forgive me. A recent blog about the Boomer retirement phenomenon provoked some comments by a colleague with strong opinions about COBOL's useful life. I felt that his comments raised a topic that is substantial enough to warrant its own place in the blogosphere. The comments read, in part:
" I am a boomer myself ... But as a software architect who has to look ahead and figure out what customers and users want I can't wait for the 3270 green screen boomer generation to retire. It will allow for the acceptance of a new application paradigm. Those stepping up to the plate will not hesite to dump the COBOL garbage and use modern tools to create modern mobile apps that will finally end the drama of IT as today's business disabler. ..."
I want to develop a Web application - a really good Web app. The kind of Web app that will make me so rich that I can buy an $9.4 million co-op over looking Central Park, a Yacht registered in Monaco, and hire an architect to build my dream-house west of Boston that is a combo of Buckminster Fuller, FLW, and MTV cribs.
I had an interesting inquiry with a client that began with this question - "What is the defniition of a legacy application?" Yikes, I thought - this will be one of those long-ranging, rhetorical discussions that - at the end of the day - lacks the kind of decisive answer clients typically seek during inquiries. The client actually had a good reason for wanting an externally published, formal definition - an external entity was attempting to measure the company's risk by quantifying its exposure to "legacy."
There is a lot of noise lately from 2 camps - one swears that the availability of people with mainframe skills is drying up rapidly - they either forecast dire shortages, or note problems hiring for certain positions internally. Most of the trade press articles are firmly in this camp.
You are not going to believe this. Goofus and Gallant grew up and they both became application development professionals. Inseparable as they are, they both landed jobs at a global medical supply company in Parsippany, NJ where they develop enterprise supply chain web applications. Gallant has a bit less hair than he used to and Goofus is sporting a "Comdex" tattoo. But, these guys are basically the same as they ever were. (Remember Goofus and Gallant from Highlights Magazine For Children)
We Can Still Learn A Lot From Them
Goofus forgets to check-in his code before going a week-long vacation to Martha's Vineyard.
Gallant always checks-in his code and makes thoughtful revision comments on the changes each night before he goes home.
Sometimes enterprise IT development shops that are doing development in Java, C#, VB.NET forget that it all began with C++. Invented in 1981 by Bjarne Stroustrup, C++ was arguably the first popular object-oriented language even though languages like Smalltalk proceeded it. Java was first released by Sun in 1995, fourteen years after C++ was invented.
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Just for fun. What if the next President of the United States of America was an application developer? What programming language would he/she use? No contemplation allowed. For each candidate, the first thing that came to mind (in alphabetical order):
Hillary Rodham Clinton would program in Java. Java was the hot language of the Internet boom in the 90's during Bill Clinton's presidency sometime just after Al Gore invented the Internet. It continues to be one of the go-to development languages for new enterprise application development.