Where to go from here
This will be my final Inside COBOL column. When I started out on this COBOL journey I thought I had enough ideas for about three or four columns; as it happens, this is the 82nd one, and in all those years I missed only one month. Some of you know I founded a Linux software company about 18 months ago, and it has become increasingly difficult to keep up with this column. The upside of this is that my company is doing very well. This month I would like to talk about where we all go from here, how we can stay salable and on top of our skill set, and what interesting things lie ahead.
I have many friends who ask me what they should learn or where they should go to make sure they continue to have jobs. In all my work Ive never seen a language as well adapted to business as COBOL, but some pieces of COBOL are becoming a bit long in the tooth, and the new standard is about 10 years late at this point. When it does come out, there are some very important things that you are going to need to understand primarily how to work with object oriented code and event-driven programming. Everything you hear about Java, Visual Basic, Python, Delphi is object oriented and event-driven to one degree or another, especially if you are writing a user interface and not just back-end code.
I get calls constantly from people looking for Java programmers. I dont personally care for Java all that much. I think there are other things that solve problems much more elegantly than Java, just as I dont care for Visual Basic for the same reasons. You have to make a decision on what you use to create software for your own use, and what you use because someone wants you to. Visual Basic lets you take baby steps into the world of OO and event-driven programming. Any decent programmer can have a handle on that language in a couple of weeks. Java has a much higher learning curve, but is easier if you already know C.
I mention all these as a way to keep your skills current and prepare yourself for the new object oriented COBOL. Weve talked about OO COBOL in this column in the past, so Im not going to rehash it here. OO will be the saving grace of COBOL and allow it to move forward.
Ill take this opportunity to mention that the entire reason I formed my new venture, a Linux corporation (www.thekompany.com), was to build a Visual Basic/Delphi like environment for COBOL, using as much of the new COBOL standard as possible. Instead of writing a compiler, we are writing a code translator to take advantage of the GCC compiler. Our IDE is written to KDE (www.kde.org) which is in turn based on Qt (www.trolltech.com) which is a multiplatform windowing environment that works on Windows, every Unix environment, embedded devices liked PDAs and cell phones, and soon on the Mac.
Our IDE is multi-lingual, so it will work with various languages. COBOL and C++ are the first two and they look very good right now. The project is called KODE (Kompany Open Development Environment), and while nothing is on the Web site yet, preliminary versions should start to appear around this month.
Maybe you can make use of this information to keep your skills up to date for a new job, or perhaps write some software of your own to sell. Leverage some of those excellent business skills that you have been developing over the years to write software other people will want to buy.
As this is my last column, I want to thank all the readers and supporters over the years who contributed their ideas and well wishes. Its been terrific to be part of this community for so many years. Ive enjoyed meeting and talking with many of you, and I hope to stay in contact with as many of you as I can in the coming years.
Shawn Gordon, whose S.M. Gordon & Associates firm supplies HP 3000 utilities, has worked with HP 3000s since 1983.
Interested in becoming a COBOL columnist? Contact the editor, Ron Seybold, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 512-657-3264, and lets talk about sharing development tips and your experience.
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