Some may not remember it, others may not even have been born, but the Effect 2000 was a very real danger that almost brought the world to collapse. It was a bug in the computer systems caused by the format of the dates that were being used, one that always assumed that the year belonged to the 20th century. When the year 2000 was approaching for computers, the “00” would refer to 1900. This would that basically all computer systems would travel a hundred years into the past.
To solve Effect 2000 or Y2K required to update a bunch of outdated COBOL based systems, a programming language that dates back to the 50s, which was not widely used at the time and that only a few old-school programmers used. Today, by 2020, those outdated systems still using COBOL are still present in many places, and amidst this global pandemic caused by COVID-19, they are proving to be a headache again.
The desperate search for COBOL programmers
In the United States and in many other parts of the world, the number of systems that still depend on COBOL is immense, this . graph shows how for 2015 that country still relies on huge percentages of COBOL-based systems for most financial industry operations, It is everywhere.
The governor of New Jersey just put out the call on live TV that he is desperate for Cobol programmers right now.
– Jim Manico (@manicode) https://twitter.com/manicode/status/1246497036389793792?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw
A couple of days ago, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy explained during a press conference that they are desperately looking for volunteer COBOL programmers who can help solve the problems their unemployed social security systems are presenting.
The number of people who have lost their jobs in recent weeks due to the coronavirus crisis is enormous, in the United States the numbers of those who have gone into unemployment are around 10 million. This people use automated systems to claim their social security payments and be able to survive during the crisis.
Systems are crashing and no COBOL-aware programmers can fix them. This is a sample of how carelessness in maintaining critical computer systems can have a real and devastating impact on the lives of millions of people.
More than 20 years have passed since the Effect 2000 exposed the problems of continuing to use obsolete systems based on COBOL, a language that decades has not been taught in any curriculum, of which almost no one speaks, that you will never see in a list of what you want to learn, which is at the bottom of the popularity charts and with which very few programmers are familiar.
What was not learned from the 2000 Effect: when a government desperately searches for COBOL programmers in the midst of a pandemic