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Wired: Can’t File for Unemployment? Don’t Blame Cobol

By | April 23, 2020

Published by Wired on April 22, 2020.

Can’t File for Unemployment? Don’t Blame Cobol

PROGRAMMING LANGUAGES DON’T often make national headlines. But New Jersey governor Phil Murphy’s plea earlier this month for developers familiar with the 60-year-old programming language Cobol to help the state process unemployment claims garnered a lot of attention.

Many states have struggled with the unprecedented surge in claims for jobless benefits, which reached 10 times the previous record. But aging computing infrastructure hasn’t helped. Cobol (short for “common business-oriented language”) is old, having been introduced in 1959, before the internet and personal computers were invented. It was a short hop to conclude that New Jersey’s troubles stemmed at least in part from relying on such an ancient language.

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