NJ seeking help from COBOL programmers in coronavirus fight

NJ seeking help from COBOL programmers in coronavirus fight
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The state of New Jersey is seeking volunteers with knowledge of how to code COBOL to aid in the coronavirus outbreak, according to the governor's request on Monday.

COBOL is a much older programming language than what most people are familiar with today. The coding language was developed in the 1950s alongside efforts with the Department of Defense, according to CNBC.

Most of programmers today are familiar with more contemporary languages such as Java, HTML or CSS, but COBOL is still used in financial applications for larger government agencies or business purposes. 

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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) is requesting volunteers who know COBOL because the state still uses many older mainframes that would be considered antiquated by today's standards. The state's systems require maintenance and service as the coronavirus outbreak further disrupts the economy. 

Unemployment in the state has increased to 362,000 individuals since the outbreak began, according to the report.

New Jersey's state IT department is working to have the old mainframes up and running to be able to address unemployment claims and end the delays for people who need money and food during the coronavirus outbreak.

"Literally, we have systems that are 40 years-plus old, and 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?" the state's commissioner of labor Rob Asaro-Angelo asked on Saturday. 

The governor's call for COBOL programming help has been fruitful, with several volunteers stepping up to help with maintaining the old mainframes.

"Someone called me the COBOL king, I'm not sure that was a compliment, but we've gotten a lot of folks who have raised their hands and said they know how to program in COBOL," Murphy said.

While many states are seeking medical aid to curve the spread of the virus, New Jersey's request is one of the first technological requests. However, the description does request technology volunteers to have some medical training.

The state plans to update its COVID-19 website to allow other occupational fields to volunteer for technology aid without the need for medical training.