If you haven’t paid a visit to my resume’, I’m a senior software engineer. That’s a fancy-pants name for a programmer, a profession that I’ve been involved in since the late ’70s. Over the years, I’ve heard more times than I care to think about that this programming language is “dead” or that programming language is on its way out. A glance at the List of programming languages by type on Wikipaedia will reveal scads of programming languages that were in use at one time or another. Many of them still are. Among those that are truly dead is my favourite; NCR’s NEAT/3 and NEAT/VS. Another dead – or nearly so – language is the one I developed; TOOL – Text Oriented Object Language.
Neither of these languages showed up on the list of 10 development technologies that refuse to die published by Tech Republic. The ones that did make the list are interesting. I won’t go into detail about all the languages but here are a few examples:
- COBOL – This is the language developed by the mother of modern programming, Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, and for decades powered much of the world’s business applications. One famous though unattributed quote ran something like “I don’t know what programming language will be used at the start of the 21st century but its name will be COBOL”. There are countless COBOL based applications still doing work for banks, insurance companies, etc. For what it’s worth, I’d love to write COBOL again; especially since many of today’s younger programmers are frightened by the thought of COBOL and are scared to death of JCL.
- C – This language had been sailing into the sunset of application development and looking forward to an active retirement powering hardware drivers and operating systems development. All that changed with the release of the iPhone and iPad, both of which use Apple’s iOS. Objective C – a superset of C – is being used to develop countless cutting edge applications to be run under iOS. Hmmmm . . . maybe it’s time to pull my C manuals out of storage.
- FORTRAN – I never wrote much code in this language but I did teach my wife to use it when she was in graduate school. FORTRAN code still runs things in certain industries/sectors and is hard at work today doing weather prediction.
- JAVA – No, JAVA is not going away anytime soon. Despite its flaws, JAVA is still a powerful language and is to the first half of the 21st century what COBOL was the 2nd half of the 20th century.
And for the people who write all this code? Old programmers never die, they just run to E-O-J.