California's COBOL payroll system



  • Found via comp.lang.cobol :

    In California, Retro-Tech Complicates Budget Woes

    By JESSE McKINLEY
    Published: August 5, 2008

    SAN FRANCISCO — Faced with a $15 billion budget shortfall and a testy State Legislature, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is dealing with a host of critics, including pro-tax Democrats, tax-averse Republicans and a public increasingly displeased with him.

    Now, even the state’s computers seem to be against him.

    Last week, with no budget agreement in sight, the governor issued an executive order terminating thousands of part-time and temporary state employees and slashing the wages of about 170,000 of the state’s full-time workers to the federal minimum wage.

    But the California controller, John Chiang, says the state’s payroll system — which uses a programming throwback known as Cobol, or Common Business-Oriented Language — is so antiquated it would take months to make the changes to workers’ checks.

    “In 2003, my office tried to see if we could reconfigure our system to do such a task,” Mr. Chiang told a State Senate committee on Monday. “And after 12 months, we stopped without a feasible solution.”

    David J. Farber, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said using Cobol was roughly equivalent to having “a television with vacuum tubes.”

    “There are no Cobol programmers around anymore,” Mr. Farber said. “They retired centuries ago.”

    Mr. Farber said California was not alone in having out-of-date systems — or handy excuses.

    “It’s old technology, and you can’t find a repairman who knows how to fix it,” he said. “It also a neat way of figuring how not to get your salary cut.”

    Even before his remarks to the Legislature, Mr. Chiang, a Democrat, had made no secret of his dislike for the order by Mr. Schwarzenegger, a Republican, saying he would refuse to follow it even if the state’s computers could handle the job. The governor, in turn, has threatened to sue Mr. Chiang to force the pay cuts, saying Mr. Chiang was violating a 2003 California court decision mandating that state employees take minimum wage if the Legislature does not pass a budget.

    The current budget expired on July 1. Negotiations among lawmakers have been as sluggish as the state’s computers. 



  • @ropata said:

    [..] mandating that state employees take minimum wage if the Legislature does not pass a budget.

    wtf!

    By the way, I think this has already been posted somewhere.



  • @ropata said:

    which uses a programming throwback known as Cobol
    It's COBOL you stupid fucks@ropata said:
    “There are no Cobol programmers around anymore,” Mr. Farber said. “They retired centuries ago.”
    Oh, so the company at which I did my internship and EVERY MAJOR BANK that employs COBOL developers is employing retired people.

    C'mon, COBOL is still taught in some schools.  That's where I learned it (Note: I'm 26 years old).  Maybe it's just that noone wants to move to California to make minimum wage to develop in such an old language.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @ropata said:
    “There are no Cobol programmers around anymore,” Mr. Farber said. “They retired centuries ago.”
    Oh, so the company at which I did my internship and EVERY MAJOR BANK that employs COBOL developers is employing retired people.
    So you're of the opinion that all COBOL developers didn't retire centuries ago? That's a bold stance to take.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @ropata said:

    which uses a programming throwback known as Cobol
    It's COBOL you stupid fucks@ropata said:
    “There are no Cobol programmers around anymore,” Mr. Farber said. “They retired centuries ago.”
    Oh, so the company at which I did my internship and EVERY MAJOR BANK that employs COBOL developers is employing retired people.

    C'mon, COBOL is still taught in some schools.  That's where I learned it (Note: I'm 26 years old).  Maybe it's just that noone wants to move to California to make minimum wage to develop in such an old language.

     

    Wow, a little bitter and sensitive about the CoBoL issue?  I think when he said "they retired centuries ago" that he was being sarcastic... I could be wrong but I don't remember there being COboL in the Midle Ages.  Maybe Columbus used his super CoBOL nav system to get to the Americas huh?

     

    I agree with you though, I read an article though that said this is going to be a problem because MOST schools do not teach cobol anymore as part of their standard curiculum.  Check and see if MIT is offering it as part of theirs.  cOBOL is still out there and being used at A LOT of institutions and the article that I read said this will be a problem because MOST schools don't teach it and that MOST of the people who do know cObOl will be retiring within the next decade.  

     

    Come on guys, lets get on the gravy train, get off cObol and learn to program in Java like the rest of the world...



  •  My guess (given just the information on this page) is that for those positions, the payroll system has a monthly wage.  That's pretty traditional for exempt salaried employees. Of course, one can't easily convert the minimum wage into a monthly wage given the variation in the number of business hours per month.  So the system would have to be re-programmed to handle an hourly wage for these employees with all of the check-printing, taxation, reporting, etc issues that would entail...not to mention the difficulty of handling employees who kept switched ... probably twice ... from salaried to hourly. (Hmmm...  wonder if they'd now become covered under FLSA.)  Could be quite a big job in any programming language.

     Of course, in my scenario if the controller wanted to be cooperative, he could just have suggested that their wages be set to a monthly wage that met the maximum a minimum wage person could earn and thus follow the spirit of the request within the bounds of the system.  However, the article makes it clear that this is not the case.

     I was caught in a similar situation when I was first hired by my current employer.  Their payroll system uses a monthly salary, cutting checks twice monthly.  My offer letter for a sort-of post-doc position stated an hourly wage. The payroll clerk entered this hourly wage into the monthly salary box, thus resulting in a surprisingly low first payroll check!



  • @amischiefr said:

    I could be wrong but I don't remember there being COboL in the Midle Ages.  Maybe Columbus used his super CoBOL nav system to get to the Americas huh?
    Charles Babbage sure looked like a fool when he said "I predict that within 100 years, analytical engines will run twice the COBOL, be ten thousand times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them."



  • @amischiefr said:

    Maybe Columbus used his super CoBOL nav system to get to the Americas huh?
    Don't be ridiculous.  It would weigh too much, plus they didn't have electricity on the ship, much less the cooling resources needed.  They were too expensive to lose at sea, so the mainframe was kept on land and communications were made with the ships via a complicated method of smoke signals. When the ship got too far from land, the smoke signals no longer worked and they had to manipulate the clouds to tell Columbus that the nav program had abended.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    Maybe Columbus used his super CoBOL nav system to get to the Americas huh?
    Don't be ridiculous.  It would weigh too much, plus they didn't have electricity on the ship, much less the cooling resources needed.  They were too expensive to lose at sea, so the mainframe was kept on land and communications were made with the ships via a complicated method of smoke signals. When the ship got too far from land, the smoke signals no longer worked and they had to manipulate the clouds to tell Columbus that the nav program had abended.

    I thought they just took along a terminal with a huge spool of cable back. See, you can learn something new every day on TDWTF.



  •  IIRC they were employing several retired employees part-time as COBOL handlers. The problem is, the first wave of savings cut all part-time jobs.

    This one is about a month old... I think it's been in here a few times already.



  • @bstorer said:

    @belgariontheking said:

    @amischiefr said:

    Maybe Columbus used his super CoBOL nav system to get to the Americas huh?
    Don't be ridiculous.  It would weigh too much, plus they didn't have electricity on the ship, much less the cooling resources needed.  They were too expensive to lose at sea, so the mainframe was kept on land and communications were made with the ships via a complicated method of smoke signals. When the ship got too far from land, the smoke signals no longer worked and they had to manipulate the clouds to tell Columbus that the nav program had abended.

    I thought they just took along a terminal with a huge spool of cable back. See, you can learn something new every day on TDWTF.


    That's exactly what happened, how do you think we got the transatlantic cable?  Most people don't know that Columbus was the one to actually lay this cable. 

     

     



  •  This is a dupe.  Search for "California Payroll" and you will find the original thread.  Please search before posting.  Thanks.



  • @morbiuswilters said:

     This is a dupe.  Search for "California Payroll" and you will find the original thread.  Please search before posting.  Thanks.

     

    As you pointed out in the other thread, some trolling got it derailed, so we might as well leave this one unlocked in case there's actually people out there who would enjoy some good ol' fashioned COBOL talk.



  •  The real WTF is that this is such old news, Slashdot scooped this story a month ago.

     

    And that there's no preview on this forum.



  • Actually, I think COBOL programmers belong in the Extinct in the Wild category of endangered species - captive individuals survive, but there is no free-living, natural population.



  • [quote user="Renan "C#" Sousa"]but there is no free-living, natural population.[/quote]

    Natural/Adabas is a whole other kettle of fish. Those programmers definitely still exist.

    This thread explains why someone at work asked "Does anyone still use COBOL?" a few weeks back... and yes, people do. I did wonder what prompted the sudden question.



  • @belgariontheking said:

    @ropata said:

    which uses a programming throwback known as Cobol
    It's COBOL you stupid fucks@ropata said:
    “There are no Cobol programmers around anymore,” Mr. Farber said. “They retired centuries ago.”
    Oh, so the company at which I did my internship and EVERY MAJOR BANK that employs COBOL developers is employing retired people.

    C'mon, COBOL is still taught in some schools.  That's where I learned it (Note: I'm 26 years old).  Maybe it's just that noone wants to move to California to make minimum wage to develop in such an old language.

    Agreed. COBOL programmers are on-par with Java programmers at a certain bank I worked at.

    In fact, knowing how to even use MVS, OS/390, z/OS will be enough to bump up your salary a few notches. I doubt these guys would want to do such coding for minimum wage.



  • @mxsscott said:

    This thread explains why someone at work asked "Does anyone still use COBOL?" a few weeks back... and yes, people do. I did wonder what prompted the sudden question.

    Yup, they do. I work at a hospital, and the core of our lab systems is written in pure COBOL. It's quite funny when we request bugfixes. If it's to the ASP web frontend, "it'll be done in 2 hours" but if it's to the COBOL core, "it might be done in a couple of weeks".



  • @Kyanar said:

    @mxsscott said:
    This thread explains why someone at work asked "Does anyone still use COBOL?" a few weeks back... and yes, people do. I did wonder what prompted the sudden question.

    Yup, they do. I work at a hospital, and the core of our lab systems is written in pure COBOL. It's quite funny when we request bugfixes. If it's to the ASP web frontend, "it'll be done in 2 hours" but if it's to the COBOL core, "it might be done in a couple of weeks".

    It could be worse. Some hospitals use the suicide-inducing MUMPS language!


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