Night of the Living Dead Languages

'Jason' from the 'Friday the 13th' movies.

Like “Jason” from the Friday the 13th movies, old but widely-adopted programming languages stubbornly refuse to die, as shown in the ComputerWorld article Cobol Coders: Going, Going, Gone?.

It's counterintuitive in a field like high-tech where “new” is practically synonymous with “cool”, but when it comes to applications, “older” often means “better”. Older applications have the advantage of more real-world use and maintenance, which typically means that more of their design issues and bugs have been worked out.

The drawback is that they've been written in hoary old languages that lack a lot of the programming niceties that we've developed since the 1960s. If you're “lucky”, those niceties have been bolted on in Frankenstein fashion. Ruby and Python developers may turn up their noses at Java and call it “Object-Oriented Cobol”, and they'd probbaly consider working with actual Cobol as akin to coding with stone knives and bearskins.

Nat Torkington at O'Reilly Radar managed to find two humorous footnotes to this situation:

  • 25 years from now, we'll be complaining that nobody under 50 understands all the Java code running banking applications, except possibly all those Indian developers from the offshoring boom (who need the money for Chinese lessons).
  • 5% of the marketplace will say this of the hot language of 2031: “Of course, this was first done more elegantly in Lisp.” We call them weenies.