Heh - COBOL to the rescue in California

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The best plans laid low by an antique programming language. From The Register:
COBOL thwarts California's Governator
Inspite - or perhaps because - of its "difficult" birth, Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) has become a survivor in the world of computing. That's caused problems when it comes to maintaining systems running the language.

COBOL has now taken center stage in the rumbling controversy over the State of California's budget. California is $15bn in debt and been without an approved budget for more than a month thanks to deadlock between legislators in the state parliament.

Enter COBOL. State controller John Chiang has said it would take six months to re-configure California's aging COBOL-based payroll system in order to cut the salaries of California's 200,000 state employees, under an order from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to try and rein in the deficit.

Chiang has reportedly refused to issue reduced pay checks on the grounds the system cannot be changed quickly enough.

Ironically, the only ones who can make the changes - part time retired COBOL programmers - were among 10,000 employees laid off as part of the cuts.

The irony is this drama is being played out in a state that's home to the brains and expertise driving Silicon Valley, where the focus is the future not the past of things like COBOL.

It is not the first time that the importance of COBOL has been underestimated. Leading up to the year 2000 (Y2K) changes, vast armies of ancient programmers were brought out of retirement to upgrade COBOL code, which had only a two-digit field for the year.

Some 180 billion lines of COBOL code are reckoned to run the world's businesses and a further five billion lines are added every year.
Heh... And the creeping giant meatball just keeps growing bigger and bigger and bigger...

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