With 20 years of COBOL experience, on three different mainframes, it is my humble opinion there are few true COBOL programmers and instead there are IBM programmers, Sperry (Unisys 2200) programmers, Burroughs (Unisys MCP) programmers, and Tandem (HP NonStop) programmers. In a showing of respect to them, I must also mention the presence of HP 3000 programmers, BULL programmers, and DEC programmers.
COBOL runs on big iron boxes, for the most part. Perhaps the only true COBOL programmers, by my own standards, are those writing COBOL on a UNIX box. Wow, I am going to hear about this.
Because the hardware is the central piece, most programmers who write COBOL identify themselves by the hardware on which the code they write runs. Over the years, listening to other programmers tell me about the merits of Sperry, Burroughs, or Tandem, I have often wondered what kind of warfare would ensue if I were to round them up and place them in a room together unable to leave until they agreed upon one hardware platform for all COBOL. I did not mention the other platforms because I have never worked on them.
I have met and talked with many IBM programmers, and they will refer to themselves as COBOL programmers. However, if one engages them in conversation, they quickly begin referring to IBM specific procedures and tools. Given the hardware-centric nature of COBOL, this is very understandable, for all hardware platforms.
Because COBOL is usually tied to a very expensive piece of hardware, as long as that piece of hardware runs the COBOL programs compiled on it then there is no strong desire to migrate from COBOL for migration’s sake. However, with an aging population of COBOL programmers, migration is inevitable.
Since all of the big iron boxes running COBOL will also run Java, Java is the natural path of migration away from COBOL. Code can be converted, particularly now in a down economy, for a rather economical price. Once there is no COBOL, only Java, on that big expensive piece of hardware, then someone higher up in the organization is going to start wondering whether it is possible to move the Java code over to some other much less expensive piece of hardware.
IBM, Sperry, Burroughs, and Tandem programmers know this, so they will likely NEVER offer up the idea. It would be a sacrilege for some.