COBOL: The antique code that runs the financial system

As we talk so much about digital and high end technology in finance, here is a crude reminder: The ancient COBOL still runs the financial system.

The last time you used an ATM, chances are the transaction was powered by a nearly 60-year-old computer programming language.

Common Business-Oriented Language—the ancient computer code better known as COBOL—was developed in 1959 as a business-focused standard programming language, and is still relied upon by banks around the world. It’s responsible for $3 trillion in commerce in the US every day. As of 2014, 92 of the top 100 banks, as well as 71% of the companies in the Fortune 500, were still running COBOL programs on mainframe computers.

And if it’s not broke, why fix it? Well, with COBOL, when something does break, there soon may not be anyone left who can. The baby boomers who know the language best are either retired or close to it, and those who would replace them just do not find COBOL very sexy.

So what happens next?

Back to physical world?

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