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The Holmes Page THE SOAP BOX 1997/09/10



1997/09/10: The Millennium Bomb   Are there enough programmers to cope with the Millennium Bomb? 
Probably not, but after the panic is over, there will be too many. 
If companies are not almost finished fixing their programs to handle the year 2000 problems, they are going to be in big trouble. Any company that hasn't even started yet is doomed to failure (and the fools deserve it). Sadly, about two-thirds of large international organizations are not prepared for the havoc. 
Because of this, it is a boom time for programmers, particulary COBOL programmers. These people can practically dictate the amount of money they make. And the companies will pay whatever they ask. 
Where are all the COBOL programmers coming from? Many of them were shifted to new positions during the downsizing trend of the last few years. Quite a few of the students who took my CA-Clipper course were writing COBOL code the week before the course. They had to learn PCs, or be out on the street. Now they are being shifted back onto the mainframe to perform their COBOL magic. 
Other programmers will come out of retirement. I read somewhere that the "new" programmer on the team might be your father! 
The programmers of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s may be the only ones with the ability and experience to correct the billions of lines of code. On the other hand, they got us into this mess in the first place... 
The panic won't stop on January 1, 2000. Many companies will continue to fix their systems, taking advantage of the "downtime" afforded by the New Years holiday. The holiday may be longer than usual -- a few months longer for some companies. 
Beyond that point, the panic will subside. The companies will either have finished correcting their systems, or they will be out of business. 
In either case, programmers will be layed off all over the place, either because they are no longer needed. or they failed to correct the problem and the company went away. This glut of programmers will cause the average programmer's income to drop and allow companies to pick and choose the cream of the crop. 
If you are a programmer (and maybe not an outstanding one), you'd better make plans now to find yourself another job.

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