Legacy Systems Management – Time For a Cobol Course?!;-)

Listening to Jeff Papows discussing “Glitch: The Impact of Faulty Software” on Technometria via my IT Conversations podcast feed this morning, (book available here), I started wondering whether there was an opportunity for a Masters level course on managing legacy systems, which might include a unit or two on programming in Cobol?

Whilst not the most fashionable of languages, Cobol still keeps many financial and enterprise systems running, and the old hand maintainers are now starting to retire, if they haven’t already.

Taking the thought a little further, it also occurred to me that many legacy systems may well have been designed according to old-fashioned and no longer popular architectural styles, styles that are not necessarily taught to today’s students… which means if you’re faced with managing a legacy system, you may not have the right model of it in mind. So what’s the way round this? Maybe picking up old course materials, contemporary to the time that the systems were put in place, and using them to provide an almost archaeological overview of the styles an approaches used to the engineer the legacy systems that still need managing.

Related to managing legacy systems is the idea of digital preservation strategies, a forward looking complement to legacy systems which seeks to identify processes, procedures and representations that ensure today’s digital creations don’t become an unreadable legacy tomorrow.

I knew the OU already ran a course on Learning from Information System failures, but it seems there’s also one on Information systems legacy and evolution, though I’m not sure it teaches any Cobol?!;-) So the OU’s already on the case… I wonder how popular the course is…?

In fact, I’m not sure if the OU ever did a Cobol course…? Hmmm… is there an “old OU courses catalogue” anywhere? I know the OU Library acts as archive to OU courses, so maybe I can track one down through the Library catalogue…? The answer is “yes, (sort of… no..)”:

OU cobol course

Here it is – :

OU Cobol course http://voyager.open.ac.uk/vwebv/holdingsInfo?searchId=223&recCount=10&recPointer=4&bibId=22133

…though I don’t think it’s available in a digital/scanned form…

Hmm… ;-)

PS I wonder… for quirky advanced users, would a “course materials archive” filter be a useful to the library catalogue search…? What would happen if we ran search terms coming in to the OU website – and on the OU website – over archived course descriptions, to see if any old courses are actually starting to pick up long tail interest…?

Author: Tony Hirst

I'm a Senior Lecturer at The Open University, with an interest in #opendata policy and practice, as well as general web tinkering...

5 thoughts on “Legacy Systems Management – Time For a Cobol Course?!;-)”

  1. Perhaps it’s time to see if I can dig out the materials for a COBOL course I designed and taught in the early 1980s. It was part of a project to develop skills among unemployed people in Hackney for employment in the City, around the time of the deregulation Big Bang…

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