The Three D’s

The Three D’s

Photo Prompt: Al Forbes (A Mixed Bag)

They called themselves The Three D’s. Alike in age (early 60’s) and occupation (mainframe programmers), the comrades worked for a large financial institution, performing menial maintenance tasks on the old legacy system.

On this Friday afternoon, they met at a local bar to commiserate over another week of irrelevancy.

“I’m tired of feeling useless, “Bob told his companions. “I should retire.”

Friend Steve piped in. “The boss insists I learn those new-fangled computer languages. As far as I am concerned, JAVA comes in a coffee cup and PYTHON is a snake.”

A few tables away sat the 12-years olds, a crack given their fellow co-workers due to their age and inexperience.

“Look at them,” said Ed. “They don’t even talk. I bet they are texting to each other.”

“What we need is another Y2K,” said Bob.

As if on cue, a breaking story flashed on the television screen above the bar. Another hack. Sensitive customer information stolen. The target: their beloved employer.

“According to the CEO, the antiquated mainframe system needs an extensive code fix to prevent future breaches,” said the reporter.

Triumphantly, Ed raised his glass in a toast. “Who said dinosaurs are extinct!”


The photo prompt suggested a different type of dinosaur. For the first 20-odd years of my career, I was a mainframe computer programmer. In early 2001, my company made a strategic shift from mainframes to relational database systems. We all knew it was coming and given fair warning: learn modern technology, or else. What ‘new technology’ meant was anyone’s guess, but I knew I needed to do something. I signed up for a JAVA programming course at the local college. This class-based, object-oriented language was nothing like my English-like business-oriented COBOL. But to a certain extent, it was fun and challenging.

Java Man
I call this JAVA man. The one remnant of my class I chose to keep.

Fortunately, the Universe took pity on me. During the class, I learned I had been selected to evaluate a commercial system my company was considering as a replacement of our antiquated mainframe system. This was a TOP SECRET assignment (REALLY), thrusting me into the world of Business Analysis. I never had to learn any of those new-fangled languages. Except SQL. I am pretty good at that, if I say so myself.

Mainframes have not disappeared into the night (as some predicted) and the dinosaurs of the COBOL era are still in high demand. And highly paid, I might add.

And yes, young developers are still called 12-year olds.