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.




9 thoughts on “The Three D’s

  1. Interesting stuff, Susan.
    I too was a boy programmer back in the day, and Cobol was one of my languages.
    I also taught it, among other stuff, at an Edinburgh university back in the Dark Ages!

    1. Always good to find a fellow (former) programmer. FORTRAN was my first language, but fortunately I only had to use it in school. Never really used much beyond COBOL. I don’t miss it much but after seeing what they pay per hour for that skill, it might help fund my retirement.

      1. I taught FORTRAN too, it was a compulsory subject in many courses, not just Computing, but most scientific disciplines.
        The biggest drag was teaching COBOL to Accountancy students, they seemed to have no grasp of logic!

  2. The history of computing is a fascinating subject in its self. However I still enjoy writing with a pencil, yet the computer has opened a whole new world for me.

  3. I write some things by hand but my handwriting is so bad i can barely read it. I’m glad you enjoyed the story and my sidebar. Thanks for taking time to comment.

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