Language lore keeps legacy know-how singing

During an era before clouds and apps, business software thrived on fourth-generation languages. If languages ran from bare metal to assembler and then on to the likes of COBOL, 4GLs were more. Faster to develop with. Easier to debug. Written in structure easier to parse than COBOL. A secret statistic is how much of the world’s key business still powers itself riding a wave of COBOL. The number is significant.

One 4GL among the first to gain popularity in the Hewlett-Packard enterprise market is Speedware. Developed by the company of the same name, Speedware embraced newer technology while it preserved its ability to ride legacy hosts. When connecting the Web with COBOL apps was experimental, Speedware released a Speedware Web version. Speedware Autobahn II Version 5 runs under MPE/iX as well as with HP-UX and Windows environments.

Few revisions of MPE/iX development suites and tools were surfacing after Y2K. But the news of Speedware is not a full-on history lesson. Several weeks ago, an application vendor, Softvoyage, posted a notice among HP developers seeking Speedware expertise. Since the middle 1990s, customers were using Autobahn to develop large-scale enterprise Web applications. Softvoyage, a travel services supplier, wants refreshed Speedware expertise.

Christian Scott of Softvoyage says his request has not sparked a wildfire of response. It’s been a migration journey for the vendor across the last 17 years. What were once considered open system computing targets have become legacy platforms themselves. Shifting from the HP 3000 to HP-UX servers took place in 2004. “We have completed the migration to HP-UX in 2004, but we need Speedware programmers on Itanium servers,” Scott says. “We received only one application, and the person is not yet available.”

Legacy computing labors under many misunderstandings. The first is that the technology is too dated to keep up. Softvoyage continues to use Speedware to support its clients.

The other is that many retired and underemployed veterans stand ready to snatch up legacy jobs. Legacy IT pros can consider their experience rare, in the finest sense of that word. They can also expect to carry legacy into new realms. Softvoyage is on HP’s Unix for now. The coming target is Linux, Scott says. First, though, there’s the matter of finding expertise for the older legacy systems on HP-UX.

Speedware, the company, changed its name and focus more than a decade ago. It’s now Fresche Legacy, and while still offering MPE/iX services, is now drilled in on the IBM Series i marketplace. Legacy computing has been large enough to carry the company through multiple iterations of environments.

Photo by Zack Smith on Unsplash

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