COBOL Cowboys is a Gainesville, Texas software consulting company founded by Bill and Eileen Hinshaw in 2013. It was named after the Clint Eastwood movie Space Cowboys, in reference to bringing subject matter experts out of retirement. The company specializes in updating legacy COBOL code on mainframe computers, often found in the back office of banks, other long-lived companies, and government agencies. The youngest coders at the firm are usually in their 50s.
During the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, founder Bill Hinshaw said that part of the problem face by state unemployment systems strained by the pandemic was that the COBOL software used by the systems was run on older hardware: "New machinery is 64-bit with multiple processors or brains. So that if one processor gets overloaded, it starts sharing the work with another processor down the line." Hinshaw compared the modernization of mainframe COBOL to "hopping off of your bicycle and jumping onto a Harley Davidson motorcycle".
- "COBOL modernization roadmap: Patience, software and integrations". ciodive.com. 21 April 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- "'COBOL Cowboys' Aim To Rescue Sluggish State Unemployment Systems". NPR.org. 22 April 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- David Cassel (6 May 2017). "COBOL Is Everywhere. Who Will Maintain It?". The New Stack. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
Of course, this has also created some opportunities. 75-year-old Bill Hinshaw, a former COBOL programmer, has even founded a company in northern Texas named COBOL Cowboys. (And yes, their client list includes at least five banks.) The company’s slogan? “Not our first rodeo.”
- Irrera, Anna (11 April 2017). "Banks scramble to fix old systems as IT 'cowboys' ride into sunset". U.S. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- Dave McKay (15 April 2020). "What Is COBOL, and Why Do So Many Institutions Rely on It?". How-To Geek. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
This is such a problem that Bill Hinshaw, a COBOL veteran, was coerced out of retirement to found COBOL Cowboys. This private consulting firm caters to desperate corporate clients that can’t find COBOL-savvy coders anywhere. The “youngsters” at COBOL Cowboys (the motto of which is “Not Our First Rodeo”) are in their 50s. They believe 90 percent of Fortune 500 business systems run on COBOL.
- "Unemployment checks are being held up by a coding language almost nobody knows". The Verge. 14 April 2020. Retrieved 6 May 2020.