There was once a COBOL programmer in the mid- to late-1990s...
For the sake of this story, we'll call him Jack. After years of being
taken for granted and treated as a technological dinosaur by
all the UNIX programmers and client/server programmers and Web site
developers, Jack was finally getting some respect.
He'd become a private consultant specializing in year 2000 conversions.
He was working short-term assignments for
prestigious companies, travelling all over the world on different
assignments. He was working 70 and 80 and even 90 hours a
week, but it was worth it.
Several years of this relentless, mind-numbing work had taken its toll
on Jack. He had problems sleeping and began having
anxiety dreams about the year 2000. It had reached a point where even
the thought of the year 2000 made him nearly violent.
He must have suffered some sort of breakdown, because all he could think
about was how he could avoid the year 2000 and
all that came with it. Jack decided to contact a company that
specialized in cryogenics. He made a deal to have himself frozen
until March 15th, 2000. This was a very expensive process and totally
automated. He was thrilled. The next thing he would
know is he'd wake up in the year 2000; after the New Year celebrations
and computer debacles; after the leap day. Nothing
else to worry about except getting on with his life. He was put into his
cryogenic receptacle, the technicians set the revive date,
he was given injections to slow his heartbeat to a bare minimum, and
that was that.
The next thing that Jack saw was an enormous and very modern room filled
with excited people. They were all shouting "I
can't believe it!" and "It's a miracle" and "He's alive!". There were
cameras (unlike any he'd ever seen) and equipment that
looked like it came out of a science fiction movie. Someone who was
obviously a spokesperson for the group stepped
forward. Jack couldn't contain his enthusiasm. "Is it over? Is 2000
already here? Are all the millennial parties and promotions
and crises all over and done with?"
The spokesman explained that there had been a problem with the
programming of the timer on Jack's cryogenic receptacle--it
hadn't been year 2000 compliant. It was actually eight thousand years
later, not the year 2000. But the spokesman told Jack
that he shouldn't get excited; someone important wanted to speak to him.
Suddenly a wall-sized projection screen displayed the image of a man
that looked very much like Bill Gates. This man was
Prime Minister of Earth. He told Jack not to be upset. That this was a
wonderful time to be alive. That there was world peace
and no more starvation. That the space program had been reinstated and
there were colonies on the moon and on Mars. That
technology had advanced to such a degree that everyone had virtual
reality interfaces which allowed them to contact anyone
else on the planet, or to watch any entertainment, or to hear any music
"That sounds terrific," said Jack. "But I'm curious. Why is everybody so
interested in me?"
"Well," said the Prime Minister. "The year 10000 is just around the
corner, and it says in your file that you know COBOL"