The top 10 dead (or dying) computer skills. Are your skills in need of upgrading?

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1. Cobol

Y2k was like a second gold rush for Cobol programmers who were seeing
dwindling need for their skills. But six-and-a-half years later,
there’s no savior in sight for this fading language. At the same time,
while there’s little curriculum coverage anymore at universities
teaching computer science, “when you talk to practitioners, they’ll
say there are applications in thousands of organizations that have to
be maintained”.

2. Nonrelational DBMS

In the 1980s, there were two major database management systems
approaches: hierarchical systems, such as IBM’s IMS and SAS Institute
Inc.’s System 2000, and network DBMS, such as CA’s IDMS and Oracle
Corp.’s DBMS, formerly the VAX DBMS. Today, however, both have been
replaced by the relational DBMS approach, embodied by SQL databases
such as DB2, Oracle and Microsoft SQL Server, says Topi. “The others
are rarely covered anymore in database curricula.

3. Non-IP networks

TCP/IP has largely taken over the networking world, and as a result,
there’s less demand than ever for IBM Systems Network Architecture
(SNA) skills. “It’s worth virtually nothing on the market,” says David
Foote, president of Foote Partners LLC in New Canaan, Conn. Foote
tracks market pay for individual IT skills, which companies usually
pay as a lump sum or a percentage of workers’ base pay, either as a
bonus or an adjustment to their base salary. SNA, Foote says, commands
less than 1% premium pay. “It’s like a penny from 1922 — there has to
be someone who wants to buy it.”

Despite the fact that many banks, insurance firms and other companies
still have large investments in SNA networks, the educational
offerings in this area are also rare, according to Topi. “The dominant
model of protocols is TCP/IP and the Internet technologies.

4. cc:Mail
This store-and-forward LAN-based e-mail system from the 1980s was once
used by about 20 million people. However, as e-mail was integrated
into more-complex systems such as Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange,
its popularity waned, and in 2000, it was withdrawn from the market.
According to Foote, “cc:Mail is a bygone era. Now e-mail is tied into
everything else, and cc:Mail didn’t make that leap.” Just the same,
the product continues to be commercially supported by Global System
Services Corp. in Mountain View, Calif.

5. ColdFusion

This once-popular Web programming language — released in the
mid-1990s by Allaire Corp. (which was later purchased by Macromedia
Inc., which itself was acquired by Adobe Systems Inc.) — has since
been superseded by other development platforms, including Microsoft
Corp.’s Active Server Pages and .Net, as well as Java, Ruby on Rails,
Python, PHP and other open-source languages. Debates continue over
whether ColdFusion is as robust and scalable as its competitors, but
nevertheless, premiums paid for ColdFusion programmers have dropped
way off, according to Foote. “It was really popular at one time, but
the market is now crowded with other products.

6. C programming

As the Web takes over, C languages are also becoming less relevant,
according to Padveen. “C++ and C Sharp are still alive and kicking,
but try to find a basic C-only programmer today, and you’ll likely
find a guy that’s unemployed and/or training for a new skill.

7. PowerBuilder

Recruiters that have been around since the 1990s, such as David Hayes,
president of HireMinds LLC in Cambridge, Mass., remember when
PowerBuilder programmers were “hot, hot, hot,” as he says. Developed
by Powersoft Inc., this client/server development tool in 1994 was
bought by Sybase Inc., which was once a strong Oracle competitor.

Today, PowerBuilder developers are at the very bottom of the list of
in-demand application development and platform skills, with pay about
equal to Cobol programmers, according to Foote. Nevertheless, the
product keeps on trucking, with PowerBuilder 11 expected this year,
which has the ability to generate .Net code.

8. Certified NetWare Engineers

In the early 1990s, it was all the rage to become a Certified NetWare
Engineer, especially with Novell Inc. enjoying 90% market share for PC-
based servers. Today, however, you don’t have to look far to find CNEs
retraining themselves with other skills to stay marketable. “It seems
like it happened overnight,” Hayes says. “Everyone had Novell, and
within a two-year period, they’d all switched to NT.” Novell says it
will continue supporting NetWare 6.5 through at least 2015; however,
it has also retired several of its NetWare certifications, including
Master CNE and NetWare 5 CNE, and it plans to retire NetWare 6 CNE.
“Companies are still paying skill premiums for CNEs, but they’re
losing value.

9. PC network administrators

With the accelerating move to consolidate Windows servers, some see
substantially less demand for PC network administrators. “You see the
evidence for that in the demise of those programs at the technical and
two-year schools and the loss of instructors,” says Nate Viall,
president of Nate Viall & Associates, an AS/400 (iSeries) recruiting

10. OS/2

A rough translation of OS/2 could be “wrong horse.” Initially created
by Microsoft and IBM and released with great fanfare in 1987, the
collaboration soon unraveled, and after repeated rumors of its demise,
IBM finally discontinued sales in 2005. OS/2 still has a dedicated
community, however, and a company called Serenity Systems
International still sells the operating system under the name

About Faisal Ebrahim

Tech enthusiast, IT & Cybersecurity consultant & Sales manager. I'm passionate about staying ahead of the curve on emerging technologies, including EVs, AI, robotics, and the metaverse. For over 15 years, I've explored and shared these innovations on my blog,

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