All Things Upwork
September 17, 2009 by Christopher Smith

The speed of innovation means new technologies are being introduced every day. What you may not realize is that some of the “older” tech knowledge is still in demand today, and with an abundance of new-generation programmers flooding the digital realm, programmers with some old-school knowledge can be worth a pretty penny.  Here are five savvy skills from yesteryear that can still prove themselves valuable, even if they don’t pop up in every day conversation.


LOTUS NOTES

Lotus Notes has a history spanning more than 20 years, causing some industry analysts and mainstream business press writers to make predictions of its impending demise, but the numbers don’t lie: IBM reported an increase of 100 million seats over the last decade. While the market for jobs requiring Lotus Notes skills has been up and down, there are a few folks out there consistently looking for those with the knowledge to handle any Lotus-related curveball that may come their way.

UNIX SHELL

The Unix shell was unusual when it was first created in 1977. On systems using a windowing system (as many do these days) some users may never use the shell directly. On Unix systems, the shell is still the implementation language of system startup scripts, including the program that starts the windowing system, the programs that facilitate access to the Internet, and many other essential functions. Due to the recent movement in favor of open source software, most Unix shells have at least one version that is distributed under an open source license, which may further explain why this “old school” technology is still a desirable job skill.

COLDFUSION

ColdFusion was anything but cold when it hit the digital realm in the mid 1990s. As the internet exploded in popularity, CF and its legions of programmers rode the dot-com wave to great success thanks to a winning combination of functionality and simplicity. Stiff competition over the years has left  ColdFusion overshadowed by other offerings such as Rails and PHP, though the language does maintain a devout following that actively seeks out other CF aficionados.

ColdFusion Graph

COBOL

No, we’re not talking about the ancient planet that served as the cradle of humanity in SyFy Channel’s Battlestar Galactica (besides, that’s spelled with a K), but it is nearly as old. With roots dating back to the late 1950s, COBOL is one of the industry’s oldest programming languages, and according to Stephen Kelly of Micro Focus, still “equates to 80% of the world’s actively used code.” It may not be cutting edge, but there’s no denying the benefits of being able to work with, modify, and update a language that remains so prevalent in modern society. It may not lead to an exclusive contract, but in a world where few institutions even teach COBOL, knowing this language can be a valuable asset indeed.

FORTRAN

If COBOL is ancient, FORTRAN is prehistoric, at least in the technological timeline. 1953 marks the birth of this particular programming language, and what it lacks in sophistication, it makes up for in speed and simplicity. Versions of FORTRAN code still serve front line duty in numerous applications, especially in the engineering and scientific realm, where FORTRAN’s ability to efficiently crunch numbers with little fanfare make it an ideal language for complex calculations.

The hot jobs aren’t necessarily the “hip” programming gigs. Rather, they exist at the point where demand outweighs supply, and that’s not always at the crest of the wave. Programmers know just how fast this industry moves. Today’s in-demand language could well be tomorrow’s history lesson, but having a diverse background can easily mean the difference between scrapping for work with millions of fresh programmers, or showcasing yourself to an under-served niche segment where knowledge of older languages reign supreme—and gets you the job.