Where will qualified younger programmers come from when the older generation retires?

T’S a looming crisis not even dreamed of when computers were the new frontier, and all those working on them were young pioneers.

But fast-forward a few decades – and now experts warn that essential systems that control areas like defence and banking are about to be left without qualified people to run them, as the first generation of computer programmers retire and, sadly, die.

Seventy-two-year-old US digital forensic examiner, Robert E Johnston, said that the skills shortage in computer programming carried with it serious consequences…

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Malware and viruses were just the tip of the iceberg, said the computer programmer that wrote computer systems for the US military during the Vietnam War. The skills shortage leaves military and banking systems, along with corporate software vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Mr Johnston said completely rebuilding secure reliable software systems was too costly to ever become a reality.

“In the case of public safety or national security, greater emphasis is placed upon reliability, and yet many (systems) are compromised every year,” he said.

“Everything is computerised today.

“Whenever these fail or are not properly administrated someone or many suffer whether it be in the form of excessive fees, loss of service or even injury or death.”

Unfortunately, Mr Johnston says the vacuum is too vast to ever be filled.

US futurist, Dr Thomas Frey told News Ltd that by 2020, half of most computer programming jobs will go unfilled due to skills shortages.

“Most major corporations use computer languages no longer taught at universities, so companies are coming to the conclusion that they’re going to have to rewrite everything because we don’t have people with the talent to maintain it anymore,” Dr Frey said.

The price tag to either maintain or rewrite these systems are restrictively high, Dr Frey noted.

Forget app developing – which incidentally Dr Frey says has a very short shelf life – there’s billions to be made in figuring out how to keep the basic digital structures of society functioning.

Not everyone agrees, however.

Les Bell, 57-year-old PhD student and information security lecturer at Macquarie University told News Ltd the concerns were overstated and easy to fix.

“Some old computer systems are incredibly well documented and can be found in printed and online training courses and manuals” Mr Bell saud.

“I had to learn very quickly about control programs on IBM mainfraimes, and it was actually quite easy to find out about.”

Banking and defence systems were “chugging along quite nicely”, but Mr Bell said the biggest challenge was trying to sync “old school” back end computer systems with newer, fresher front end systems such as the program you use to do your online banking, or those used by tellers at the bank.

School leavers take note: If there were ever a time to get into computer programming, now would be it.