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Polis Report

Geezers 2000

By Jim Rendon

After being squeezed into early retirement and onto the county's golf courses, older computer programmers are about to be plucked from the fairway to become the industry's next hot ticket item.

Bill Payson, 73, president and founder of Senior Services, says his clients, who are all over 50, are about to save the hides of the youngsters who sent them packing. When the year 2000 rolls around, it will be old-time hackers who will keep millions of computers from causing chaos by reading 1900.

In the past, programmers saved valuable memory with programs that automatically added a 19 in front of a two-digit year. Computers remembered only the last two digits. Now, with the approaching shift in the millennium, those first two digits are about to change.

"Trillions of lines of program will be affected," says Payson. And this will require a huge work force familiar with old computer languages who are keen to invest in a job that will be obsolete in a few years.

"Young people are not interested in this. There's no dancing girls, no Java," says Payson. And beyond the next few years, there is no future in it.

Payson estimates that 600,000 programmers will be needed to fix the problem and there are only 200,000 on the job market.

Payson has worked with the University of California, Santa Cruz, Extension school to develop a course to help people brush up on their programming skills and learn the latest tricks for the conversion to 2000.

Sandra Clark, director of corporate training programs with UCSC, says the class will be rigorous. "They should expect to do a lot of homework." Clark says that after completing the class, participants will be ready to work.

Programmers should make anywhere from $50 to $100 an hour. "That should be enough to flush a guy off the golf course," Payson says.

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From the August 21-27, 1997 issue of Metro.

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