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When the TSB Bank tried to upgrade its system, it appears the upgrade couldn't cope with the level of transactions coming in at that same time. That's thanks to Grace Hopper, a rear admiral in the US Navy, who was also known as "Amazing Grace." Without Hopper, we may never have had COBOL — or banking .

"And as programmers either retire or leave for new jobs that living, human understanding of why the software was written the way it was gets gradually forgotten." As a result banks and other financial institutions are reluctant to rewrite their software "because changing a condition when you don't understand why it's there is a recipe for disaster." "Computers follow the instructions they are given without any knowledge or awareness of the goals or the context of the process," says Krishnaswami.And some even saw other people's accounts instead of their own.Generational difference IT upgrades seldom go without a glitch.They were big systems with inscrutable names, like HP minis, DEC VAX, Dexcom, or IBM MVS, running in big rooms, creating lots of heat. The best analogy is that of a tank or a Kalashnikov — you can drop it, kick, fill it full of sand and it just works," says Moores."It was created with COBOL running underneath, and it was absolutely suitable for the environment and the requirements of the time." But over time we've added more and more requirements at increasing speed as the technology has advanced, and it's getting harder to tell how each new layer will interact with the old — especially as COBOL is now what some programmers call "dark code." All the experts have either retired or died, few universities teach it, and as a result even fewer people can understand or fix it. It's written in a highly-structured, yet readable language that is very close to what you're reading now, rather than a machine code or an assembly language.

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