Well. I was at the Systemideveloper.com spring conference last week and managed to let my voice be heard during George Farr’s speech to the masses – us RPG programmers. First let me say that I definitely respect George and appreciate many of the things his team does that helps my development efforts. I don’t think I could code RPG in SEU anymore and have fallen in love with WDSC’s RSE and LPEX editor.

With that said I am getting red flags with the things I hear coming out of George’s mouth. Now, I am not one to conjecture, but I can’t help myself in reading between the lines of what George is saying. What is George saying? He is playing his horn to the tune of platform independence and playing it quite happily. Platform independence inherently means Java in my mind (he also mentioned EGL), and that doesn’t bode well for us RPG programmers if that is where IBM would like to see us in 5 to 8 years. I have been a Java programmer for a number of years now (roughly 5) and while I would not consider myself an expert in the language, I have definitely been dating long enough to know that marriage in the town of iSeries is not in the future (if you catch my drift).

Java IS a great language for MANY scenarios (i.e. frameworks, running on printers and the like), but of those it is NOT a replacement business logic language for the iSeries. You see, George gets his ear talked off by vendors that would LOVE to have the iSeries platform to run their Java/EGL web apps. After all, we do have one of the most solid platforms out there. But an iSeries isn’t always easy to sell when you can get an “equivalent” hardware machine for half the price. So that is why vendors aren’t lining up to write next gen apps in RPG. They want to be able to give their customer sub-par hardware and OS (i.e. Wintel) when the customer says the iSeries costs too much. What George doesn’t hear are all of us RPGers that are in the trenches making businesses run and don’t always have time for the scholarly task of learning a scholarly language. We instead are writing code, very fast, so our companies can stay afloat and make money. Should we be slapped around for not getting in the face of George and telling him what we need vs. him giving us what he thinks we want – probably. George’s challenge is to embrace one of the most dedicated programming communities and figure out what makes them tick – what could we use that will take us into the next 10 years of programming. We don’t ask for much, just that we don’t have to learn Java or us it during our runtimes. We simply want four things…

  1. a native web framework, much like JavaServer Faces, but that has nothing to do with Java. When a user clicks a link or button I want to be able to “inject” that right into an RPG sub procedure in my RPG CGI program. CGIDEV2 was great 5 years ago when everyone on the iSeries was learning about HTML, but it just doesn’t cut it for next generation web apps.
  2. a native way to build thick client GUI applications. Use the Smart Client concept so we don’t end up with Visualage RPG. Make all the RPG code run on the iSeries so we don’t run behind in compiler releases. Oh, and WDSC would contain a no additional cost drag’n’drop GUI builder.
  3. language modifications that get us completely into free form. Note that D, H, and F specs aren’t so bad, but the change is mostly so we can market our language to the next generation of programmers (disclaimer – I am 27 years old as I write this).
  4. Rename the language. I am sick of having a Cannondale bike with Huffy stickers plastered all over it. RPG is hardly Report Program Generator today. Interesting how IBM has rename diarrhea for the platform and OS, but RPG has hardly changed names in the past 12 years.

If IBM would get their druthers straight they would realize that platform dependence is an incredibly great thing (for their customers) because it provides tight integration (i.e. RPG/DB2/OS400) allowing fast development of applications, and it inherently keeps customers on the platform which means lots of hardware sales for IBM. Don’t think it can work? Ever heard of a company named Microsoft? How many Microsoft products run natively on Linux? On Unix? On OS xyz? They don’t, and Microsoft gains MANY competitive advantages because of it. (yes I know about mono – hardly counts as Microsoft dropped their support of it a year after they started the initiative) IBM doesn’t even have to pioneer this, they simply have to copy the most successful marketing technology company in the world.

With all that said here is the press release that started this whole thread on SystemiNetwork. See the last couple paragraphs for mention of my name – Aaron Bartell.

[tags]rpg, java, egl, wdsc, ibm, System i, iSeries, os/400[/tags]

About Aaron Bartell:
Aaron Bartell is a Java and RPG programmer for www.krengeltech.com specializing in modernizing RPG applications for web service interoperability. Aaron can be reached at aaron@krengeltech.com or visit his home page at http://mowyourlawn.com. Aaron is also lead developer for the RPG-XML Suite which can be found at http://rpg-xml.com.