For years we have been hearing of its demise, even IBM tried to drive a stake through it’s heart with the much fangled Java? but ye old 5250 emulation, also known as green screen, and the programs written to run on it just won’t die.

After eleven years as an administrator, programmer and manager using the AS/400 and now the IBM i Power System, I still hear that frequently murmured phrase; green screen what? Frankly people need to realize that to do things the right way it’s about using the right tool for the job.

It’s not new, cool and it is definitely not sexy. The CIO might not like to talk about it at the IT steering committee meetings, but the character based green screen programs excel particularly when it comes to heads down data entry which typify most development on the IBM i. That is just a fact.

Do you want something flashy and alluring or something that actually works?

Now I fully admit there are times when creating a program with a web based interface is the best method to deploy, like an application for customers or dealers to place an order via the Internet. A web browser is what they are used to and have come to fully expect when online placing orders.

Could you imagine the nightmare of trying to buy your favorite novel if Amazon’s ordering process was built using green screen? I thought not, and neither do customers, vendors and business partners.

Likewise you can administer many aspects of the system using i Navigator, and for some stuff It’s a great program with many added benefits over 5250. But can you imagine trying to use Dedicated Service Tools to replace a failed component or ending a runaway job using a web faced system where the whiz-bang toolbar of the month keeps crashing the browser or conflicting with version of Java installed.

These are extreme examples to prove a point, when it comes to working with jobs I will take the Work With Active Jobs command on good old green screen any day. It’s quick, efficient and it is the right tool for the job.

Now by no means do I advocate hanging around in the stone-age either. Not that long ago I worked with a distribution business that was running entirely on custom RPG II programs in emulation and never actually touched the AS/400 side except to do an IPL. The programmer never kept up to date and was actively cranking out RPG II programs instead of porting them over.

That was a huge disservice to the company and set them way behind. They couldn’t even benefit from using old tools like Query to write reports.

If you are a programmer or administrator using the IBM i it is way past time to get with the program and learn the web based frameworks, graphical programming tools and modern uses of the RPG language. Green screen is not the enemy, but it is not the cure all either.

About John Andersen:
John Andersen is an IT manager and RPG programmer for the midrange platform. Check out his AS400 Tutorials blog and sign up to claim your free system i tutorial and video courses.