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RPG is Dead? Are You Serious?!

iPro Developer recently featured an opinion article titled Is RPG Dead? by Mel Beckman, in which we were told that RPG is no longer routinely used to write new programs. Since, apparently, iPro Developer is now publishing opinions instead of facts, let me state mine:  Almost all of Mel's points in this article were just plain silly, and based on an outdated perspective of what RPG is. Since Mel's article was published, many loyal readers have asked me to write a rebuttal. I ...


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Discuss this Blog Entry 21

on Jun 8, 2012
Many kudos to Scott, and my thanks to all contributors in this thread who continue to support the RPG community. I think this is the first time I have ever found Barbara Morris contributing to this type of discussion. I can understand her maintaining a low profile in debates about RPG, but it's nice to know she's listening. I also wanted to let others know that this discussion and debate have spilled over to a number of other blogs and forums, one of which I started on the IBM i Professionals group on Linkedin. See the following URL if interested.
on Jun 7, 2012
Okay, so what is the recommeded UI of choice to go with all of this RPG back end logic and how can the average green screen developer get skilled up on the UI of choice? Stan
on Jun 7, 2012
Scott, Aaron: No need for repetition from me: well reasoned, well stated & 100% on target. Gary
on Jun 3, 2012
In times like these, "there is no such thing as bad publicity" bears repeating I think. Is RPG under attack from its competition? Is that bad for RPG? I think Scott gave the answer when he wrote that no one cares whether Rexx is dead. In the marketplace of ideas, there will always be those who will misstate the actions, capabilities and positions of others. When this happens, it should be seen as an opportunity. As evidence, see The link points to the Tiobe index which currently not only has C replacing Java in the top spot but also Objective-C surpassing C#. I bet some .Not guys are ticked. If you scroll down a bit, you will find that RPG is 21st among languages. Not too shabby considering RPG essentially runs on just one platform. I had the opportunity recently to point out to some managers that they have a long history of replacing apps consisting of 100K lines of RPG with new apps of millions of lines of Java, MQ, JRules, event-driven architecture, XML, JSON, and grotesque amounts of additional hardware. And, in my opinion, their new apps were the cause of their sustained rise in operational expenses. People can be dumb in any language and will seldom miss a chance. Greg
on Aug 13, 2012
Wow. I was busy changing jobs/clients and missed all this hubbub. All I can say is that there seem to be a lot of job openings for programmer/analysts who write in a dead language. LOL.
on Jun 7, 2012
RPG Dead??!! Seriously!? Ha!! I would submit RPG is immortal!!! I still find code running today that was written in the late 70's and early 80's. Find me a Windows 3.1 program still running today; good luck. For that matter find me any other code still running on the same platform without modification for over 30 years. If you do, I'd have to say you found me an RPG program. No platform I can think of has such a strong return on investment for software than the S/34 then S/36 then AS/400 then iSeries then Power i, and now Pure System. I'll give Mel the benefit of the doubt and just think he may have had a reaction some medication that day. :) Mike Mayer
on Jun 8, 2012
P.S. Thank you Scott for writing this rebuttal. As one of the very most highly respected members of the IBM i community, what you say/write obviously is followed closely by many. Hopefully you are able to limit the damage caused by the fact that it says R.I.P. RPG on the cover of the current issue of iProDeveloper. In the meantime, I will keep this issue hidden from the executives at work so they aren't misled.
on Jun 7, 2012
I agree with Aaron and thought the same thing when I read the article from Mr. Beckman. Perhaps he's just trying to "stir the pot", but he's doing us all a disservice by proclaiming RPG dead. Besides it being false (maybe HE isn't doing any new development in RPG, but many others certainly are), it puts that perception in some people's minds - and sometimes perception is reality... you repeat something enough times and it becomes true - a self-fulfilling prophecy. But I also blame the publisher for printing it - the magazine should have turned down this article. I'm all for free speech and I understand that it's an opinion piece, but a magazine that is supposed to be supporting our industry shouldn't print something that's false and harmful to us. Amd Mr. Beckman should understand that as "Sr. Technical Director", many people will read his piece and give it significant weight due to his position. He has a responsibility and I think he has failed this community... time for him to go since he obviously isn't in touch with us anymore. Just my $.02.
on Jun 5, 2012
Great comments Scott and a valuable addition to the dialog. Wish I could read Susan's mind (or indeed my own) as well as we appear to have done yours :-)
on Jun 13, 2012
The last great change in RPG happened when it was /free, and that is 11 years ago. I asked for three things as part of my feedback to George Farr. 1) It need to be 100% free 2) There should be a subset compiler that does not support fixed format. 3) There should be a real good fixed to free converter. Unfortunately IBM pulled the plug and /free and stopped further funding. Request for subset was rejected. A sucky converter was introduced in WDSC. Nobody can save RPG from its death when IBM is all out to kill it. Anyone remember IBM ad for Java in 1997 on this magazine that showed RPG programmers flipping hamburgers in McDonals? I still hold it against IBM.
on Jun 4, 2012
i'm still not convinced this was a way to get answers from all of us, who would not have taken the time to fill out another online survey. :) -sarge
on Jun 7, 2012
Great post. I especially like the list of the features that are important to a business language.
on Jun 8, 2012
The last paragraph says it all. Show RPG developers what they should be doing, and how it'll make their jobs simpler. Put some technical content out there that they can really use, and makes their job easier. Teach me to fish, I won't go hungry.
on Jun 7, 2012
My skills have not been kept all that current over the past 25 years and that's my fault (though I dabble in java, javascript and HTML5 on my own time). The company I work for, like almost every RPG shop I know, has a manager that believes RPG is great for business applications and Green screens are still sufficient for what we do. (order entry, inventory control, etc.) The decision was made a several years ago two do web development in another department and on a different platform and using .net. Now all web related programming (read GUI) must be done in .net (and we would never put our System i on the web cause it would be unsafe, and PCI would be a hassle, etc.). Also, there is much worry that IBM is generally very slow bringing new features to the OS and DB. RPG keeps me employed and pretty well compensated for now but it is "dead" for me (and lot of others) because the window to modernize our code and our image as a modern department has passed and future decisions will be made by those with different backgrounds (in my case the .net, VB and C# folks). I think that whichever side of this argument you are on, you are right. It can be a modern language and play an important role in modern applications of any kind if used correctly, but if the company, boss, business decision makers or whatever don't want to allow RPG to be used in a modern way then, for those people, it is dead.
on Jun 11, 2012
See the following for my comments:
on Jun 4, 2012
"if you build a idiot proof language, the universities will just produce better idiots." -sarge
on Jun 13, 2012
Some say RPG is dead is because it lacks platform independence. But that has the cart before the horse. RPG's lack of platform independence is the only reason the IBM i is still alive. Greg
on Jun 1, 2012
Well stated Scott! Though I still stand by my statement that Mel should retire (I will own up to that statement as the one who originally tweeted it). How well can iProDeveloper do when it has in-fighting? Mel should retire for practical business reasons. Using "retire" is actually my gentle way of saying they should fire him so iProDeveloper can save face. Drastic, yes. Scott, how long would you keep one of your RPG programmers around if he continually downplayed Klement's RPG infrastructure and instead tried to constantly push your shop to other platforms/languages? If it went on long enough you'd let him go. iProDeveloper is too valuable a resource to our community for Mel to stay on at his current role. You can call my statements a personal attack, I call them solid business reasoning.
on Dec 15, 2012
How about this: go to then type RPG under skills, and type your city name. click search and note the number of hits then do the same for java or php or .net or C# =========================================
on Jun 7, 2012
I have been doing a a bit of work with PHP during the past few years, and I hope to be doing much more with it in the future. It shows a lot of promise. All the same, there are some things that to me remain best handled by RPG. Where I work, we've been asked to change/create some highly complex reports and update routines. There are certain tasks that RPG is very good at handling.
on Jul 27, 2012
I read Mel's article with some amusement. Five years into my RPG career - sometime in 1997, we were told the same thing. RPG was going away and being replaced by Microsoft. I bought it and started coding in PowerBuilder! I continued learning Microsoft languages, including .Net. My current position in the Transportation industry finds me in a shop that uses the i heavily for new development. I get to dabble in RPG since we use a product by ASNA called Visual RPG - it returns verifiable .Net assemblies, so I'm writing Chain statements and the like in Visual Studio! I just wrote a couple of WCF services using VRPG that we consume with new (Yes!, New!) RPG programs on the i with IWS. I've also written IBM SQL stored procedures against DB2 tables and used the result sets to populate screens. Mel needs to do more research before his nex diatribe.. :P

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