Introducing the New RPG Developer

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The title of the article is actually a bit of a pun. Not only does the phrase "New RPG Developer" highlight the name of our newly relaunched RPG Developer publication, but it also refers to that publication's readership, namely the "new RPG developer." So please allow me to introduce them both.

The New RPG Developer Publication

You can think of the new RPG Developer publication as an umbrella for all things RPG. At MC Press Online, we consider RPG to be essential to the future of the platform. However you slice it, if RPG is no longer the flagship language, then the System i loses its strategic advantage and becomes nothing more than an expensive Linux and Java machine. And while there are some black-helicopter conspiracy theorists who think that obsolescence is IBM's master plan, the investment in the hardware, in i5/OS, and in RPG itself argue against such a notion.

So, since we believe in the future of both the System i and the RPG language, we believe there is a need for a publication like RPG Developer. One of our ads even proclaims, "All RPG, All the Time," and that's a great five-word synopsis. However, the new publication is a bit more complex than its predecessor, because today's RPG itself is more complex. RPG has a unique dual nature of preserving legacy investments by still running code written decades ago, yet continually being upgraded to add the latest programming features. And the operating system has grown with it. IBM has evolved i5/OS to allow millions, perhaps billions, of lines of code to continue to run untouched while at the same time adding capabilities that most other operating systems can't even attempt, such as direct interoperability between all of its compiled languages and even support for interoperability with Java.

Few procedural languages provide the same level of programming sophistication, and none provides the performance that RPG achieves—performance due at least in part to its unparalleled level of integration with the database. Early versions of RPG enabled massive enterprise applications to run on the smaller, slower processors of the first IBM midranges. But the RPG compiler team is not content with that; as the hardware gets faster and the operating system more powerful, the language is continually enhanced to take advantage of this growth through features such as better access to the APIs of the system and native support for XML.

And so any publication devoted to RPG today needs to cater to both facets of the language: It needs the leading industry experts to provide you the very best in RPG development techniques, but it also must embrace the new generation of programmers. RPG Developer is the first publication designed to address both of those natures of the language. Back in June, Thomas M. Stockwell introduced our team of renowned RPG authorities from System i Developer. This month, I'm letting you in on the other side of the publication, what I like to refer to as "Extreme RPG."

Extreme RPG: The Other Half of the Publication

Extreme RPG includes not only new techniques in RPG development, but also new methods of delivering education for them. For example, take my new WDSC video tutorials. Even though I'm one of the old dogs in RPG development (with nearly 30 years in the field), I'm also the leading advocate of WDSC; I was one of the only non-IBM System i experts asked to speak at the Rational Software Developers Conference. And one of the first features of the new publication are monthly installments of my new video tutorials for WDSC.

But I'm hardly the only person you'll hear from. Instead, the new RPG Developer has begun a campaign of actively recruiting fresh, new faces from the industry, both young programmers and programmers who extend the boundaries of the language. We think we've put our best foot forward by getting Aaron Bartell to come on board as our first industry author, and other voices will include technological innovators such as Adam Glauser and of course the sometimes irreverent but always relevant Joel Klebanoff.

Speaking of Joel, you may have read his recent article on the IBM Academic Initiative for the System i. This program makes it even more clear just how relevant the System i is to IBM's strategic direction. This is IBM's version of extreme System i education. The folks at IBM are working with universities and community colleges around the country—indeed, even around the world—to invigorate their curriculums with as much System i knowledge as possible, thereby heading off the skills shortage that has become almost a self-fulfilling prophecy of the IT media.

IBM's recent reorganization of the divisions (see Thomas M. Stockwell's article "System i Division Split into Two Business Units") has predictably given more fodder to the black-helicopter folks, letting them proclaim ever more loudly the end of the platform. However, a recent conversation I had with IBMer Linda Grigoleit made it clear that nothing could be further from the truth and that the System i is one of the fundamental components of the IBM Academic Initiative. It's not easy, but IBM is making a concerted effort to get the education community and the business community together to provide employment opportunities for new programmers and thus to restore the appeal of IT as a career path—and the System i in particular as one of the premiere platforms for that career.

You'll hear more about the initiative; we feel it's one of the most important and exciting programs IBM has for our platform. Linda's primary message to customers and partners is to talk to the folks at the Academic Initiative and "help us help you." You can visit the System i page noted above, or their home page, or contact them via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Raise your hand: Get in touch with IBM or nudge your business partners to do so. Get involved! One of my favorite concepts is internships: If you have a new technology project that you just can't find the time for but that might appeal to your local community college as a real-world pilot project, then contact the Academic Initiative to see if it might work as an internship for their programmers. Nothing works to build new talent like hands-on work, and of course you get the benefit of seeing the technology without having to invest a ton of your own time.

I can't think of a better way to attract and educate the new generation of "Extreme RPG" programmers.

The XRPG Programmer

So who is the XRPG programmer? It's the programmer who uses RPG to process XML. It's the RPG programmer who calls an API or who prototypes a Java method. It's the programmer who is as comfortable in PHP as in RPG. It's the programmer who pushes the envelope of PASE or QShell or sets up virtual Linux partitions in the i5/OS machine. It's the programmer who wants to understand every built-in function, who uses free-form RPG and ILE. It's the programmer who uses RPG as a stored procedure or as the business logic for a JSP Model 2 Web application. It's the programmer who relies on modern tools like WDSC to build the next generation of applications.

But like the language itself, the XRPG programmer has another side: The XRPG programmer isn't just concerned with gigahertz and gigabytes; the XRPG programmer understands the real application of software to business needs. XRPG programmers see the computer as the mission-critical tool for making users more productive and thus making businesses more profitable. And they know that RPG is the best tool in world for doing just that.

The XRPG programmer is you. Welcome to your new publication.

Joe Pluta is the founder and chief architect of Pluta Brothers Design, Inc. and has been applying Extreme RPG tactics to business solutions for decades. Joe uses RPG for everything from client/server architectures to web enabling green screen applications. He has written several books, including E-Deployment: The Fastest Path to the Web, Eclipse: Step by Step, and WDSC: Step by Step. Joe performs onsite mentoring and speaks at user groups around the country. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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