That Indestructible Black Box: A Testimonial

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It was a warm spring day in early May. I was with Jon Paris and Susan Gantner at the first RPG World conference in Orlando when my daughter Chrissy called me from home. The call went something like this:

"Dad! Last night, Casey [our dog] came upstairs to my room at 3:00 a.m. and woke me up," Chrissy said. In my house, the dog never comes upstairs to where the bedrooms are. She's been trained well and knows better. In fact, if we stand at the top of the stairs and call her, she will not come up the stairs. So for her to have gone upstairs and woken up my daughter was very strange. I figured the dog must have desperately needed to go outside.

Then, Chrissy continued, "I followed her downstairs and discovered the power was out. Casey went over to the basement stairs and barked." At this point, I'm thinking Lassie. When Chrissy said the power was out, I knew what was coming next.

"There was at least 8 inches of water downstairs; the basement was flooded!" she exclaimed. At that point, I started to worry that perhaps the water heater was pumping natural gas into the house or something like that.

Then she said, "The water was halfway up the side of your black computer," and I realized the reason for her concerned tone. My AS/400 was sitting on the basement floor, plugged in, and in nearly a foot of water.

My daughter continued, "I unplugged it, picked it up, and put it on top of the plastic bins in the basement so the water can't get to it now, but water was pouring out of it when I moved it."

I thanked her and told her she did a good job (she is a police officer after all, so thinking clearly in a crisis is part of her training), and I went back to RPG World. Needless to say, I had little hope of being able to recover the system.

Upon returning home a few days later, I inspected the system and indeed did see a water line just a few inches below the white IPL button. If figured there was no way this box was ever going to work again. After all, who knows how long it actually sat in the water before the dog woke my daughter?

In college (about a hundred years ago), Electrical Engineering was my major while I was learning computer programming. So, pretending like I still remember something from those electronics courses, I made a decision to not power on the system for a little while. I wanted to give it time to dry out thoroughly. That "little while" turned into months. Recently, on a lazy weekend day, I went downstairs and moved the system off the bins and returned it to its original position. I decided to plug it in and try to IPL the system, all the while knowing it would never start up properly.

I plugged it in. The little yellow LCD panel light up. So far so good! Then, I pressed the little white IPL button and watched the machine begin doing its thing. At that point, I wondered how long it would be before I need to call Al Barsa and ask him what the SRC code was that was being displayed on my IPL panel. Incredibly, I never had to make that call. In fact, that damn machine IPLed like it had for the last seven years. I did a quick test of a few applications to make sure it was working and then started a full system backup. Everything completed normally! Now, the system is not only fully backed up, but it is actually working like the first day it arrived.

Bob Cozzi has been programming in RPG since 1978. Since then, he has written many articles and several books, including The Modern RPG Language --the most widely used RPG reference manual in the world. Bob is also a very popular speaker at industry events such as RPG World and is the author of his own Web site,, and of the RPG ToolKit, an add-on library for RPG IV programmers.