Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (2023)

Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (1)

August 24, 2020Alex Woody

Should IBM rename RPG, and if so, what should the new name be? It's an interesting idea, and one that was recently raised by a member of the IBM i community, who submitted an Official Request for Enhancement (RFE) on the subject. The crux of the argument is that the Full Free Format RPG is such a dramatic departure from the Fixed Format RPG that it deserves a new name. But will IBM, owner of the language, agree with the change?

The Report Program Generator, or RPG, debuted in 1959, at the dawn of the computer age, as a way to replicate punch card processing on the computer.IBM1401, according to theWikipedia entry on RPG🇧🇷 IBMer Wilf Hey is credited with leading the development of RPG, which grew out of FARGO, or Fourteen-o-one Automatic Report Generation, RPG's predecessor in the IBM 1401. RPG is just one of the few computer languages ​​still in use. they were also used with punch card machines.

In the late 1960s, IBM updated the language and released RPG II alongside the launch of the IBM System/3 line. RPG II was used with System/32, System/34 and System/36, and was also used with System/370 core systems. It was also used with VME/K, the operating system used by International Computers Limited (ICL), a British mainframe developer that went out of business in 2002. There was also an RPG environment cloned for DEC VAX minicomputers a long time ago. This was the heyday of the procedural language, in terms of support for a large number of platforms, but it still had a long life ahead of it on IBM systems.

Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (2)

The IBM 1401 Data Processing System. From left: 1402 Card Read-Punch, 1401 Processing Unit, 1403 Printer (Source: US Government).

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The name of the language was extended in 1978 with the release of System/38. RPG III was a major update to the language and introduced many modern constructs, including IF-ENDIF blocks, DO loops, and subroutines, according to the Wikipedia entry.

When IBM released AS/400 in 1988, it renamed RPG III RPG/400, but the language itself was identical to RPG III. (Many midrange server components were given the "/400" treatment, a heritage reflected in many product names, including this bulletin.)

The next major update to the RPG language came in 1994 with the release of OS/400 V2R3. As part of this release, IBM introduced the Integrated Language Environment (ILE), which provided a more modular and consistent way to develop applications. As part of the release of ILE, IBM introduced RPG IV, also called ILE RPG or RPGLE. RPG was one of the ILE languages, along with compilers for COBOL, CL, C, C++ and Fortran.

Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (3)

RPG remains the most popular language for new development on the IBM i, according to the 2020 IBM i Market Research.

While other development languages ​​are supported on the IBM i platform, including Java and a number of open source languages ​​such as PHP, Python, Ruby and Node.js, which are used to develop applications that run on the PASE runtime. AIX, RPG (ie RPG IV) remains the language of choice for the vast majority of IBM i developers. According tohelp systems'IBM i 2020 market research, RPG is used by 88 percent of IBM i developers for new development, followed by SQL at 80 percent, CL at 53 percent, and Java at 43 percent.

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IBM continued to improve the RPG IV compiler over the years, but didn't do anything major with it until they released IBM i 7.1 Technology Refresh 7 (TR7) in October 2013. With that release, IBM officially added full support for free . format syntax in the RPG IV compiler. There was some free-form support before, but this was the first version that allowed developers to write RPG code completely free of charge.

The free-form RPG freed developers from the need to adhere to columns, as the fixed-format RPG required. Free form RPG washailed as a breakthroughby many in the IBM i community, as it allowed developers to write RPG code the same way they write code in other languages. RPG, they said, can be considered a "modern" language, having finally broken free of its punchcard past.

Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (4)

The shift to free-form role-playing has been so significant that some in the IBM i community want IBM to recognize it by giving it a new name. That includes Simon Hutchinson, an IBM i programmer from Texas who asked IBM to rename the RPG last week in hisRPGPGM.comblog.

"Five years ago, the 'Totally Free RPG' was introduced",Hutchinson wrote🇧🇷 “It's not ILE/RPG. There are no columns and I can start writing in the first column of the source member and I can also continue in the last column. It was something new and different from her past. This is a new version of the programming language and, in my opinion, deserves a new name.

Hutchinson prefers the name "RPG for i", to follow the naming convention IBM uses for other parts of the server such as Db2 for i (don't call it DB2/400). Tim Rowe, IBM architect for systems management product and application development,has spokenabout the “modern RPG” differentiated from the ILE RPG.

Maybe it's time to update the version number? RPG V sounds like a trifle, though the time to name it was probably around the release of the IBM i 7.1 TR7 in 2013. (There's also the tricky issue ofthe five roleplaying games, the folk-blues fusion group that includes IBM's head of RPG development Barbara Morris along withIT jungleby Ted Holt, Alan Seiden, Steph Rabbani and Kath Hewitt. But it's possible that the band was convinced to share its name with the language RPG, for some consideration, of course).

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Is it time to rebrand the RPG? - IT jungle (5)

RPG programmers demand your freedom!

Hutchinson went so far as to create aRFE oficial no site do developerWorkson August 15, allowing the community to vote for him. Several community members supported the idea, noting that a new name along with the updated language could help attract younger programmers to the platform. "If you change the name of the RPG to 'RAMPAGE', you have the coolest language with the coolest name!" declared an enthusiastic member of the community. (Unfortunately, that name can forever confuse search engine algorithms, which already think RPG stands for Role Playing.)

Ultimately, the RFE received 58 votes in less than a week, making it the most popular RFE on the page. Of the approximately 400 RFEs submitted so far in August across all of IBM's servers and system software, Hutchinson's name change request received the most votes.

Unfortunately, IBM didn't seem receptive to the idea and rejected the RFE less than a week after submission. “IBM does not intend to freely add a new name or version number to the RPG. This RFE is closing," the company stated in the RFE.

This does not necessarily mean that the idea is a bad one or that it cannot be revisited in the future. The IBM i community became passionate about another RFE: releasing a "light" version of RDi. So far, Big Blue hasn't moved on the matter, but you never know.

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