Evolution of the Modern RPG programmer 

 February 12, 2017

By  NickLitten

A Modern RPG Programmer writes RPGLE, RPG4, RPG400, RPG3, RPG2 programs

I suppose many of them also enjoy Role Playing Games but that is neither here nor there. RPG stands for Report Program Generator. It is an IBM programming language which had evolved from the early day of punch cards and gentlemen who programmed with it wearing Vintage suits. Vintage suits which were not vintage at that time, because they were brand new. Being an RPG programmer was brand new. But times have moved on and now we have an oldschool RPG and modern RPG programmer paradigm.

/me remembers the nineteen eighties…

when RPGII was this fantastically exciting thing I learned spending hours and hours and hours reading manuals and staring at these weird HUGE sheets of printed green lined paper with seemingly meaningless code typed on them with dodgy faded dot-matrix printouts.

/me spent many a lunch-hour playing…

with a huge metal ruler with all kinds of RPG2 column based stuff on it so I could figure out which indicator was where, on the aforementioned dodgy faded dot-matrix printouts.

/me wonders how IBM…

didn’t manage to properly advertise the power of the AS400 (or whatever name it is this week) and this beautiful and elegant RPG language

/me wonders how much longer…

I will have a career in this programming game, writing RPG and generally tinkering with IT stuff. I frequently use the quote “its not my job I just get paid to do my hobby!”

/me wonders if I am just getting old, bitter, twisted…

and annoyed by the lazy mental attitude of some programmers – old and new (lazy programmers make real bad programmers)

/me still describes his job role as ‘programmer’…

not ‘information technology architect’ or ‘Chief Information Executive Developer’ 😉

/me decides to stop using this /me thing…

cause it’s really confusing slash me. Plus its also becoming annoying. If its annoying to me it must extremely annoying to you.

What is an RPG programmer?

Modern RPG programmerTwenty Years later and the language has evolved almost beyond recognition from those early days. RPG/Free Format is so much improved over the old column based RPGx versions I frequently find it difficult to contain my excitement. My wife has suffered my occasional dinner-time diatribe about this new %BIF technique that I’m using that’s really cool and sexy… when her eyes glaze over I know it’s time to invoke an internal EVAL GEEK_MODE = *OFF 😉

Now, if I’m coding and need to check some particular OPCODE the answer is a simple click/click/Google away. I cant remember the last time I opened a big fat manual and chuckled for the 9,342nd time at the this-page-is-intentionally-left-blank pages.

Is the answer to technical questions easier to find? Yes
Is the answer to technical questions easier to understand? Probably
Are lazy coders diluting the pool of sharp RPG programmers and bringing the good guys and this excellent machine into disrepute Definitely
Is outsourcing programming requirements to offshore sweat-shops a plan for effective, bug-free e-business code? Absolutely Not

So, in this modern world being a programmer is no longer an elite, unusual or clever jobtitle.

  • Everyone programs.
  • Everyone can write code.
  • But not everyone is a programmer 😉


IBM i Software Developer, Digital Dad, AS400 Anarchist, RPG Modernizer, Shameless Trekkie, Belligerent Nerd, Englishman Abroad and Passionate Eater of Cheese and Biscuits. Nick Litten Dot Com is a mixture of blog posts that can be sometimes serious, frequently playful and probably down-right pointless all in the space of a day. Enjoy your stay, feel free to comment and remember: If at first you don't succeed then skydiving probably isn't a hobby you should look into.

Nick Litten

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