We Can Just Barely See RPG In i 7.3
April 18, 2016 Dan Burger
Just another day in RPG paradise. No place we’d rather be. Kicked the old fixed-format habit and have gone free. Embedded SQL and integrated XML. Got RDi wired. You’re totally modern, so what’s next? Well . . . if you’re looking for RPG fun in i 7.3, you’ll be mostly disappointed. The IBM shopping cart isn’t empty, but that loaf of bread and a package of baloney isn’t the rib-eye steak we were hoping for.
In case you missed it, the steak was delivered with the IBM i 7.2 TR 1 release in the fall of 2014, which was also the TR 9 for i 7.1. That was a year-and-a-half ago. IBM I 7.1 was pretty well established, but 7.2 still had that new OS aroma. Now with an estimated 75 percent of the IBM i community running either 7.1 or 7.2, that makes free-form PRG available to a lot of RPG programmers. Free-form RPG is the future. Fixed-form is the past–the distant past.
Free-form puts RPG in the game with other modern languages. Programmers who looked like they’ve been Tasered after three minutes of staring at fixed-format RPG can actually understand free-form RPG and the reverse is true for free-form programmers who make sense of Java or other modern language code.
It’s like someone built a bridge to RPG island.
Most IT managers would say the biggest benefit is having code that is no longer a mystery to non-RPG programmers, which means worries about programmer extinction will fade and RPG can continue to be written for tasks it excels at performing.
One of the persistent misconceptions about free-form RPG is that programs cannot have sections of both fixed format and free format code. The truth, in fact, is that they can and the compiler does not care.
But, of course, you knew all this and what you really want to know are the details about the i 7.3 bread and baloney.
During a pre-briefing of 7.3, Steve Will, chief architect for IBM i, categorized the RPG enhancements as “adding support for small features that have backed up while working on bigger things, cleaning up some free-form support, and adding parameters.”
There wasn’t enough time in the debriefing session for something more in-depth, but Jon Paris and Susan Gantner are well-schooled in all things RPG and they wrote about it in their iDevelop blog last week.
They mentioned the inclusion of a “long-awaited” companion to the %SCAN built-in-function, a feature that provides additional support for handling null capable fields, and an increase in the maximum number of parameters on a bound call.