RPG Website Resurrected. Is the Language Next?
November 30, 2016 Alex Woodie
The IBM i community got a peak at the latest RPG website last week when the official wraps were taken off www.ile-rpg.org. While it may appear to be new, the website is in fact a resurrected (and updated) version of an older website, rpglanguage.biz, that was essentially abandoned by its previous owner. The website’s new owner, TEMBO Tech Labs, is confident that it will help spread the word about RPG’s prowess as a business language.
John McCay originally created the rpglanguage.biz website back in 2007 to provide a place where RPG developers could share tips, concerns, and even snippets of code with one another. McCay also helped create a LinkedIn group called RPGLANGUAGE that contained basically the same information and content as the website, which were both fairly popular among RPG developers.
When McCay got a job working on a different platform several years later, he stopped updating the website, and it languished at the i5/OS V5R2 level. It seemed like a shame to abandon such a rich source of information on RPG, which is the closest thing IBM i has to a “native” language. So TEMBO CEO Marinus van Sandwyk acquired the rights to the website in 2014 and began plans to retrofit it with more up-to-date content.
The new website went live last week, along with an updated version of the LinkedIn group, which is now called ILE-RPG Developers. The www.ile-rpg.org website includes a forum for community discussions, a blog where members can post in-depth articles, and share open source code with the community.
Van Sandwyk is the new owner of the website, and is assisted by six moderators, including Nathan Andelin, Tommy Atkins, Jim Buck, Mike Moegling, Rafael Victoria-Pereira, and McCay. The ILE-RPG Developer website has more than 12,000 members, making it one of the larger IBM i-related groups.
While TEMBO owns the website, the company has no intent on using it as a platform for selling its DB2 for i modernization tools. The goal is to create a clear line of separation between the Adsero Optima brand on the one hand, and the website and the LinkedIn group on the other.
“Unfortunately my ownership of both the group and TEMBO, may taint the perceived independence of the group, something we are all accurately aware of,” van Sandwyk tells IT Jungle via email. “However, if it wasn’t for this fact, it is unlikely that anyone would have been prepared to invest what was required.”
TEMBO funded the domain, the new logo (see above), and the website development, and that’s why you’ll see the company’s name on the website. “But all of this is at ‘arms-length,'” van Sandwyk continues, “and the managers/moderators have the brief to ensure the independence of the group, within the constraints of commercial realities.”
TEMBO clearly has an interest in the health and vitality of the RPG language, if not the www.ile-rpg.org website and ILE-RPG Developer LinkedIn group. The South African company is adamant that the combination of modern RPG and DB2 for i is what makes the IBM i platform and its predecessors so unique in the history of business computing.
“We do not believe that RPG receives the attention and investment it deserves, but also know that the language is a mature language,” he says. “As a programming language on IBM i and for commercial OLTP, it is unmatched (imho), when combined with IBM i and DB2 for i. We do hope and dream that IBM will invest at least a substantial percentage of the money it is investing at porting other languages to the i, as this would make it an even far more amazing and attractive language.”
However, that’s not likely to be the case, and van Sandwyk knows this. While there were RPG compilers for other platforms at one point, the RPG language is essentially marooned in the IBM i operating system at this point in time. As van Sandwyk points out, there’s a perception that the language isn’t “sexy,” which is one reason why IBM doesn’t build RPG compilers for other platforms.
Of course, this isn’t news. The vast majority of IBM i professionals and RPG code slingers don’t expect Big Blue to try to build a big self-sustaining ecosystem around Report Program Generator, which emerged from IBM labs more than 50 years ago to program punch-card tabulators. While these RPG pros would appreciate some additional functionality–the addition of free format syntax in ILE RPG has been extremely well-received, thank you very much–they realize their RPG skills won’t translate well outside the IBM i bubble.
Which, in a way, is just fine. The IBM i community has always danced to the beat of its own song, which was often out-of-sync with the wider IT world. And thanks to communities like www.ile-rpg.org and the ILE-RPG Developer LinkedIn group–not to mention all the other real and virtual gathering places for the IBM i crowd–this community has a lot of life in it, still.
Editor’s Note: This article was corrected. The new website is www.ile-rpg.org, not www.ile-rpg.com, as was previously stated. IT Jungle regrets the error.