RPG - An Evolving Programming Language

Written on 11:05 AM by Robert

IBM System II wanted to write a little something about a programming language that I used at my previous job - RPG.  I used two different versions of this language (versions III and IV) on an IBM AS400 minicomputer (currently known as the IBM System I).  Not many recent college graduates have heard of it, but 20 years ago it was a hot tool to use - especially for companies who wanted to come up with a quick way to create reports.

RPG, which used to stand for Report Program Generator, is a language still used on mainframe and minicomputers today.  The language is a linear one, just like the "competitors" of its day:  Forttran, Assembler, and COBOL.  It was originally created in the 1960s and was known as FARGO, used primarily for IBM's 1401 computers using punch cards. 

As computer systems evolved, so did RPG.  Several versions emerged over the years, including RPG II, RPG III, and finally RPG IV in 1994 (also known as RPGLE).  Today, RPG IV is a more robust language than in was in 1994.  In 2001, IBM's OS/400 operating system for their AS400 systems developed a "free-form" or "free-format" style to the syntax.  This made programming seem more like many of the other mainstream programming languages. RPG has the ability to link up with Java objects and can be used with toolkits to create web pages.  Here is a little sample of what an RPG program (with "free-form" looks like).


When I first started to learn RPG on the corporate AS400 system, I thought I was learning a dead language on an antique system.  The truth is that IBM continues to create newer servers that support the OS/400 operating system.  Ten years ago, the AS400 system at my old job was updated with a server with a 64-bit processor - something that we didn't see in Windows servers for another 5 years or so.

Here's another fact that I didn't know.  There are major corporations that still use the AS400/System I as their main server solution.  Some in New York are HSBC Bank, Duane Reade, and Time Warner Cable!!

I always thought learning RPG was a crutch in my career, but now I see how important it really has become.  It has also proved to be adaptable and constantly eveolving through the decades. Edit

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