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IBM i 25 - Join the party

April 16, 2013

IBMi 25

In celebration of the 25th anniversary year of IBM i, we're joining IBM and many others in reminiscing about our experiences with this fabulous platform which has defined our careers. Check out the IBMi25 Facebook page (  - you don't need a Facebook account to see it - for some very clever vignettes and videos about our platform. Join the party.

We are still covering our earliest AS/400 experiences and, so far in the story, we haven't met each other yet. So we're including remembrances for each of us individually - Jon is first this time! 

Jon - Joining IBM and COMMON in Toronto

As I mentioned at the end of the previous "history" post, after 18 months on contract I joined IBM full time. The actual hiring was somewhat rushed through as (unbeknown to me at the time) my manager had decided that I was the prefect person to present two sessions on the new COBOL compiler at the upcoming COMMON conference in Toronto. As far as I can tell his decision was based entirely on the fact that my background was as midrange systems user and not a Lab Rat. It certainly was not based on my public speaking skills. The last time I had done any public speaking was more than 5 years earlier.

As the day approached I became more and more terrified. I think I barely slept for the two or three days prior to the event. That terror climaxed as I walked into the room and found myself faced with more than 100 eager faces - all waiting for me. I fumbled my heap of foils - scared silly that I was going to drop them and lose the sequence. "Foils" ? In those days of course there was no Powerpoint (or Keynote in my case) and no laptop connected projector. Just black and white transparencies and an overhead projector. I remember very little about the sessions - way too nervous I guess - but apparently I did well enough that over time I was tasked with more and more presentations at various customer briefings and User Group events.

That COMMON conference was a milestone in a number of ways.  For one it was the first to ever be held outside of the United States, second it was the first to feature the AS/400. I'll leave Susan to tell you about the other distinction that this conference held.

It was around this time that I first made contact with the lovely lady who is now my partner in every sense of the word. I was tasked with acting as the liaison between the COBOL team and the Rochester education groups. That included the folks in the Business Partner teams as well as the education groups who were responsible for updating users and the field force on upcoming product releases. This was when I first got to know people like John Sears and Ed Simon who many of you will remember from COMMON and the IBM Tech Conferences. It was in this role that I first communicated with Susan. We didn't meet (and then only a brief corridor introduction) until the subsequent COMMON conference in Chicago. At this point I should note that Susan remembers none of this which merely goes to prove that she is far more memorable than I am!

Susan - Introducing the Latest in Programmer Tools
In the fall of 1988, COMMON was in Toronto. It was an exciting time for those of us who had eagerly awaited this brand new system, the AS/400. This was the first COMMON conference after the announcement and for many attendees, it was their first chance to see and interact with one.

It was for that reason that a handful of intrepid IBMers (including me) decided to hold an impromptu "hands on experience" for attendees with the new programmer tool on this system - PDM. Since it was impromptu, we had lots of hurdles to overcome, including getting the AS/400 system we were to use down the hall to an appropriate room. Since the system was brand new and much in demand, you'd think we would have been very careful about this move. We weren't. We pretty much shoved the system (obviously one of the smaller boxes - well, small in its day) down the hall, sliding it along the carpet. It fell over a few times in the process. But of course, it got to the other end and IPLed just fine - just one of many stories of the ruggedness of AS/400. We had a few instructor-led exercises for attendees to go through to experience the new PDM tool for the first time. This was the beginning of the notion of holding lab sessions at COMMON - a traditional that carries on still today.

Of course, the irony of the many hoops I jumped through to convince programmers to use PDM in 1988 will not be lost on many of you who know that I'm currently spending a lot of time convincing people to stop using PDM & SEU and use RDP/RSE instead. But it's really not incongruous. PDM & SEU were the latest technology for AS/400 programmers in 1988. RDP is the latest technology for programmers on IBM i today. I'm still doing the same thing, 25 years later!

Posted April 16, 2013| Permalink

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