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Technology and Age

June 5, 2014

Jon has long been a fan of Douglas Adams (author of all five parts of the Hitchhiker's trilogy) and he recently came across a quote from Adams' "The Salmon of Doubt" relating to technology:

I've come up with a set of rules that describe our reactions to technologies:

1. Anything that is in the world when you're born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.

2. Anything that's invented between when you're fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.

3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.

The older we get, the more true this seems to be!

The age of 35 may be a little low, especially for IT professionals, because our jobs tend to force us to be a bit more open to new technologies. Although when you consider the number of RPGers still writing in RPG III (albeit in RPG IV fixed form syntax) perhaps not that low. Certainly the older we get, the tougher it seems to be to imagine how (or sometimes even why) we should take advantage of some technologies that cross our paths. For example, we've puzzled over the value of LinkedIn and Jon has even had a rant about automation in public bathrooms.

But challenging as it may be, it's critical to our own futures and that of our beloved IBM i, that we not allow this tendency to keep us completely in our comfortable stage 3 world without exploring all the new technologies that may at first glance seem "against the natural order of things." Google's proposed self-driving cars are an example where we have seen many friends throw up their hands in horror at the very idea.

We're not just talking about "green screens" here (but if the shoe fits ...). Change just for change's sake is not worthwhile, but sometimes maybe we just need to look a little harder at the advantages.

As an example, Jon worked on a webcast recently with the folks at Lansa and was impressed with the native phone/tablet integration of their LongRange mobile tool targeted to RPGers. It often takes seeing a few examples before we catch on to things like how an integrated camera or GPS and mapping software on a handheld device can be integrated into business processes to dramatically improve RPG-based applications. Perhaps those under 35 inherently understand how the use of such technologies can make life and business easier for our users. Us older folk take a little longer.

This reminds us of another point we've made in "Give the Kids a Chance" and "Educating New RPGers." On several occasions, we've suggested that too many IBM i shops waste time searching for experienced IBM i and RPG staff--sometimes even considering moving off the platform because of an inability to find them. As we've suggested before, you really should focus on finding good, creative and energetic business-oriented developers, regardless of the language or platform they currently have experience on or indeed whether they have much experience at all. Teaching those folks IBM i and RPG (the modern, free-format version) is a piece of cake and you may be surprised how many of them love both the platform and the language.

That doesn't necessarily mean they will be young. There are creative and energetic developers over 35 out there looking for work as well. Some may even have RPG and IBM i experience! But if they do happen to fit within Adams' magic 35-year-old boundary, they may bring the added benefit that they more naturally understand how to harness technology to improve business applications.

By the way, we only mention Lansa because we've worked with the company recently but many other IBM i mobile solution providers offer great products--some of which may be a better solution for your own particular situation. It's the idea, not the specific product, we're talking about. We welcome comments on mobile solutions your shop has used or is considering.


Posted June 5, 2014| Permalink

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