By Now, the Case for RPG IV Should Be a No-Brainer

This column is inspired in part by some recent discussions on the RPG400 list, which is hosted by David Gibbs at

It began as a simple request from one of the list members for assistance in providing his fellow programmers with "compelling reasons for switching to ILE RPG IV." Later, it took on a life of its own and spawned discussions on subprocedures and prototyping. While a great deal of information was imparted during these discussions, we found two aspects of the debate disturbing.

Our first concern was that the question needed to be asked in the first place. Please don't think we're belittling the questioner here; rather, it was the perspective of his workmates that concerned us. The second was that, as least as far as subprocedures were concerned, many responders apparently fell into the same "why bother" category.

RPG IV has been available for seven years and it's a more capable language than RPG/400. So why is there a question? We don't advocate converting existing programs just for the sake doing so, but certainly whenever updates are required it should be a no-brainer to switch to RPG IV as part of the process.

One really scary story that emerged in the course of the thread concerned a programmer who had written a new application in RPG IV and then, because of an accident, took a couple of months off work. When he returned, he found that because a user required changes during his absence, the manager had rewritten the application in RPG/400 rather than take the hour or three required to understand the RPG IV code. It's hard to believe that a manager so out of touch with current development practice can be meeting the needs of end users, but, sadly, it's a story we hear repeatedly. Another programmer recounted how he was fired (yes, fired) for writing an RPG IV program in a shop that had determined that RPG/400 would remain its standard.

Continuing to use RPG/400 rather than spend a few hours becoming familiar with RPG IV makes about as much sense as using the handle of a power drill to drive a screw into the wall. Why do people do it? If you're stuck with a software vendor that has failed to move forward, then conversion would cut you off from updates. But even then there's no reason to continue in the dark ages with other parts of your application inventory. Perhaps you have an answer. We'd love to hear from you.


Jon Paris is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

Susan Gantner is a technical editor with IBM Systems Magazine and co-owner of Partner400.

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