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Thirty Years: Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

April 16, 2018

This year we celebrate the 30th anniversary of our beloved system. From its original incarnation as the AS/400 back in 1988 to today's IBM i on Power Systems, it just keeps getting better and better.
Steve Will announced the official opening of the celebration in his recent blog post. He also mentioned that we had our own "preview party" in Dallas at the recent RPG & DB2 Summit event. 


It was great fun, complete with "thirty years" buttons, stickers and balloons, a birthday cake and best of all, the musical debut of The RPG Five—featuring Steve himself as lead singer along with Ted Holt, Alan Seiden, Stephanie Rabbani and Jorge Diaz. You really should check it out on YouTube. It will make you smile. It may even make your day. 
Steve noted that while the 25th anniversary looked back on the history of the system, the 30th would focus on looking into the bright future for IBM i. We're all in favor of that. Even so, we couldn't help but reflect back just a little on that day 30 years ago when the AS/400 was introduced to the waiting world. So we are starting this post with a "Where were we when ..." piece from each of us. Then we'll wrap up with a piece of history that our U.K. readers may be familiar with but which may be new to our North American friends.
Where was Jon when ...
On announce day I spent much of the day in my office at IBM on my own. Why? Because back then I was a contractor and, although I was working with the COBOL team at the time, I was not "officially" allowed to participate in the AS/400's development. As a result, when the entire RPG, COBOL, PDM, etc. etc. teams at the Toronto Lab all went off to celebrate the announcement I, along with a couple of fellow contractors, was left behind. It always amused me that later (after I had joined IBM as a staff member) I was presented with a copy of the group photo that was taken around that time that showed all of the team members. But of course I was not in that picture. The irony of this was lost on my manager when I pointed this out to him.
Where was Susan when ...
I was a Systems Engineer in Atlanta and on announcement day I participated in an IBM event with much fanfare for IBMers and customers in the area. (Sorry, Jon!) Yet my own introduction to AS/400 had happened many months earlier. I was lucky enough to be part of a small group of instructors who went to Rochester to learn all about the yet-to-be-named system to replace System/36 and System/38. Then we traveled around to many locations, in the US and around the world, teaching some of the technical details of the system to IBMers and business partners so that everyone could be prepared to hit the ground running on June 21, 1988 to help customers make the most of the new technology. Not surprisingly, one of my biggest jobs at that time was to teach everyone about the latest new innovation for programmers—PDM! A lot has changed in 30 years.
Early AS/400 Advertising 
Many of you probably remember the AS/400 advertisements that featured the cast of M.A.S.H. The majority were print adverts and we couldn't locate any of them; no doubt IBM has copies secreted away in a vault somewhere. We did however manage to find one of the TV commercials which you can watch here when you feel in the need for a little nostalgia.

But here's an image that is probably unfamiliar to you, unless you're from the U.K. that is.
This was one of a number of posters that appeared in the U.K. as part of the Malcolm Haines (IBM's self-styled Minister of Propaganda) initiated "Graffitti" project that ran 5 years after the system was announced. What you see here is the final version. The original posters just posed a basic question. That was was subsequently apparently overlaid with "graffiti.” The answer to the question posed by that "graffiti,” in the form of the AS/400 sticker, was added later as the final touch. We own a number of different versions of these posters. We dug them out when thinking about how to celebrate the 30th and were delighted to find that they were as fresh and amusing as ever. More importantly, they had a huge impact on the brand recognition of the system. In addition to the billboards and print advertisements, IBM were also among the first to use photo overlays on vehicles as part of this campaign. The vehicles in question were the ubiquitous London taxis. We were unable to locate a picture of one these cabs, but the basic look was similar to that used in this poster, also from the same campaign.

So there you have it—our brief trip down memory lane. We promise to be forward looking from here on in!
But first we'd love to hear where you were on that day 30 years ago, so please get typing in the comment section. BUT ... please keep the conversation positive and don't go down the "IBM should advertise the system more" rabbit hole. We're just not going there.

Posted April 16, 2018| Permalink