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RPG Highlights and Heroes of 2013 (and Hopes for 2014)

As we begin a new year, it’s often a good time to look back. The year 2013 had some highlights for us as RPGers and for each of those highlights, we’d like to recognize and celebrate some of the heroes who were instrumental in those events.

Happy Birthday, AS/400

The most publicized of our 2013 highlights were the activities surrounding the 25th anniversary of our platform. Not only were there birthday parties at various user group meetings and other special events, everyone was able to participate via the IBMi25 Facebook campaign. From there, i fans everywhere could view pictures of celebrations and videos extolling the value of i. Our personal favorite part of the campaign was the collection of 25 vignettes, each of which boiled down a single aspect of IBM i to a short, clear “elevator message” and was accompanied by an associated blog post. Ours was paired with the (what else?) RPG vignette.

While we were as excited as anyone about the 25th anniversary celebration events, the reason we found the vignettes so compelling is that they represent the best collection of powerful IBM i marketing messages that we’ve ever seen—certainly since the IBM UK “Graffiti” campaign for AS/400 engineered by Malcolm Haines decades ago. Even better, they are every bit as relevant on an ongoing basis for use by IBM i advocates everywhere as they were for celebrating the 25th birthday. For more on our thoughts on that subject, take a look at our blog post, “Simplifying Complex Concepts.”

A devoted team at IBM was critical to the success of this celebration—Alison Butterill, Steve Will, Mark Anderson and Kurt Rump are just a few of the names that we’re aware of. But since our favorite aspect of the celebration is the collection of vignettes, we must declare as our hero for this event the primary author and visionary of them—Ian Jarman. It is perhaps not entirely coincidental that Ian a) is a history major and b) worked with Malcolm Haines during his early years at IBM.

RPG Finally Free

It’s not news to any of our readers that we’ve been fans of /Free form logic in RPG for years—since GA in May 2001 (V5R1). As much as we loved the free form ability that followed the /Free directive, the one thing that we found very frustrating was the need for the /Free (and /End-Free) directives themselves. While having D and P specs in free form was somewhere on our RPG wish list, the ability to simply do away with the /End-Free and /Free directives accompanying every subprocedure was very near the top of that list. However after more than a decade had elapsed without any sign of such support, we had resigned ours to living with what we had.

So imagine our excitement this year when we saw not only the death of /Free and /End-Free but also the ability to code H, F, D and P specs in free form as well! We’ve quickly become fans of the new free form specs almost as much as the departure of the directives. While most people have been touting the primary value of these latest enhancements as easing the path for new RPG developers, we think even “seasoned” RPGers will secretly be singing the praises of the new compiler enhancements as well. You can read more about the new free form in our article, “Happy Free RPG Day.”

Clearly, RPG architect and lead developer Barbara Morris is our hero for this monumental leap forward in the RPG language. Thanks to her leadership, RPG remains the flexible yet simple and rock-solid business language that we know and love.

We should also give a shout out to Sue Romano and her embedded SQL team in Rochester, Minn., for working closely with the RPG development team so that RPGers using SQL—a fast-growing audience—don’t have to wait a long time for the embedded SQL precompiler to be updated to take advantage of the new completely free-form D specs. Remember how painful it was doing /End-Free just to put in your (freely formatted) SQL statements back in V5R1? It’s great to have the SQL and RPG compilers more closely coordinated these days!

A Personal and Professional Hero

You’ve probably all heard about Scott Klement’s severe health challenges in 2013. We blogged about his amazing recovery in the relatively early stages. Since that time, his dramatic progress has continued. He taught sessions from his wheelchair at the spring RPG & DB2 Summit in Atlanta. Making the trip and maneuvering around the event was clearly a challenge, but one that he rose to with the help of his wife, Tracy. Just seeing him there was inspirational to everyone present. Many attendees, like us, chose to wear ribbons on their badges stating “Scott K is my hero.”

Then in Minneapolis at the fall Summit, Scott astounded everyone again. One of the attendees summed it up best on his conference evaluation in answer to “What did you like you like best about the Summit?” He answered “Seeing Scott walk into a session.” Scott still has many health and daily life challenges, but his ongoing mental strength and positive attitude have helped him keep up the hard work to make the truly inspirational progress he has made so far. You can hear Scott’s own summary of his challenges and accomplishments in 2013 in a recent “I Talk with Tuohy” podcast.

There’s one thing that we don’t want to get lost in the remarkable story of Scott’s recovery. He was a hero to us long before his spinal cord injury. Back in 2005, we were proud to nominate Scott as a recipient of one of the first joint IBM/COMMON Innovation awards for his tireless support of the development community on our platform. Not only did he write prolifically and in great detail on topics relevant to developers, he also published open-source projects and spent countless hours answering technical questions on a number of forums—all while running an IT shop for his company.

While Scott was a hero to many of us in the IBM i community before his injury and continues to be a technical professional hero to the community, in 2013, he also became an inspirational hero as well—a reminder to all of us that perseverance and hard work can overcome many obstacles.

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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