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Trevor Perry on System Names and Travel Tales

Paul Tuohy talks to Power evangelist Trevor Perry about what’s in a name, getting in your face and a new spin on travel.

Paul: Hi everybody and welcome to another iTalk With Tuohy. I’m joined today by my good friend Trevor Perry. Hi, Trev.

Trevor: Hey, Paul.

Paul: So this iTalk is a little bit different just the way it came about, because Trevor and I were just chatting for the last, I don’t know what, 20, 30, 40 minutes. I don’t know. I can’t ever tell how long I’ve been talking to you, Trev. We were just chatting and we touched on this topic and I just sort of went oh, hang on. This might be an interesting conversation to have as an iTalk instead of the two of us chatting about it so I said to Trevor, we’re going to start recording the conversation. So, Trevor, Mr. AS/400.

Trevor: Well that’s not me really is it?

Paul: I’m trying to push the buttons here, Trev. Okay. So the thing is, Trevor, okay, you have this reputation out there for beating down on people whenever they misname the platform, whenever they say-well let’s be honest. I don’t want to say AS/400 in your presence. I might just get a sneak-by by saying i Series or System i. I won’t get it as bad but you know a lot of people have jumped on you because you have been so forceful at times on the forums and that with the name that we use. So go on. Please, explain yourself.

Trevor: Actually, I’m quite enjoying this bit of a reputation because I often go into a room and people go Ssssh, Trevor is here. Don’t say AS/400. I can tell you in the real world it’s just not like that for me. I’ll go to a customer at the beginning of the week and they’ll say AS/400. I will say well you know what have you got? They show me and it is IBM i running on Power Systems. I say well what I’m going to do this week is I’ll say IBM i because that is what it is. By the end of the week, they have a little bit of a change of heart or something but I see a lot of, you know, people just using an old name. It sort of goes back to a lot of my sessions that I do at COMMON on futures, motivation, and how to be an IT survivor. How to be an IT survivor is you need to be in today’s IT world and it has changed. Like when did we get the iPad? 2007. Boy, eight years and wow, the world has changed. I mean it has just drastically changed and so in the world we live in, there is a bunch of old people. You know what? I happen to be one. I actually started in 1983 on a System 38, moved to the U.S. in ’88 right when the 400 came out and so I’ve around for that platform but I can tell you when we moved from the 38 to the 400, we loved it. We grabbed it; we embraced it and we said fabulous. This is the best thing and we called it a 400. We never called it a 38 and so when we went out there and we told people we had this amazing thing called a 400, everybody lapped it up. We got a good reputation and we promoted it. Everybody was together. Then IBM did some silly things, rebranding across the board to i Series and System i and stuff like that. Then finally, in 2008 they gave us this thing called Power Systems. I can tell you. The geek in me is just loving this Power System. I tell you the POWER6 chip that came out went to 6+, 7, 7+, and is now at 8. The stuff that come with that and the whole OpenPOWER Consortium just really floats my geeky boat. I love that stuff. I’ve been fortunate that I’ve had to play inside the boxes. You know, for me it was System i. I did most of my configuring on System i and stuff like that with, you know, some great stories, System i. There was no such thing as an i5. It came out in the configuration of i5 for about a month and then System p, z and x said you can’t have a number! So they took the number off without telling us. I mean stuff like that makes me see the world in a very different way. You know, I’m fortunate that I get to see all of that but I also still have this raging passion for the platform and when I see the stuff that has happened lately in IBM i, I mean you know, even in some of the earlier technology refreshes in 6 when they went and did things like Live Partition Mobility and I can take this partition of IBM i on a box and then I can move it to another box and nobody knows that I did it? Wow, how cool is that? Then we have PHP and Ruby, so you can see that I’m passion about this platform and I am but I don’t think my passionate has changed since I got to the 38 and then to 400 and then was configuring System i. Nothing in my passion and the people around me sort of lost that and I don’t know where it went. It frustrates me, so me being in person in front of you giving you that frustration comes out a little bit differently, which is what is the issue with calling the platform what it is because what it is is fabulous. When you call it by some older name, you are essentially putting that reputation of the platform back into the past. What that does is two things: It makes us look out-of-date and old personally and as old-looking people, I don’t want to look old. I am 17 in my brain and I want to play. The people around me have stopped playing and I want them to play so in person when I’m at conferences I’m jumping up and down making noise and it resonates; it goes well and people go don’t talk to Trevor about the 400, you know, and it’s fun. It’s a bit of game. Then I get online and I use the same words that I use in person and the person on the other end is reading them in their own brain going I’m an asshole because they have read their words in their voice. If they said what I said being that I’m an Australian and I have this passion still that rages, it doesn’t come over that way when you read it in your voice and so there is a lot of lost in translation so online my reputation has become he’s in my face, he hurts. I use the word wrongly a lot saying, you know, you are ignorant of the facts of the platform being that it is has evolved. So that turns into a personal insult that I called you ignorant. I can tell I’ve learned something recently, which is I’m not going to use the word ignorant because some Americans mostly think I call them stupid when they’re not. They are really smart genius people. I made them a button that I said igenius but I think they are a genius in a bottle, which is a bottle that closes them down to the world. I want to encourage them and all the encouragement oh, you’ve got be nice, you’ve got to hold their hand doesn’t work. None of that is working. You’ve got to have somebody poking you in that face and, you know, that works. I have seen so many people because of me being in their face in person change and even online some people have come around but it’s hard. Generally it doesn’t come over that way so my encouragement is what is wrong with calling it IBM i? That’s what it is. Forget the name. Where has your passion gone for the things that we have got and this cool thing called IBM i. It is really cool. You know I’m building Web applications and hosting them on IBM. What? Really? You put Word Press on IBM i? So it’s not your father’s AS/400 and representing it that way is just becoming very old, very tired and I encourage people. In person, easy. Online, I’ve found a new word. I’m not going to use the word ignorant anymore. I am going to use the word, a term I found the other day. I am stealing it. I’m claiming it. It’s called information resistant and I’ve decided that if I use that, it’s a little softer than ignorant so I’m trying my message online a little bit softer but there are people who are our enemies of the platform who are riling the information resistant, you know, so it goes. I was just at a conference this week and a girl said to me we’ve got a guy who is a Microsoft guy. He is trying to get the AS/400 replaced. Well what if they had called it the IBM i? Would he want to get rid of that because they don’t know what IBM i is? They don’t know what our system is. It’s leading stuff and maybe that one use of that technology would have saved one more IBM i and that’s what I am passionate about. I want to save the world. Yeah, look I’m in your face and when I write online I’m very, very direct because I am Australian but ultimately, it is the coolest platform on the planet and what is wrong with calling it IBM i?

Paul: So and the fact, Trevor, that obviously you take no pleasure on being in people’s faces either. I think we should just be clear on that. In case anybody is missing it, I’m coating that in the heaviest sarcasm that I can. [Laughter].

Trevor: Somebody asked me what was going to be on my gravestone and I said exactly that. Trevor Perry in your face. [Laughter]. So that is my Australian’ism and you know that.

Paul: Yeah, I know. I mean you know on this that I agree with you wholeheartedly on the naming. It’s actually just an interesting thing that you said there, Trevor. It had never actually struck me before but when actually we made that move from System 36/38 to AS/400, everybody accepted the name just fine. Now bearing in mind now I do think you know that with the rebranding that IBM was doing with the i Series, System i, System whatever names, that didn’t help things but I do think now that we are in that position where I think if people can start using that name of just calling it the IBM i-

Trevor: So the hard part about that is just to have a person who did join, become part of the AS/400 community and gang, realize that is moved-that’s moved on and embrace the change. It’s a psychological problem and I can’t solve that. I can just be in your face.

Paul: Because one of the things that does strike me because if you look at IBM i now compared to an AS/400, the difference between the AS/400 and IBM i is far more significant than the difference between the System 38 and the AS/400.

Trevor: And so if you look at that-look. IBM did make somewhat I believe branding mistakes but they did for it a different reason. It was not a personal thing against the AS/400 community. It was a thing that IBM did, you know?

Paul: Yeah.

Trevor: So if you look at that in the big picture, IBM did do that. Well, I believe they recognized their mistake and if you have a look, they haven’t rebranded or renamed it anything in seven years. That is fabulous. Very soon, it will be longer than any of the other platforms names and, you know, we’re fine. So it is already longer than an i Series. It is already longer than a System i and very soon it will be longer than the AS/400. Look, this is what we have. Why can’t we do that? Well, it’s not got anything to do with your technical skills because you are probably a genius in what you do and you are very good at what you do but it is more about being in the age that we are and the community that we are-and also detracting people. Like if you go to a school and say hey, come and work on the 400. What is going to happen? But if you say come and work on IBM i, they going to go what’s that? Then you have a chance to explain. What a door opening that you have; what an opportunity and you know I’ve been slammed. I had one guy say what do I say when I’m at a party and I say I work on RPG on the-I don’t know what to say. I can say 400 and they know what I’m-I said no. Say you work on Watson.

Paul: Yeah. [Laughter].

Trevor: We work on Power Systems, runs on Watson and everybody knows Watson. You don’t have to go out and tell people that. Yeah, we are pretty geeky I know and we only hang out with other geeks but ultimately we have a life and the life that we have had, if that has become closed down a little bit, maybe our passion for the platform has gone so I want to inject passion. I think if you have passion for the platform, you will show that in knowing what it is, knowing what it is, calling it the right name, and encouraging other people to do it without an argument. There is no reason. I don’t-I do not tell people to stop using the name but that is my reputation and I love it. [Laughter]

Paul: Okay just to finish on something completely different.

Trevor: Okay.

Paul: Just a little thing that you were telling me about-when you said hanging out there, you reminded me of it—travel story in the UK recently.

Trevor: Yeah, this was really fun. So I’m now what I would call a seasoned traveler. As many of you know, my partner is a more seasoned traveler than I am and while I may have lead status in some things, she has super lead marshmallow so together we travel very well and we find easy things. We’re used to places and I’m able to drive on-you pick the side of the road and I can do it. I can drive in the middle too if you need and so I was in Australia for two weeks, then in America for a week and then I was in England in the week. The only problem I have is the blinker. Which side is the blinker? I’m turning the wipers to turn a corner so in my job, I’ve now got some new guys who I’m mentoring and one of them came with me. He is you know in his mid 30s and has not traveled relatively much, in fact not for work. This was his first trip for work so he left the country of Canada to go to the country of the UK and he is also from South America. He was a little bit out of his element and I can tell you, we got lost. Paul, you’ve advised me to never to use Apple Maps in Europe so we used Google maps and Google maps decided to send the short way, not the actual way. So instead of going out to the highway, we took one of the back roads. In the UK, some of the back roads have room for a car where your mirrors are hitting the trees on the way through but it’s a two-lane road and I’ve got a stick shift. I’m driving pretty fast like 20 miles per hour. My acquaintance wasn’t really comfortable with that so it was just-that was one thing that sort of came up and another one was being sort of experiencing a brand new culture for the first time and a brand new environment. For some people that is just traveling in America and for other people that is traveling in different countries. Look, the lesson I learned from that was be open. One of the things that I found he would do is he would put up a lot of well they shouldn’t do that. They shouldn’t allow to them to do that. They shouldn’t-and there were just walls. As soon as I nudged him a little bit about that and he opened up a bit and embraced the new place he was in, he learned a ton of things. Being open is a really good lesson that I learned because sometimes I go to a country and I’m a little bit afraid, a little bit scared. I don’t know the language. I’m not sure what to do but I’ve become more and more bold and being more bold really increases my enhancement. In the end, we did a couple of things that he wasn’t expecting to do and was a bit out of his comfort zone but he became willing. I can tell you he had a great experience. He is talking about it like it has never happened before and a lot of times-so two things out of that. One is I encourage you to travel outside of what’s comfortable for you and the other one is just be open. Don’t put up walls. There is a story in Paris of a previous ex-relative of mine who snapped his fingers to a waiter and got more bill and I got extra coffee. [Laughter]. Be open with the locals.

Paul: Isn’t it an amazing thing that when you are like that though, Trevor, I mean it’s-you find that no matter where you are and no matter what the language is how alike people actually are everywhere in the world.

Trevor: That to me, I can’t even explain to some people because we are. We are all humans and we all have similar hopes and wants and desires and needs, all of those kinds of things and we are human. If you one on one, everybody is really quite an incredible human being. It’s just fascinating and I’ve got a whole story I tell about that in my latest You are Extraordinary presentation. Oh, marketing! Marketing!!

Paul: Stop that. Okay. That’s it. Now we’re going to stop. That was it if you go into marketing. Okay, Trevor, listen. Enough is enough. As always, I think this is probably going to be the shortest iTalk that I have ever recorded with you.

Trevor: All right.

Paul: So on that listen, Trevor Perry, thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me again. Say goodbye, Trev.

Trevor: Goodbye, Trev.

Paul: Okay everybody, thanks for tuning into iTalk. Catch you all on the next one. Bye.

Paul Tuohy has specialized in application development and training on IBM midrange systems for more than 20 years.

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