Wow. One of the things you learn very quickly when writing a blog like this is that you never can tell what subjects will result in reader comments and which won't. Of course with a subject such as "RPG is Dead ..." we expected a few comments, but given that the original article was also open to comments the number of posts surprised us. Our post was even mentioned in the Angus blog.
One thing Mel's original post succeeded in doing is to get RPGers thinking--and talking--about why RPG is a great language and is indeed being used routinely to create new and modern business applications. Maybe that was his intent all along--to get the community to rally around the great language that is today's RPG. We could always give him the benefit of the doubt on that. ...
In terms of RPG being an "old fashioned" language, many situations in the IBM i world contribute to this perception. Not the least being the number of IBM i ISVs that continue to deliver software written in RPG III. And these are the big guys, the ones with multiple 0s at the end of their annual licence fees. We're not sure what they do with all those dollars. Maybe they need it because maintaining the old RPG/400 code is so much less productive than the newer, more modern syntax?
Several customers that we have talked to recently use heavily modified versions of one of the biggest ERP packages in the IBM i community. They had all stopped implementing maintenance releases as they had reached a point where applying the fixes to their heavily modified code was just not practical. They either did not need the enhancements or had already implemented similar features on their own. However, as part of their move to V6 it was necessary to update to the latest level. These are go-ahead shops who long, long ago moved all their own code to RPG IV. Imagine their disappointment when they discovered that this expensive "latest and greatest" release was still predominantly RPG III with RPG IV
being apparently used only in cases where the size of the program had exceeded RPG III's limits!
It's hard to understand why ISVs wouldn't convert their programs, if only to help with on-going maintenance chores. The two RPG flavors (as long as you stay away from the pure ILE aspects) are so compatible that the package in question has actually been successfully converted to RPG IV by relatively small shops (in one case by a one-man-band) that recognized the benefits of making the transition and got tired of waiting for the ISV. Just the extra white space alone, let alone tooling such as Rational Developer for Power and all of the other features of RPG IV, makes it so much easier to read and maintain compared with RPG III.
We've always been surprised that IBM hasn't applied more pressure (or incentive?) to large ISVs to keep their applications even moderately up to date with the modern system's capabilities. Strangely, we heard recently that one such ISV announced that their next release will require IBM i 7.1. Dare we hope this is a signal that their application code has been modernized to require it? Nah, that would be too much to expect.