At conferences, during classes and often in our email there's one statement/question that we get asked over and over: "I know I've let my skills get rusty, I know there's a huge list of things I should learn, but where do I start? It is all so overwhelming."
It is a good question, but the answer is really quite simple. When faced with the task of eating an elephant there is only one way to deal with it--one bite at a time.
But perhaps the choice is actually easier than that? We think we could make an argument that your first step should be to learn a new language. After all, if you haven't got your head around subprocedures yet then perhaps it is because, like many others, you simply can't see the point. You've managed with subroutines and dynamically called programs for years - why bother to change? Our good friend George Farr often recounts that when people tell him how much they enjoyed his "Java for RPG Programmers" book, he frequently asks if they are doing much Java programming. The answer is invariably the same "No, but it made a huge difference to the way I code RPG!"
Java is, of course, a perfectly valid language to learn, as indeed are Ruby (now available for IBM i) and Python among others. But as we've stated many times, we still feel that PHP is the best choice for most RPG programmers. Why? Because you can use it as a procedural language and gently ease your way into object-oriented (OO) programming without have to totally rewire your brain. We know that many reading this will say that learning to program in OO is easy; why the big deal? We're happy for you. We really are. But personally we have not found that to be the case. As Jon has often publicly stated, "I consider myself to be a failed Java programmer." He learned the syntax and can write and read Java code but doesn't _think_ in OO terms. Slowly but surely PHP is helping to remedy that situation. It also also improved his RPG!
So, don't delay: take your first bite!P.S., while researching the origin of the elephant idea we came upon Mikki's blog and her post on this topic. It has nothing to do with computers, but those of you who feel overwhelmed in your personal lives and professional lives may find it an interesting read.