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January 19, 2011


Brian, great to hear from someone beginning his career on the IBM i!

I work with a mixed arsenal of legacy code as well. For a long time I didn’t think there was a need for PHP or web technologies where I work. Then I found a need (or created a need!) and a whole new world opened up to me. Not only did it put new tools in my toolbox but the user perception of our team moved in another direction – all positive! I still need to find that one line of code that needs tweaking in that fixed format source code but I also get to create web interfaces. I believe in continuous improvement because the world of IT never slows down and is always changing. And frankly, it’s just a lot more fun to keep learning something new.

Enjoy your new adventures at MGF and keep us posted on your progress!

Great blog - it is good to see someone starting out their career on the most stable platform on the planet. Like myself I have been working with this platform since it was known as the S/38 - and have worked with RPG, Net.Data, Java, PHP and all running on the same IBM box - this certainly shows its flexibility. Have fun and think outside of the box as you expand your expertise on the IBM i. Good Luck...


After reading "The 5250 is fast and reliable so why change?" and then reading your entire blog for a second time, I could not help but to respond to this.

It is a truly sad state of affairs when a young obviously just out school developer thinks that the 5250 is relevant in today's universe.

I bet your end users are not thrilled with the 5250. I bet that most would much rather be using web centric or at least GUI based tools to accomplish their jobs and your department is viewed by your management as a relic from the prehistoric times.

How on earth can a young person in today's world even begin to think that 5250 is still relevant?

With all the tools available for IBM i you still do 5250? Sorry Brian but you need to get in touch with reality.

Bob Cancilla,

I can't help but point out the fact that you are ragging on a first year IT professional. If they were a 5 or 10yr professional, fine, they would deserve a little deriding. But notice your lack of giving him ANY sort of direction on what he SHOULD be looking at. Shame on you.

Brian, congrats for completing your A.A.S degree. You have a fun and exciting career in front of you on the IBM i platform. There is SO MUCH to love about the platform. As with any platform, there are right ways and wrong ways to do things. It will benefit you to watch for patterns in what users are trying to accomplish with their data and determine what type of interface will meet their needs best. Today it is much easier to do RPG based web apps than just 3 years ago, so I tend to lean that direction more often than not. I LOVE the IBM i command line for all things to do with administration.

Here are some tools you can check out to get you into a more modern user interface:

Valence -

ProfoundUI -

Websmart -

Please check out where you can find other young punks like ourselves that want to make a difference. Also, I have a number of articles that declare modern UI's on IBM i using RPG. You can check those out here:

And on final note, you will find many people in the IT industry, like Bob Cancilla, that will complain about a sunny day. Ignore them. Even when they tell you something can't be done. They just don't know how to dream in color :-)

Have a good one Brian,

p.s. I am writing this from the WMCPA conference. Look me up if you get a chance.

Reading this blog entry and the comments that follow, I have to say that I am encouraged by a couple of things. First, it is great that there are young, energetic application developers working on a diverse set of platforms, including IBM i. Second, I am happy to hear that tools such as Rational Developer for Power Systems (RDP) and DB2 Data Studio are providing benefits to these folks as they work on commercial application platforms such as IBM i and AIX.

As to the discussion about web programming and user interfaces - I think this debate will continue forever, shifting with the popular user interaction methods of the month. This month, mobile and tablet computing is all the rage. Next month, who knows - perhaps hands-free gestures with innovative uses of devices like the Microsoft Kinect. To be sure, as commercial software developers we must keep considering what interfaces work best for our user community, their skills, knowledge, and familiarity all taken into account. There are many cases where a text-based user interface is appropriate and many other cases where a more elegant, graphically pleasing user interface is the best fit.

In either case, there are tools to ease the development and delivery of such solutions and do so by extending the existing applications upon which they depend.

Thank you, Aaron for summing it up so well!

Brian, I hope you got to meet Aaron (and Jon and Susan). They are pioneers in our field and besides having so much to offer us; they are very approachable,too!

Thanks Jeb, I did get a chance to meet Aaron at the WMCPA and enjoyed his lecture on SOA. I also heard both Jon and Susan on XML, and got a chance to practice on Joomla and Valence. Since it was my first IBM conference, I don't have anything to compare it to, but I had a wonderful time sharing ideas and learning more about all the platform has to offer.
I suppose I can't disagree with anyone who says the 5250 is old, perhaps outdated, and if the desire to use a different UI becomes apparent at Masters Gallery, I don't have a problem meeting those needs.
However, it's not my job to come in and tell everyone else what they should be using. It's my job to find out what people want and develop a logical solution for them within the framework I'm given.
Having said that, I hope my career as an IBM programmer lasts many years and when the time comes to change, I am ready for it.

Interesting posts from all sides of this topic. Brian clearly has enthusiam for "our" platform and starts from a good base educationally. While he understands that he won't be setting standards for the firm where he's a newbie, I bet there'll be an opportunity for their IBMi to have a GUI interface. There is usually a sales or operations manager that wants a dashboard or make-your-own-inquiry, no they are likely sporting an iPad or Android device. Hopefully meeting Aaron has stoked his fires to try something like that AND that his employer will encourage it, even if 5250 works much of the time. If Brian's CIO is listening - give that boy a skunkworks project! And Bob C., dude, lighten up on the Yips - we used to be them!

Brian, great post and comment. We've hired dozens of programmers over the years and most of them are straight out of university or college, often with no prior IBM i experience which we can easily teach them. Strong technical skills are a must but equally important is character.

Your positive attitude, initiative in writing this article, courage for putting yourself out here for potential criticism and understanding that as a newbie it's not your role (yet!) to tell people what they should do show good character and will get you far.

Programming skills are transferable and you sound eager to learn, if you have the time I do recommend learning web technologies (further developing your SQL skills will likely come in very handy) so when the time comes for web apps for you you'll take off running.

Everyone we hire does develop web apps on the IBM i, either in RPG or PHP, but we do give some of them experience with 5250 screens. The ones with the most RPG and DDS experience have an advantage when speaking with our customers (I work for an ISV). Even though they have 10-20 years less programming or IBM i experience than most of them they can speak their language. The time you are spending on 5250 apps is helping you build a solid base that will serve you well for your long future on the platform. When you do start creating Web GUIs you'll be able to work with the web people and the 5250 people, and switch between new web projects and doing updates on 5250 apps when needed. Versatile programmers are extremely valuable. Good luck to you.

"One of the differences between writing code in the work world compared to writing code in school is that I get to concentrate almost solely on the project at hand..."

Is that supposed to be a joke?

Like others above, I'm really thrilled to hear Brian's enthusiasm. I'm 64 and been in this business far too long. But I've never stopped learning and that's what I find so invigorating about the IBM i, and actually more so now than in any earlier time.

I want to retire and I really need someone just like Brian who can take over, cos I work in a company that, yes, uses green 5250 screens for its own system, but has access to many more "modern looking" systems on other boxes. So we constantly have examples to encourage us, but oddly, the users here are very happy with the green screens. Why? Cos the applications work the way they want, are fast and are retuned whenever we see a new need or a better way. But they are consistent and new users (big turnover here and now and again we have to get in many temps) can be up and running in less than an hour on the main application - selling event tickets.

One day, we'll go GUI, but even without, I'm adding in barcode printing, scanning, sending credit card data in XML messages to remote web servers for authorisations, and preparing for emails direct from the IBM i. After that, we'll open our system to remote web users to retrieve their sales, so RPG and web programming, here we come!

Did I say I want to retire? Forget it! Life on the IBM i is just too much fun!

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