IBMi (AS400) fans only ‘ Memories (IBM Coding Forms)

 IBM Coding Forms

Oh mom!

No, not my sweet, sweet natural mom, but IBM, the mother of us RPG programmers.

The adventure with IBM began way back in 1992 when my friend said to me:

"They need smart guys at a software house in Cesena!"

And thanks to my dear friend, I ended up there, amidst the hills, good wine, Piadina Romagnola, and fresh pasta!

It was December, and the company was an IBM partner. They asked me to take a course followed by an exam at IBM in Bologna. If I passed the test, they would hire me.
Boom! Just 20 days later, there I was, at work!

I started tinkering with the legendary IBM S/36 - today considered an informatics relic, but I swear, back then, it was a powerful machine!

The first program I wrote, believe it or not, was on paper provided by the ancient scribes of IBM. Yes, I handwrote a program on paper. It felt more like a grandma's recipe than the result of my hard-earned studies!

The "boss" said:

"It looks decent, but load it onto the S/36 and compile it first."

Well, that's when I realized my future wasn't in the art of calligraphy, but at least I stopped writing programs on paper!

After a few months with the S/36, the company and its clients had a revelation:

the AS/400!

And I, being loyal to IBM mama, dove into that too. My love story with "mama" continued!

Today, "mama" spoils us with more powerful machines, and good old RPG has come a long way and evolved. I must admit, I'm crazy about its latest version, RPG Free!

Every day, I find myself battling with programs written in RPG, PRG ILE, but whenever I can, I try to play around with RPG Free. Yep, I give it a shot, but don't mistake me for an RPG wizard!

I even have this blog, though it's more of a personal outlet. Somehow, it manages to attract a few lost visitors. Some even thank me!

So, my life as an IBM programmer has been a series of evolutions under the loving wing of "mama IBM".
I can't claim to be a genius, but when I manage to solve a problem, write a new program that never breaks, well, I'm happy.

I would really appreciate your comment below.


  1. I was lucky, I actually had a college class on RPG. And I too, wrote my first program for the same company I work at now in 1988 on RPG coding forms.

    1. Ah, the good old RPG coding forms! It sounds like you and I share a bit of history in the RPG world. College classes on RPG must have been quite an experience back then. 😄 It's amazing how technology has evolved over the years, isn't it? Thanks for sharing your story!

  2. I too had an RPG class at a Jr College. Coded on forms then keyed the program and the data deck onto 80 column cards on the IBM 129 keypunch machine. Had to drop off the cards and wait 24 hours to see if it compiled . Fortunately at work i had a system 34 but i still uses the forms. This was in 1981. Good Times, Good Times.

    1. "Wow, you took me on a trip down memory lane with that one! RPG classes at Jr College and the infamous 80-column cards on the IBM 129 keypunch machine? Now, that's some serious RPG nostalgia! 😄 It's incredible how far we've come since those 'Good Times, Good Times' of 1981. Thanks for sharing your blast from the past!"

  3. At the IBM Guided Learning Center where I first learned RPG in 1989, I was handed the coding sheets too. I wrote DDS on there for a long time, but found it easier to code RPG C specs right on the S/38 or a blank sheet of paper. I'm glad those days are gone. Bill Pahl

    1. "Ah, the good ol' coding sheets and RPG on paper! It's amazing how technology has come a long way since those days at the IBM Guided Learning Center in 1989. We've definitely traded coding sheets for more convenient tools. 😄 Thanks for sharing your RPG journey, Bill!"

  4. Hi everyone, I'm a Portuguese RPG programmer and also an analyst since 1990. My professional story is very similar to that of all of you. After the course taken at IBM on Porto I started with S/36 after S/38 and currently AS/400. Thanks for sharing your RPG journey, Bill!

    1. Bill, hello from Italy! It's amazing how our RPG journeys connect us across borders and time. Cheers to our shared love for RPG, and here's to more coding adventures!

    2. I’m going to go waaaay back! Keypunch trainee out of high school. Learned computer operations on an IBM System 3, printing on greenbar paper and loading up the A/R files (on 96 column cards!). From there learned to program and went to a 3 day RPG class in downtown Chicago. Went from System 3 to System 32, 34, 36 and finally the AS400! With a short step backwards to System 3 with CCP. I’ve not kept up with the coding changes due to many factors, but still love an AS400! And IBM support is the best ever!

  5. Started coding professionally in 1987 using RPG III on a S38. These sheets were included as part of a coding training manual when I started so I filled in a few for the sample exercises while learning the wonders of SEU :) The IBM ecosystem and RPG kept me employed until 2012 and while as I'm no longer coding I often wonder how many of the tens (or hundreds) of thousands of lines of code I wrote are still in use!

  6. Thankfully I'm now retired afte many years as a 'midrange muppet' Can anyone remember the initials GSD?

    Started off on S3/M8, then onto S/3M10, regressed onto 360/20, back onto S3/M15 then onto S/32, S/34, S/36, skipped the S/38 (!) and then onto the AS/400 in all its forms. Still have a selection of coding forms, 80 & 96 col cards, the odd 8" floppy, IBM green flowchart template and an RPG debugging template. Even have an 80 column hand punch stored in the loft somewhere. All for nostagia purposes ... I still have to admit to using the cycle, level breaks and matching records when appropriate!

    Even wrote some code to optimise using a 3741 data entry machine + attached printer as an RJE terminal. That was bleeding edge at the time ...


    1. Hello Ian,

      Thank you for sharing your incredible journey through the world of midrange systems and your remarkable collection of nostalgic items. It's evident that you have a wealth of experience and knowledge from your extensive career, and it's always a pleasure to hear about your adventures in the IT world. Your mention of optimizing code using a 3741 data entry machine and printer as an RJE terminal is a testament to the innovative spirit of those times. Your contributions to the field have left a lasting legacy. If you ever wish to share more stories or insights, please feel free to do so; I appreciate your perspective and experiences.

  7. Started coding RPG in 1978 on a System/3 on 8" diskette and were allowed to compile once per day.

    1. Ah, the good old days of RPG on 8" diskettes and the 'once a day' compile privilege! Sounds like a unique form of programming discipline. Thanks for sharing this blast from the past.

    2. I met AS400 at the beginning of 1993 first. I was a mainframe programmer and got a task to "translate" an application on AS400 from RPG to COBOL. (OS/400 R310)
      Fortunately, I could use InfoWindow and SEU already - instead of such forms. But on the mainframe we used similar forms for coding in COBOL.
      Since that time I'm working on AS400. Already almost 31 years ...

    3. That's an impressive journey you've had with AS400! It's fascinating to hear how you transitioned from being a mainframe programmer to working on AS400 back in 1993. The task of translating an application from RPG to COBOL must have been quite a challenge, especially during the OS/400 R310 era.

      It's great that you were able to leverage tools like InfoWindow and SEU early on, providing a smoother transition. The mention of using similar forms for coding in COBOL on the mainframe adds an interesting historical context.

      Working on AS400 for almost 31 years is a remarkable achievement, and it's a testament to your dedication and expertise in the field. The platform has certainly evolved over the years, and your experience reflects the ongoing advancements.

      Thank you for sharing your story, and I appreciate your valuable contribution to the rpgfreeibm community. If you have any more insights or experiences you'd like to share, I'd love to hear them!


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