MPE site keeps playing its role with RPG

A list of HP 3000 programmers recently saw a classic request. The inquiry asks an infrequent question about a classic software set. Ed Stein probes the 3000 community about Report Program Generator (RPG) expertise on the HP 3000. Yes, the RPG that IBM launched in the 1960s. Its first use was emulating IBM’s 1401 punched card processing. In the earliest days of the HP 3000, Hewlett-Packard launched every possible tool into MPE’s orbit. Tools of that 1970s era include a punched card reader and a 3000-ready version of RPG.

“I know of a company that could be interested in contracting someone to do RPG programming on their HP 3000 system,” Stein says to a list of ERP developers who drive the MANMAN app. “The application is not MANMAN, and they use KSAM instead of IMAGE for most of their data.”

RPG programming skills? In 2020? Maybe the RPG of Role Playing Games, but surely not a reporting language from the Seventies.

However, it’s an unprecedented time for us all in so many ways. RPG never had a significant footprint in the HP 3000 world. But the language is a legacy tool, and it can be surprising how long those can last.

One other surprise Stein notes is the use of KSAM at the site instead of IMAGE for a database. To be precise, Keyed Sequential Access Method (KSAM) is not a complete database management system. KSAM becomes a go-between when one legacy system’s data needs to be mapped into another’s database. KSAM expertise for MPE community members might be as rare as RPG/3000.

One legendary user of HP 3000s was a company that prints the Big Chief tablets. Based in Dallas, the printer established its business systems in the 1970s. Paul Edwards, a veteran consultant of the MPE community, talked about the open secret that Dallas-area 3000 customers knew: someone using RPG, hosting it on a Series 70 3000. The Series 70 goes back so far it’s not even a PA-RISC server, but a CISC classic computer.

Classic tools hang on in places where managers don’t often speak up. They make notes on what keeps working, though.

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