What Is RPG Programming Language

Cher Hin Chong
5 min readJul 26, 2023

Is RPG programming still relevant today. Is RPG programming dead. What is RPG programming language. Should I still learn RPG.

What is RPG programming language

What Is RPG Programming Language

The first question that comes to our mind is probably:

Is RPG programming language still relevant today?

Is RPG programming dead?

Should I still learn RPG?

What is RPG programming?

RPG, the acronym for Report Program Generator, is a high-level programming language developed by IBM in 1959.

Early IBM systems like the IBM System/36, IBM System/38, and IBM AS/400 used RPG to develop most of their business applications software.

Banks and manufacturing companies were the common users of RPG.

It is now considered a legacy programming language ever since older legacy systems were replaced by newer machines that support many other programming languages.

Demand And Supply For RPG Programming

Over the years, the demand for RPG programmers has dwindled accordingly.

But because in today’s context, the supply of RPG programmers is even lower than the demand for them, RPG programmers may find themselves in a high demand low supply situation.

While their salary compensation may not be as high as for other more popular programming languages, they are still compensated pretty reasonably — albeit as long as legacy systems are still around and therefore need to be maintained.

The salary for RPG programmers in the United States can range anywhere between $65000 to $95000 per annum.

The situation is always such that newcomers to the software development career are more likely to go for jobs that are abundant in demand.

RPG is on the other side of the spectrum — newcomers shun careers in RPG programming as job opportunities are fewer.

There is also the notion that the time, effort, and resources invested in learning and working on a legacy programming language is not well worth it because the day will come soon when the legacy systems will be replaced.

Innovation is also stifled for legacy systems as the newer technologies do not support them.

RPG And IBM Over The Years

The latest version of RPG is RPG IV — which is now commonly known as RPGLE and was released in 1994 which was some 30 decades ago.

The distinctive feature of older versions of RPG, namely RPG II and RPG III, is the use of allocated column numbers where operands and operators are allowed to be placed.

This is referred to as the fixed-format RPG whereby the language adheres to a column-sensitive syntax.

With the introduction of RPG IV comes the new free-format RPG, removing the need to place specific code on specific columns — though there were contrarian views on column-sensitive syntax vs. free format.

On the hardware front, legacy hardware like IBM System/36, IBM System/38, and IBM AS/400 are now replaced by and rebranded as IBM i machines.

IBM i machines run the IBM i operating system and its hardware is called IBM Power.

Besides supporting the IBM i operating system, IBM Power hardware also supports AIX and Linux operating systems.

RPG is a stable programming language mainly because of its proprietary origin (IBM developed it).

It is also a mature programming language, having gone through decades of testing, updates, and enhancements since its first inception more than 6 decades ago.

COBOL And Mainframe Computers

COBOL, the acronym for Common Business-Oriented Language, is another legacy programming language traditionally used in mainframe computers.

Mainframes are known for their usage in mission-critical systems because of their high performance, high security, high reliability, and high stability.

Many government departments continue using mainframes for these high standards.

Bigger banks/financial institutions and large corporations are also the primary users of mainframe computers.

While IBM produces the IBM Power servers for mid-range computing performance, IBM is the main producer of high-end high-performance mainframe computers, namely the IBM Z.

Hitachi, Fujitsu, and Unisys are also mainframe producers.

Old-school Programming Languages

RPG and COBOL are considered old-school programming languages that have lost their popularity and shine through the years.

These two languages may not have the popularity needed to drive heavy investment in improvements and enhancements into it.

But they have withstood the test of time and will continue to be around for the near future.

It is a niche that will pay well for those who dare to embark on a career in RPG programming.

That’s it for now.

So now we know what is RPG programming language!

Cheers everyone!

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Cher Hin Chong

A software developer who has found the penchant for writing. Without writers, there will be no readers.