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The Origins of the RPG Programming Language

We use RPG where I work as part of the warehouse software platform. I was talking to my friend Chuck the other day and he gave me a great story about the origins of RPG. I’ll try to summarize…

Somewhere in the 1970s…

IBM had created three new computer systems called System 32, System 34, and System 36. The bigger numbers had more hardware as you might expect. The idea was to pitch these new computers to businesses and of course, sell as many of them as possible. IBM had a great sales team and as luck would have it, they sold a ton of these new machines.

During the rollout of these new machines it was quickly discovered that there wasn’t enough memory to run the existing customer programs and IBM went into panic mode. They did not want to issue any refunds. They turned to the software team and gave them a challenge to somehow, someway…figure out how the new computers could run the old existing software. They essentially locked this team in a closet.

From this crisis, RPG was born. It was very small and because it ran in a continuous loop it was a perfect solution.

RPG is still in use today on our IBM AS/400.

Is it a great language? Hell No.

But it works.