Refactoring RPG on the Power i by Stephen West What is Refactoring and Why Do It? Referring to something as a dinosaur is a pejorative adjective meant to characterize as obsolete, or inflexible to the point of extinction. Paleontologists claim that dinosaurs roamed the earth for over 160 million years and their extinction was caused by an asteroid hitting the earth. A reign of 160 million years is hardly inflexible; in fact it is an astounding success. I would say that the asteroid hitting the earth was a fortuitous event for us mammals.
In post-cataclysmic earth, mammals were better suited for survival than the dinosaurs. The real trick is to survive the disaster. If RPG is to survive, it must adapt to support newer technologies and advances in the programming languages landscape. One has only to look at an indicator laced RPG II program source and compare it to a functionally equivalent free-format RPGLE version to see the huge steps forward that RPG has made.
Support for newer technologies (CGI, web services, XML, java integration, etc); they are there. Advances in programming languages are there too (indenting code, native SQL calls, module linking, and eliminating indicators . . .
OK, OK maybe reducing indicator use). Will RPG survive? Well that depends on us; the programmers. Why? Because not all the RPG code out there uses the advances that are available. What exactly is that suppose to mean? It means that we cannot let go of the old RPG knowledge; we have to remember it so that we can support the old code.
How can we let go of the old RPG knowledge to make room for new if we must always be prepared to revisit old code? The answer is to refactor the old RPG code. Here is the point where you are supposed to ask what do you mean by refactor? In the java world you will hear the term code refactoring frequently. With the quick pace of technology...
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