Open letter to Common.

                                     The Greying of COMMON.    

        I attended the Fall Ď97 COMMON  as a speaker.  I have attended
COMMON for over 10 years now and it was great seeing friends that I have
met over that time.   When I first started coming, there was an energy that
permeated COMMON.    People were excited,  asking questions,  learning, 
having lively discussions, even arguments.    I wondered what had changed? 
The change was so subtle that I never quite noticed it happening over the
years.   Then while I was standing in line at Soundoff,  I had a couple of
revelations.   The first revelation happened while I was talking to a
person standing in line behind me.  Iíll call him Dick.   Maybe you saw
him.   He stood out from the other people in the room.    He was charged
up,  he was excited,  he radiated energy,  he had his own company, he was 
24 years old!  Just as it is true for the AS/400 professional market place
in general,  COMMON too on an average has gotten older.   I realized that
the energy that once permeated and drove COMMON was youth!

        Dick was telling me about developing applications for the AS/400
using  C++  and  Java.  He went on to tell me what an incredible machine
the AS/400 is.  He was excited about Single Level Storage, Task
Dispatching, and 64 bit addressing.  Things that I had taken for granted
years ago.  He told me that UNIX and NT (which he has also developed on)
didnít come close to the AS/400 technologically.    He reminded me of
myself 10 or 15 years ago.   I told him it was refreshing to see someone
excited about the AS/400 who didnít have grey hair.   He went on to tell me
that his friends (also recent college graduates)  have never heard of the
AS/400.  He said;  "The AS/400 blows their mind"  when he tells them about
its architecture and runtime environment as compared to NT or UNIX.   Dick
sounded like a real evangelist for the AS/400.  The comment that he made
that sticks with me is; 
 " They all love it,  after they find out what it is". 

        If the Fall Ď97 COMMON had a message or theme it was "Its the
Marketing,  IBM".   This message was trumpeted again and again during
soundoff to the IBM panel.   People asked what was being done to make the
AS/400 more visible in the market place.   Numerous others asked the IBM
panel what being done to get the AS/400 taught in colleges and
universities.  Others related tales of funds being cut at colleges teaching
the AS/400.  And then it occurred to me  "Wait a minute,  I thought COMMON
was supposed to be dedicated to AS/400 education?".    Maybe part of the
reason that the Industry, the Colleges, and Dickís friends didnít know
about the AS/400 is because WE didnít tell them!    
Thatís when I had a second revelation,  "Its the Marketing, COMMON" !

        I believe that one possible solution to these related problems
stated above is as follows:

         Foster a partnership  between  COMMON-IBM  and Universities and

        COMMON conferences (both national and regional)  visit many cities
across the U.S. each year.   In and around each of those cities reside
numerous colleges and universities.   COMMON & IBM  should meet with
university/college course curriculum administrators  in the cities where
the COMMON convention is  being held.  Another approach would be for
COMMON-IBM to have  "Pre-conference"   meetings with course administrators
and teachers from the universities and/or colleges.  This "pre-conference"
meeting (may be Day -1 or Day-0)  would focus on all aspects of AS/400
education.   Schools could even share solutions with each other concerning
funding, enrollment, curriculums, marketing, and other challenges they

        IBM could describe the AS/400 job market to the curriculum
administrators.   Show  them  some of the names of the companies (BIG
names)  that send their employees to COMMON.  Tell them that over 90% of
the Fortune 100 companies have AS/400ís.    Explain how much of a demand
there is for AS/400 talent.  Explain that the demand will continue past the
foreseeable future.    Maybe share COMMONís  Top Concernís results with the
curriculum administrators.     Contact companies within the area of the
conference who are COMMON members.  Have the Companies along with IBM
business partners, COMMON,   IBM,  and the Colleges meet in a round table
and talk about the real needs of the business community in regards to their
graduating classes and the AS/400 job market.    

        COMMON,  IBM,  and the Business community can help develop course
curriculums.   IBM could  involve the IBM Certification staff  and  the IBM
education staff to help.    This partnership would give IBM a more defined
way to offer its help to the colleges and universities with hardware and
software.  IBM needs to understand that the colleges canít teach and turn
out people like Dick writing Java Web pages in the AS/400 if the college is
running V2R3 on a CISC machine!   IBM could help by making available 
development tools like the Visual Age series for free.  (Quick quiz;  how
many colleges are teaching VA/Java or even VA/RPG?  Very Few, if any.   
Now,  how many are TEACHING the RPG Cycle?  The majority!    Is that an

        The colleges should be invited to a special guided tour of COMMON. 
   We should jointly develop special tracks or COSís at COMMON for teachers
and students of the local universities/colleges.   The teachers and
students should be allowed to attend COMMON and regional COMMONís  for
FREE!    Maybe for a "hands-on"  field trip,   students and/or teachers
could "volunteer"  to help set up or break down COMMONís computer network
at the conferences.    Have the teachers attend sessions of the best AS/400
speakers to get a feel of  what is really relevant when teaching the
AS/400.    COMMON could help arrange guest (COMMON)  speakers to come into
the colleges and do seminarís on the AS/400.   AS/400 professionals could
describe what it is like to work and earn a living  as an AS/400

        If this arrangement could be formalized,  we would have an
excellent mechanism to ensure that the college courses stay relevant over
the years.  If colleges and universities taught the AS/400,  the market
place would continue to have new and desperately needed young AS/400
professionals.     If COMMON was attended  by the students while they were
still in school,   Iím sure they would  strive to come back when they were
employees or employers.  This could be a major step toward getting a
younger age group interested in the AS/400 market and to COMMON.   

We need this to happen before all the existing AS/400 professionals retire.

                                A concerned veteran COMMON member.

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