• Subject: Re: IBM Spin Doctors on AS/400 Marketing
  • From: "Chris Rehm" <Mr.AS400@xxxxxxx>
  • Date: Sun, 09 Nov 1997 10:03:33 -0400

>No, it's the "pointy haired bosses" that are making these decisions.  Are
>saying that contributors to MIDRANGE-L are ALL to be disbelieved?  I was

No. I am not saying that at all. I am certain that there are millions of
stories of millions of management idiocies all true. 

However, there are billions of idiocies all together. We are all guilty of

I can recall an operator trainee who was stuck at her terminal at night.
When she was done with her work she would sign off, but as soon as she
did, the S/34 sent her a screen telling her to "Sign On". So she would.
She'd look for messages and then sign off, again getting that pushy "Sign
On" screen. This went on for 30 or 40 minutes before she left hoping she
wouldn't be fired for not doing what the computer told her to.

The first four years I worked with RPG I was learning it out of the IBM
manual. I was using Autoreport to generate output specs, then I'd delete
the autoreport program (except the O specs) and write the code I wanted.
Saved me the layout time. But, I never learned what edit words were. One
day I was working with a consultant who called me from a customer site and
told me he needed some kind of output change. I don't recall what it was,
but I couldn't do it with an edit code and so I spent four hours writing a
routine that dupicated the edit codes. Sure enough, he fired me. 

Once I had a S/38 CL program (running on a 400, I never worked on 38s)
that I needed to run twice in two different versions. I ran it the first
time and queued up all the jobs that depended on it. Then I made a source
change and queued the compile for the CL. Only, since it was a 38 CL, I
was using the programmer's menu and (as all you 38ers no doubt already
know) it doesn't wait until the program compiles to delete the existing
object, it deletes it when you submit the compile. So, the active program
got blown off and died. We were in the middle of a conversion and someone
took whatever option EOJd it, allowing the following jobs to hammer the
data to oblivion. 

But there are many, many more stories about things that went right.
Projects that are still saving people time and money. Code changes that
saved headaches and sent people home to their families on time.

It's like Scott Adams said in his Dilbert Principle book, were all idiots
at one time or another. He told a story in there about taking his pager
back for repair and having the tech turn the battery around and give it

Managers are just humans. Unfortunately, their mistakes affect a larger
area. But every week when the paychecks clear and the company makes a
profit, you don't come up with little anecdotes about all the things
people did right to make that happen. 

>that if you believed even HALF of the responses to this thread (which you
>have obviously not read), you would still have a good case _AGAINST_ your
>"people do the right thing for the company" premise.

I probably didn't read all the responses you allude to. It seems I didn't
get many of them. I noticed that there was a response to a response I
hadn't seen. I am sure there are more. But I don't think it would make
that much difference to me, Dean. I will probably judge managers as I meet
and work with them. I still have the ongoing assumption that other people
are no better or worse than me. 

>I fail to see why you think that a mere IBM "solution provider" ad would
>as effective as an AS/400 ad.  How many IBM-run installations have you
>subjected to?  When the /400 first came out, IBM "solution providers" were
>more clueless than the few hardy non-IBM souls from the /36 & /38 that
>the time to read the manuals.  IBM "professed unto their dying breath"
>S/36E programs ran as well on the /400 as they did on the 5363 for God's
>sake!  If IBM provides the same level of incompetence on their ES/9K and
>RS/6K installations as they did on the five AS/400 installations of which
>I've been a unfortunate enough to be a member of a BP firm with them on,
>_NEVER_ purchase _ANOTHER_ product from them!

Which is I guess why IBM's current approach is such a good idea. 

Let's suppose doing business electronically is popular. Let's suppose that
some companies don't have in house pros standing around with extra hours
to throw into such a project. Does it make more sense for IBM to advertise
themselves as an eBusiness solutions provider or advertise each of their
eBusiness solutions? eBusiness means many things to many people. The guys
watching that golf game can be potential AS/400 customers, or S/390
customers. Maybe even RS/6000 customers or (gasp) PC server customers.
Now, if IBM divvies up the ad dollars among those groups (who will now bid
against each other for ad slots) and Rochester puts up that ad looking for
just a market segment, they also are now limited in what they are
advertising, right? Because Rochester doesn't make networking gear which
also might be necessary etc.

So, IBM's current plan is to get the guy in the door looking for an
eBusiness solution. Find out what his situation is, and fit him with a BP
who has a solution. That seems like a good idea to me. For the AS/400 to
play a big part in that, there needs to be more solutions available for

>Gee Chris, this was meant to be in the spirit of passionate discourse
>your previous statement.  "More anecdote crap"?  "Sorry you had trouble
>holding a real job"?  The latter sounds more like a _personal_ attack
than an
>argument for your position.  Never believed it before, but you _must_ be a
>liberal, as I've heard that liberals result to personal attacks when they
>have no facts to back up their position.  I mentioned nothing about having
>trouble holding a "real" job, and have not experienced any difficulty in
>area at all (other than getting bored with it rather quickly).

No, the "real job" was a response to your statement. You stated that "in
order to keep a real job" you had to do some Unix research. I guessed this
was some reference to you working in the real world while I lived in a
fantasy one as it was on the heals of your comments about me keeping my
head in the sand for the last twenty years. This had something to do with
me scoffing at claims that NT was a threat because of claims made about
it, I said the same claims were made for Unix, you told me that I must
have had my head in the sand, yada yada. My point on it was actually that
Unix hadn't taken over the world either (yet). What you said pissed me off
and I responded poorly.

Oh, yeah, I'm not all that liberal. I think I've voted for a couple
democrats, but they were incumbants so I count that as conservative. ;-)

I do (now) live in California though. So maybe soon I'll be thinking of OJ
as a poor, innocent harassed golfer. 

>Of course, the "gaming" industry is such a ubiquitous presence in the data
>processing industry.  You've got, what, maybe 1,800 installations for your
>application?  As opposed to 18,000 installations for the BPCS
>package alone (Gartner Group numbers, not "anecdote crap")?  Throw in
>Edwards, MAPICS, and PRISM, and you easily quadruple the BPCS 18,000
>-- with numerous small packages in between.  

Not sure what you mean to tell me here. My reponse re. the gaming industry
is about the Unix thing. I had supposed that it might have been a bigger
factor in other industries. In gaming, Unix never made inroads. I think
that is because gaming properties have always had the 24x7 demand for
uptime so IBM's midrange fit real well there. 

>You seem to have missed my joking references to "real" jobs (most "normal"
>people don't consider consulting or computing a "real" job -- had a cohort
>years ago whose father wanted _him_ to "quit this computer crap" and get a
>"real" job pounding spikes with the railroad, he now makes $300K/year in
>computers vs. $10/hour for the railroad -- _NO_ anecdote).  I'll offer an
>open invitation to anyone who has not fallen asleep by this point in the
>to offer your own UNIX "anecdotes" wherein management asked you to
replace an
>IBM system for no apparent reason, because UNIX was "OPEN".

Oh, I get the "real job" thing. I've always said that in order to become a
good programmer one should first take a sharp blow to the head with a
blunt instrument. I have often joked that I am trapped in the job of
programming because I don't have enough brain cells left to qualify for
anything better, and if I lose one more I'll have to become a manager.

>The only times that I've had problems with management as you describe was
>when they tried to force UNIX or some other "flavor of the month" (did
>someone say JAVA?) down my throat for no apparent reason.  "Mr. AS/400"
>obviously not been exposed to the "real world" of IS politics.  I
>fully "what my job is", which is why I prefer consulting to a "real" job.
>consulting I can avoid office politics, and dispassionately tell
>that they don't need my services (or those of the 1-15 employees that are
>providing same), but need to look into "solution X".  I can also tell
>"management" that their idea is _STUPID_ without getting fired from a job
>that my wife and kids depend on -- the client can cancel my contract, but
>I'll be working for a company that appreciates my abilities tomorrow. 
>I've _NEVER_ been canceled.

I guess this is more of that "head in the sand" stuff for me, 'eh? Maybe
it's true. Maybe I have been just charmed through all of my career and
never had to work with the type of people you have. I'll consider that.

But what I want you to consider is that it might not be true. It is
possible that you are judging too many people by their failures. That
might happen because when people screw up is usually the only time they
are noticed. Sometimes a decision doesn't look so stupid when you realize
the information it was based on. 

Take the NT thing. I have been asked "Why not NT". I have been in the
awkward management situation brought on by a lot of NT articles. In one
case, a sales manager with low numbers wanted an NT solution. I responded
that we did not have any NT skill on staff, nor any NT machines. Ownership
knew we were undermanned, but I told them that if the sales manager wanted
to outline what he hoped to get from this package I would see if there was
a way to provide it with what we had. 

The sales manager did not give any details, but did spend a lot of time
complaining to ownership about how much money this was costing. I believed
that he was simply using it as an excuse to keep from being fired for low

Ownership has two key people at odds, they did what they should, they
called me into the office and asked "Why not?" I told them, and I was very
comfortable in this. However, when I became uncomfortable was when the
question was, "If NT isn't proven, and isn't dependable, why are there so
many favorable articles about it?" I felt like I was describing the Mafia
hit man on the grassy knoll. 

>I was _NOT_ "bitching" about having to provide management with a CBA in
>to avoid the installation of a UNIX system.  I was, if you insist,
>about needing to provide it in the first place.  There was no way in Hades
>that we could afford a new system, even if it was a simple upgrade to our
>present system, yet these idiots thought that tagging it with the UNIX God
>would magically cause "Corporate" to "cough up the big bucks" to replace
>everything we had with a UNIX-based system when a simple memory/DASD
>would have had the same (without retraining) effect.  Amazing that, when
>presented with the retraining costs of the IS department (small) and the
>base (EXTRA large), management always changed their minds on the jump to
>UNIX.  The platform ended up being irrelevant.

I think that was my point. It is part of our jobs to keep in mind that
sometimes that system we like the most might not be the best choice. The
decisions a company makes need to be dollars and cents. That is, after
all, why they are in business. So, they need to be provided with the
actual costs. Even if it is for a Unix system. Or an NT system. Give them
the information they need and have the same confidence in them that you
expect them to have in you. 

>I've "let myself go" far too often lately (probably much to David's
>so I'll not bring myself down to your level on this.  For your personal
>edification, I pay for and read nearly $500/year worth of "trade mags",
>to mention the nearly equal number that I receive and read for free. 
>taken my _ONE_ mention of anecdotal evidence, all of which came from THIS
>LIST, and parlayed it into some sort of discredit for everything I have
>mentioned.  AGAIN, will you discredit _EVERYONE_ on the list?  I
>_DO NOT_ insist on management by anecdote, and was merely pointing out
>not everything that appears here can be taken for "The Gospel Truth".
> However, even taking only 25% of the responses to this thread as being
>truthful, _YOU_ are _SADLY_ outnumbered in your opinion, Sir.

Being outnumbered in my opinion doesn't bother me all that much. Us AS/400
advocates get used to that. But I am not sure what exactly the reference
is to? Outnumbered by people who feel managers are idiots? People who feel
IBM should spend more money on advertising the AS/400 vs. NT? 

Dean, if a manager in a company was on an NT list and received the dozens
of "NT is better than the AS/400" anecdotes they could get from such a
list and came in to work the following week insisting the company switch
platforms, or that the AS/400 was a mistake, what would you say about them?

Dean, I asked a question back at the beginning of this thread that I
didn't get an answer to. Not from you or anyone on this list. Have any of
you ever bought a midrange system or seen a system bought because someone
read an ad and said, "Hey, I like this HP/9000, let's go buy one!"?

>Good Day, Indeed,

>Dean Asmussen

Chris Rehm
You have to ask yourself, "How often can I afford to be unexpectedly out of
Get an AS/400.

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