11.12.12 Loss of 3GL Skills
Some developers are reluctant to become involved with 4GL products, or develop a negative attitude to them because they fear they will lose their 3GL level design and coding skills.
Consider the following:
- "Top Gun" RPG programmers should realize that RPG has hardly changed in the last 8 - 10 years. Minor improvements like "read previous equal" and some new string handling options have appeared, and maybe we will see some "free format" options further down the track. While these new facilities are useful, they do not really offer any significant benefits to aid in system development.
- 4GL is inevitable. There will always be a need for 3GL programmers in maintenance, and specialized areas such as data communications. However, the role of the 3GL programmer in general commercial programming will continue to diminish, just like the role of machine level programmers has almost disappeared over the last 20 years.
This diminishing role is occurring for 2 main reasons. The first is that 4GL products are now flexible enough to deliver real systems with little 3GL intervention. The other is the very high cost of maintenance associated with existing 3GL systems.
- Design skills are more valuable than 3GL coding skills. The most valuable people in today's job markets are those with "high end" data and application design skills as well as project management skills. A broad exposure to 4GL products and technology is now essential to developing skills in these areas.