Fewer changes mean fewer glitches
May 24, 2006
At SMB HP 3000 customer Aerocraft Heat Treating, a combination of new-platform tools that work like 3000 stalwarts IMAGE, COBOL II and VPlus made a one-year migration possible. With few changes needed for applications, there were fewer glitches
The promise of using the ScreenJet-AcuCOBOL combination lies in its ability to bypass change. Both solutions have been engineered to understand nearly all of the 3000’s nuances in screen handling and intrinsics.
Bob Karlin, a consultant and developer from the 3000 community who contracted on the migration, said that when Aerocraft added Eloquence to the mix, the company eliminated much of the tedium of rewriting for a new environment. Not every need was met by the mixture, but most were, and the rest got workarounds.
“The combination of AcuCOBOL with ScreenJet and Eloquence meant that I was able to take Aerocraft's programs off of their 3000, and with relatively minor changes, just run them,” Karlin said.
“There were a couple of small gotchas; a few VPlus things that are not supported by ScreenJet, all of them fairly minor to what we were doing, certain kinds of control traps. In those particular cases they were unneeded, and I commented them out.”
AcuCOBOL and ScreenJet handled the traps in the programs at a different level, Karlin added. “If you need to do the same kind of trapping that you did on the 3000, you’d take it back to the screen level, as opposed to handling it in the application.”
Nothing’s perfect or 100 percent automated in a migration. Karlin said he wished for a little more understanding of the 3000’s intrinsics.
“It would be nice of somebody handled a replacement for a few of the ubiquitous HP intrinsics that neither Eloquence or ScreenJet have,” he said, because people have to write their own, like SETJCW.
“There’s no equivalent; you have to create either something else, or your own SETJCW idea in order to access a standard Windows environment variable and do the thing the same way. You can do it, but it’s just one of those little things.”
Karlin added that AcuCOBOL, although it does an extremely good job of emulating HP’s COBOL, “does not handle the use for debugging paragraphs at all. So you have to go through and comment those things out.”
But the combination of 3000-aware tools and an MPE-savvy consultant gave Aerocraft a quick migration. “ScreenJet is absolutely wonderful to do the migration,” he said. Migration tools to help a site going forward part still need to be addressed.
“As long as you’re going to keep the old COBOL programs, there are certain things that would be really neat to continue the underlying philosophy of the View interface. It involves adding a bunch of items to a working storage table. It would be nice to do that sort of thing within the AcuCOBOL template.”
New development going forward at Aerocraft is in .NET, Karlin said. Windows was the best choice for a company with limited in-house computer staff, and Karlin said a newer operating system eliminated some kinds of processing the 3000 demanded.
“Once you moved over to a Wintel box running a more modern environment, the underlying OS on that platform produced the same results [in screens]. You didn’t need to do the same kind of processing that you needed on the 3000.”