June 09, 2004
5250 fans aren't Luddites

Well, not all of them, anyway. ;-)

One of our biggest recent projects was a new Java front end to an old 5250 green screen application of ours. The majority of users were more than happy with the pretty new front end, but some were not. These users were finding that the GUI slowed them down.

Mouse considered harmful: "Have you ever watched an experineced heads down data entry clerk do thier job? With a green screen system they rarely look at the keyboard and in most cases ignore the screen. They are responding to audible feed back (key press clicks, console beeps, etc) with thier eyes focused on the data to be input. They remember key sequences (press 1, A, down arrow 2 times, F2 to save) to navigate. A mental model of the screens become engrained in thier head. They "SEE" the application in thier head and that vision is updated realtime. They know the system because it's predictable."

What's more, if the 5250 user gets ahead of the system, it doesn't matter - the 'dumb' terminal will just buffer their keystrokes, and play them back when the application is ready for them. So, they can enter data as fast as they can hit the keys.

I heard a story, probably apocryphal, about a salesman trying to sell what IBM calls a 'refacing' tool, and what the rest of the industry calls either a screen-scraper or a 'lipstick-on-a-pig' tool. He demonstrated how easy it was to slap a new front end on the 5250 app. The head of the data entry department then snipped off his mouse with a pair of scissors, and asked him to enter some data. "It costs us a penny every time one of our data entry people takes their hand off the keyboard," he explained.

Anyway, I've implemented a keystroke buffer for a Java app once before, and I know it's pretty much top of our to-do list for our pretty new front end. Perhaps then we can wean the last of our 5250 users onto it...

Via James Robertson.

Posted to Software development by Simon Brunning at June 09, 2004 01:45 PM
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