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Posted 14 Mar 2019
Licenced CPOL

A Retro-computing Language in Node: REXX

, 14 Mar 2019
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How can we deal with REXX scripts in Node


In a previous Article[1], I described how to use PHP scripts in a NodeJS Web server. In this article, I deal with the use of REXX scripts, but I show only the few JavaScript instructions needed to manage them while the main purpose is the analysis of REXX and problems that may arise from its use.

A Short Overview of REXX (and ooREXX)

REXX (Restructured Extended Executor) is an interpreted programming language developed at IBM by Mike Cowlishaw in 1979. It is a structured, high-level programming language designed to ease of learning and reading. REXX interpreters and compilers exist for a wide range of computing platforms, proprietary and open source; REXX is used as a scripting and macro language, mostly for processing data and text and for generating reports; it has evolved in the years and in 1996 ooREXX, a version with the support of the objects, has been released.
REXX can works in Common Gateway Interface (CGI) programming and also embedded on HTML pages (like for example PHP).

Some Points about REXX

All what is not recognized as statement is sent to the Operating System; this is due to the purpose for which REXX was created, namely the management of the various jobs carried out on mainframes; this also explains why the concatenation of strings occurs by juxtaposition with an inserted space (the operator || avoid this).
Although in the object version of REXX, there are complex data structures such as arrays, lists, queues, etc. these, in the original REXX, it can be built using a particular type of variable named stem, i.e., a variable identified by a period behind the name. After the period, one can add one or many variables (separated by period) obtaining arrays or complex structure. If the variable is numeric, stem is an array, otherwise it is a hash table[2].
Below is an example to verify if the RANDOM function passes the chi square test.

dice. = 0	-- set the defaults value of array
loop i = 1 while i < 61
	a = RANDOM(1,6)
	dice.a = dice.a + 1
loop i = 1 while i < 7
	dice.7 = dice.7 + (dice.i - 10) ** 2
say dice.7 / 10		-- if value < 11.07 Ok (test square chi with 5 degrees of freedom)

Object can act by calling object's actions, namely by sending messages where the "message send" symbol is ~ called twiddle. Objects respond to these messages by performing an action and possibly returning data or an object.

Changes to the Web Server

In the WEB Server script tryNodeJS.js described in the aforementioned article, the REXX script management has been added:

} else if (type == "rex") {
	var r = [__basedir + pathName];
	for(q in parms) {r[r.length] = q; r[r.length] = parms[q].replace(/ /g,"+");}
	var spawnRex = spawn('rexx',r);
	spawnRex.stdout.on('data',function (data) {
			response.writeHead(200, {'Content-Type': cType});
	spawnRex.stderr.on('data',function (data) {
			console.log("Horror: " + data);

In the above fragment, the parameters for the REXX interpreter are a set of couples key value taken from the form, for example, a request is analogous to: rexx getdata.rex Type Cite Author Adam+Smith.

The NodeJS Demo

The demo is simply a page where one can choose to show an aphorism or an image (served by a REXX script questioning a SQLite Data Base) and a choice of some crossing data in SQLite Data Base managed by a PHP script.[3].

The REXX Script

The REXX interpreter is started with the syntax rexx REXXscript parm<sub>1</sub> .... The script deals with requests on list of authors of aphorisms, aphorisms of an author and a list of images.
Below are analyzed the main points of the script whose complete source is attached.

Recovery of the Requests Parameters

parms = arg(1)	-- arg(1) contains all parameters separated by space
do while parms \= ""
	parse var parms key value parms
	value = changestr("+",value," ")	-- restore spaces
	dizParms.key = value

dizParms. is a REXX stem used for storing key-value object; parse var is a statement that split parms, a string of parameters separated by space, into key and value (the possible remaining of the string is recovered in parms).

Analysis of Requests

This is accomplished by the SELECT instruction that has the following structure:

	When Condition Then
	When Condition Then Do

In the index.html, the combo boxes are built by a form generator (see a CodeProject article A JavaScript Form Generator) that calls, via Ajax, a list of the combo box items:

When dizParms.key == "Images" Then do
	f = .File~new(curdir || "\images")~list~sortwith(.caselesscomparator~new)
	myRE = .RegularExpression~new("?*(.gif|.png|.jpg)")
	images = .array~of()
	loop k over f
		if myRE~match(k~lower) == 1 Then images~append(k)
	end k
	n = CHAROUT(,images~toString(,","))

This is enough cumbersome, but it is necessary for taking only the desired files; without this constraint, it would be simply (so to speak): say .File~new(curdir || "\images")~list~sortwith(.caselesscomparator~new)~toString(,",").

For a request of citation, the SQLite engine is started with a database name and a SQL SELECT statement asking the fields dove (where), Data (Date) and Citazione (Quote); the answer is similar to:
The Wealth of Nations Book V Chapter I|1776|Wherever there is great property, there is great inequality..

When dizParms.key == "Cite" Then do
	table = "Citazioni"
	authorGroup = "Author_Group"
	Author = "Author"
	if dizParms.authorGroup == "IT Aphorisms" Then table = "InforCitazioni"
	sql = "SELECT Dove,Data,Citazione FROM " || table || " WHERE Autore = '" || dizParms.Author || "'"
	'sqlite3 condor.sqlite "' sql '"> ' || flname
	response = "<table><caption>" || dizParms.Author || "</caption>"	-- response string
	do while lines(flname) > 0
		line = linein(flname)
		response = response || "<tr><td>" || _
		Changestr("|",line,"</td><td>") || "</td></tr>"
	n = CHAROUT(,response||"</table>")

Management of Temporary File

signal on notready -- handle file errors
curdir = directory()
flname = SysTempFileName(curdir||"\tempfile.???")
CALL STREAM flname, 'C', 'CLOSE'
"del" flname


REXX can be easily used in NodeJS taking into account some (small) limitations among which:

  • Regular Expression must be activated including a special class: ::requires "rxregexp.cls"; the functionalities are a rather limited subset and not entirely compatible with those present in JavaScript or PHP.
  • The possibly space(s) in parameters must be "masked": r[r.length] = parms[q].replace(/ /g,"+"). Another obstacle is the difficulty, which I have not solved, to pass parameters with special characters (like Author Dom Hélder Câmara).
  • Databases are supported by Rexx/SQL a set of external functions by deal with Oracle, DB2, MySQL, SQLite and ODBC data-sources.


  1. ^See NodeJS WEB Server running PHP
  2. ^JavaScript arrays (1995) are very similar to REXX stems (1979)
  3. ^ See the CodeProject article Cross of fields in a table of Data Base accessible via PDO


This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Member 4206974
Software Developer Condor Informatique
Italy Italy
Computer literacy (software) : Languages: PHP, Javascript, SQL Autoit,Basic4Android; Frameworks: JOOMLA!
Teaching/Training skills on Office, WEB site development and programming languages.
Others : WEB site development.
UNDP Missions
feb – may 2003 Congo DR Bukavu: ground IT computer course
nov 2003 Burundi Bujumbura: Oracle Data Base course
feb 2005 Burundi Bujumbura: JAVA course
mar 2005 Mali Kati: MS Office course
oct 2006 Mali Kati: MS Office course
jun 2006 Burkina Faso Bobo Dioulasso: MS Office course
jun 2007 Burkina Faso Bobo Dioulasso: MS Office course
may 2007 Argentina Olavarria hospital: Internet application for access to medical records
apr 2008 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou: MS ACCESS and dynamic Internet applications
jun 2008 Niger Niamey: analysis of the computing needs of the Niamey hospital
may 2009 Burkina Faso Ouagadougou: MS ACCESS and dynamic Internet applications
oct 2010 Niger Niamey: analysis of the computing needs of the Niamey hospital (following)
Region Piedmont project Evaluation
mar 2006 Burkina Faso, Niger
mar 2007 Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger
sep 2008 Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger
feb 2010 Burundi Kiremba hospital: MS Office course
feb 2011 Congo DR Kampene hospital: MS Office course

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