May 22, 2017

Making 3000 Memoirs, One Post at a Time

Memoir ProjectFive years ago I was entering into memoirs territory. I had a decent start on my own memoir, Stealing Home: The Road to the Perfect Game. It was time for the 3000 community to have its memoirs, too. A few of the community's leaders shared stories, each a memory, of how the 3000 changed their life.

It was a simple and heartfelt formula I believed might be a book. What happened to the HP 3000 Memoir Project was that it became a dynamic story. Instead of being compiled into pages, the 3000's memoirs are in the History section of the blog. There are nearly 400 stories in there.

Three times a month, a history article gives us insights. I call these Wayback Wednesdays, or Fallback Fridays. Each memory is designed to supply meaning and insight. We can't change what happened to us. We might alter how we perceive it, though, as well as change the direction it propels us toward.

Everyone goes into every life situation with specific expectations. History shapes those expectations. We all try to make sense of what's happening to us; prior events give us context. We imagine how what we're doing in this moment will impact us in the future. Memoirs give us a guide to see how things might work out. Maybe most importantly, we draw on memories to evaluate what's happening and see what to do next.

So when Rob'n T Lewis of South Seattle College asked today, "Is the HP 3000 Memoir Project finished?" I said no. Perhaps it will never be, if there are stories remaining to tell. We told the first of them on this blog in 2007. We're always going to be evaluating everything for meaning, always drawing conclusions—not concluding the storytelling.

The Computer History Museum has an Oral History website section. It includes accounts from Alfredo Rego and Marty Browne of ASK. We're continuing that tradition for the 3000 founders, because everybody wants the last word.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 11:26 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

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May 19, 2017

Friday Fallback: The White House's 3000

White houseThere's a torrent of news coming out of the White House this week, but there's also a bit of history noted for 3000 users and fans. Out on the FedTech website, editor Phil Goldstein created some history and reported on some more with a story about the HP 3000 being the first computer ever to support the White House. It was 1978 when the 3000 began to aid White House efforts like tracking the desires of Congress.

A nonprofit organization that's been telling stories about the White House since 1961, the White House Historical Association says that Jimmy Carter's first minicomputer was "assembling databases, tracking correspondence, developing a press release system, and compiling issues and concerns of Congress." Goldstein developed a high-points article about those heady days of undercutting IBM mainframes and the swift rise of the 3000. In 1979, for example, the 3000 accounted for 15 percent of all data systems revenues at HP. It was $150 million in orders, up from $50 million in 1976.

The article has its problems with history. The timelines suffer from either a 1984-style rewrite, or rushed research. By the accounting of FedTech (a website run by vendor CDW) the 3000's operating system only lasted until 1997, the computers first surfaced in 1972, and HP began to develop it in 1968. Wrong, inaccurate, and misunderstood, those dates are. These things happen when a story's subject is Old Tech. Who'd care if the facts aren't accurate. The 3000's dead, right?

Screen Shot 2017-05-20 at 3.08.37 PMThere's plenty to appreciate in the article. Appropriate links to resources like 579-page The HP Phenomenon, and the HP Computer Museum. There's a link to a book, Managing Multivendor Networks, that covers the 3000 and was written in 1997. Wait, that's supposed to be the same year as MPE was wrapping up, right? Geez, these details. The truth is that MPE is still working today, 20 years beyond the inaccurate sell-by date.

HP was only successful in selling some of the first working models in 1974 after buying back all the failed 1972 units. And the development begun in 1968 was to create the Omega Project. The System/3000 was a fall-back effort when Omega, a 32-bit revolutionary design, was killed by HP in 1971. The vendor's short-circuit of a game-changer started a history that ran right up to the 2001 pull-out notice from 3000 futures. That one killed the rewrite of MPE/iX for the Itanium IA-64 chips.

The HP Phenomenon has priceless accuracy and strong details about the 3000's roots, starting on page 159 with MPE—Rx for Business. Dave Packard's quote that "we're wasn't proud of the 3000" echoed the system's endgame at HP. It's a thankless task to stay current when the vendor relentlessly withholds funds for innovation. What is not noted in the history article is that the 3000 made HP a computer company with the biggest success it ever had by 1976. You read the HP Phenomenon to find that fact.

As is often the case, the coda written to FedTech's 3000 story is rushed to a total demise. The wrap-up misses the work that the system does today, asking instead, "Why Did The HP 3000 Die Off?" Reports of its total demise are Fake News, something on the mind of the current White House occupant.

Read "Friday Fallback: The White House's 3000" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:27 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 17, 2017

Beyond emulations might lie migrations

Crm-data-migration-steps-cloudAs another webinar demo unspooled today for HP 3000 data migration products, the strategy of hold on or move onward demoed another facet. A 3000 might be a candidate for de-commissioning simply because the system has been too successful in the past. The next server will be different, but there's no guarantee the replacement will be better in significant aspects. Waiting for something better is not as easy as moving to something different.

Take COBOL compilers, for example. At the investment firm Fayez Sarofim, the HP 3000 was being evaluated for replacement. One element of the eval was finding a COBOL compiler compatible with the code running on the 3000. The company had to choose a way forward that was mostly different. Better was another phase.

"We chose AcuCOBOL over Micro Focus at the time of our migration because AcuCOBOL better handled the packed HP Floating Point without losing significant decimals," said George Willis. "It also had a more powerful set of debugging tools that were easy to use." Protecting decimal data was the priority. Getting a superior debugger was the improvement.

Time moved onward for the Sarofim strategy though, shifting away from apps and toward software services (SaaS). HP's Unix systems—an HP-UX 4466 Rx using AMXW, Cognos, Micro Focus COBOL, Suprtool and Warehouse—eventually got the boot, just like a 3000 did. The shift to services erased a department at the company. There's no emulation that can oppose that kind of sea change in strategy: "We don't even need our own servers, we'll access an app instead."

While making its move to HP's Unix, Willis said "We did not want to go through another riskier migration until we were stabilized. We are certainly stable now, but the firm has decided to move a different direction." So onward it went to SaaS. Emulation never got a fighting chance.

Read "Beyond emulations might lie migrations" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 15, 2017

3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never

Flight-simulator-cloudsThe latest news about cloud computing for HP 3000s came from Stromasys. The company selling the Charon virtualizer (many think of it as an emulator) announced a new bundled offer as well as announcing that any public cloud can run Charon. Sites that employ the Oracle Cloud to host their virtualization systems get un-metered cloud services as part of that deal with Stromasys. Oracle Cloud is one of the newer players in the cloud market. There's no place to go but up in market share for Oracle Cloud, carving out its business among providers dominated by Amazon's Web Services.

Emulating HP 3000 servers, however, is a job that's not often suited for a shared Intel-based server. There are exceptions, like light-duty 3000s or those in archival mode. Those are the best profiles for 3000s in the cloud running Charon, according to the Stromasys HP Product Manager Doug Smith. 3000 A-Class systems — Stromasys calls this Charon model the A520 — can be run from the cloud.

Many of the cloud's typical servers make memory and CPUs available on an as-needed basis, swapping processor power and RAM in and out. This is in contrast to dedicating a highly-threaded CPU and all available memory to a task like emulation. "Charon requires dedicated resources," Smith said. "If I say I need a 3.5 GHz CPU response, then I need that 3.5 GHz in the host itself, not being shared among other virtual machines."

It's safe to say there are 3000s in our community that are good candidates for a cloud profile. A-Class systems running the one last MPE application, some app still critical to a datacenter, for example. Better to have this sort of foolproof hardware service chain using virtualization, instead of stocking redundant 3000 memory sticks. (The better option to stay with the 3000 hardware from HP is an independent support company.)

The cloud — a term that doesn't have much traction for classic 3000 pros like Smith — might evolve to the point where dedicated CPU performance at any level could become affordable. Not even Hewlett-Packard knew how to price and sell its HP Cloud so its Unix customers could host datacenters in the cloud. Integrity chips were the next generation of PA-RISC, so emulating any chipset with that pedigree is no small matter. Smith, like any other analyst in IT, considers dedicated performance from a public cloud as cost-prohibitive.

Never-say-neverAny company can arrange to use an offsite, networked host for MPE/iX apps. This seems more like timesharing to the 3000 pros than Infrastructure as a Service. Cloud computing is supposed to reduce costs, and it does so by sharing resources. Sharing is not a great match for emulation at multiple levels. When you use a VMware host to create the Linux cradle on one level, which then virtualizes PA-RISC with Charon, that's a more intense CPU requirement than public clouds can handle. Pull out the VMware and you're fine for a smaller datacenter.

Cloud computing users definitely are shifting their expenditures from capital expenses to operating expenses. OpEx can be easier to place in a budget than CapEx, especially for legacy systems like the 3000. We'll never see a day when there's no more CapEx spending in datacenters like those in the 3000 world. OpEx is on the rise, but like the Paperless Office of the 1980s strategies, CapEx will always have some benefits. One is the constantly dropping cost of HP's hardware, if you can arrange for enough backup components and parts.

Read "3000 Cloud Doings: Are, Might, and Never" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:06 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 12, 2017

How to Step Through a CSLT Reinstall

Stepping-stonesAssume you've seen your Series 918 crash to its bones. You replace the 3000 and need to reinstall from CSLT. Many a 3000 site hasn't done this in a long time. This is when you're getting in touch with your independent support company for advice and walking the steps to recovery.

Oh. You don't have a support company to call. One more thing that's been dropped from the budget. You could ask on the 3000 newsgroup for help, so long as your downtime isn't serious. This support strategy is one way to go, and James Byrne got lucky this week. One expert walked him through the critical steps.

"I am working my way through the check-lists for reinstalling from a CSLT," Byrne said, "and I have come to the conclusion this stuff was written more to obscure than to illuminate." The HP documentation advised him to boot from disk, something he couldn't do. "Fortunately this is a backup 3000, and nothing too bad can happen yet."

Gilles Schipper, our esteemed homesteading contributor, provided the answers. The problem lay in a bad boot drive, but how do you discover that's true? We'll get to that in a bit. First, the CSLT reinstall.

"Assuming you have no user volume sets:

1. Mount CSLT in appropriate drive and boot from alternate path
2. From prompt, type INSTALL
3. At completion, boot from primary path and START NORECOVERY (this is your second "boot".)
4. Mount whichever tape contains your directory (could be the CSLT or your latest full backup - if directory on both, use whichever is more current)
5. Log on as MANAGER.SYS and restore directory (:file t;dev=?;restore *t;;directory - note 2 consecutive;)
6. Use VOLUTIL to add additional discs to MPEXL_SYSTEM_VOLUME_SET.
7. Mount backup tape and:
:restore *t;/;keep;create;olddate;partdb

Reboot with START NORECOVERY

Ah, but what to do if you have user volume sets?

Read "How to Step Through a CSLT Reinstall" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 03:53 PM in Hidden Value, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 10, 2017

Wayback Wed: 3000s Needed More Time

In this era of cloud computing, the roots of the original HP 3000s rise up. Clouds are the ultimate shared computers, systems so fluid they use hardware that can be provisioned with a set of entries on a webpage. Forty-five years ago this month the first computer that created our community wasn't making its way to its first loading dock. HP called this system a server for multi-programming, designed with the full intention of enabling people to use it from remote locations. The product couldn't bridge the miles between California and Connecticut, unable to ship from the HP factory location to a customer facility on time. It was the beginning of a black eye the vendor wore for nearly two years.

First-HP-3000-Sale-DelayHalting starts have been in many a successful product's history. In May of 1972 the HP 3000 was already running late, beset with hardware problems. The archives in the NewsWire offices include a letter to the first customer to order an HP 3000. The initial shipments of HP 3000s only fulfilled Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard's doubts about being in the commercial computing business. Their H-P was stuck with a product which started as a disaster. It was up to another Bill to break the news in the letter (click for details).

HP put its best face on this first delay, telling Yale-New Haven Hospital that "When a first order comes from a hospital such as Yale-New Haven and from [Dr. David Seligson] a person with an international reputation in the field of laboratory automation, we are doubly flattered." But this HP 3000 system was going to ship late to New Haven.

"Although our development is remarkably close to the targets we set over a year ago, we find that we must slip our shipments to insure that our customers receive a computer system with the built-in reliability that HP is known for," read Bill Terry's letter to Seligson. "Your system will be the first shipped outside the immediate Cupertino area and is scheduled for December, 1972."

The letter arrived in May, seven months before HP would finally allow the first 3000s outside of California. It was a simpler time with crude technology. HP offered the hospital a bonus for enduring the delay. "We would like to donate an additional 8K words of core memory (part 3006A, $8,000.00) to your HP 3000 system. Additionally, our intention is definitely to continue with plans for the training of your people, both in Cupertino and New Haven, as soon as possible." The 3000 entered the world as an ASAP project.

Read "Wayback Wed: 3000s Needed More Time" in full

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:10 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

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