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September 05, 2008

History flows full at museum

When 18 pioneers gathered this summer for the first HP 3000 software meeting at the Computer History Museum, stories showed how far the HP 3000 has advanced from its earliest, buggy days.

But some tales that were told at the Mountain View-based museum illustrated that HP often saw third party and independent companies educating HP on what the 3000 could do. A good example came in a story from Martin Gorfinkel of LARC Computing.

LARC's Fantasia software wrote  — and still writes — to the LaserJet family of printers. "The 2680 was a way different beast, than a LaserJet," he told us after the meeting. "The 2680 was designed to work off the HP 3000, but the printer had a relatively short life. The TDP/3000 software  — HP’s renaming of the LARC Editor/Scribe Word Processing Software  — wrote to the 2680. That interface was done by HP in England."

"The Fantasia software writes to the LaserJet printers," he said, "and for the first several years that the software and the LaserJets were on the market, HP insisted that the LaserJet printers would not work with the HP 3000."

The concept of a third-party solution extending the 3000 beyond HP's plans and designs? Commonplace during the first two decades of the computer's life. Even today, this is the mission that OpenMPE continues to pursue. The only thing that has changed is the do-it-yourself habit of the computer customer. HP 3000 owners from the 1970s and 1980s learned to help themselves, then teach HP what was possible.

The technical horsepower in the meeting room at Mountain View, along with the start-up muscle, could have convinced HP to decide another fate for its HP 3000 business. Adager's Alfredo Rego reported on his efforts in 2001 to persuade the vendor to sell the system business, instead of shut it down. That's a history lesson whose first part is well known, and now being documented at the Museum.

The second part, the conclusion and legacy, remains to be written once HP returns the HP 3000 book to the community's library.

11:58 AM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink

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