November 16, 2011
Things change, some 3000s remain the same
When we polled more than 30 customers of the HP 3000, we were surprised how many still employed their systems a decade after HP left the field. Some are using the same servers which ran on the day HP predicted the demise of the ecosystem, 10 years ago this week. Others have relegated their systems to archival duty. We heard from a few that've turned off 3000s completely since 2001.
At the Catawba Valley Medical Center in Hickory, NC, Jim Dellinger said the center's 3000 has been decommissioned quite awhile. "The HP 3000 was discontinued here in 2004," he said, "and hardware services moved from LAB (my niche) to IT. I'm sure there are no HP 3000 servers there."
Dave Powell, whose report on his 2001-2011 3000 experience appears in our November print issue, told the world more than six weeks ago that his company in the fabrics industry is moving off the 3000. "MMfab has decided to migrate," he said. "Buy a (gasp) package. Toss the system I've been working on for 30 years." But still run a 3000 in archive more for the next 1-3 years, once the real implementation work starts at MMfab -- and gets completed.
But for every report of a departed 3000, we heard two that were remaining on duty. At least for the next several years. Connie Sellitto, who had about two weeks to solve the problem of "wireframing" her 3000's app architecture for a migration in March, checked back in to say it will be several more months until anything based on .NET is running the US Cat Fanciers Association.
"I was working as Programmer/Analyst at the US Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA) on our third HP 3000, a Series 937 RX, when HP announced its end-of-life," she said. "This really scared a lot of people, but I kept telling them we had third party hardware and software support, and not to worry. The company directors at the time decided to leverage the 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000 -- and we in fact secured a used system, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer A400 3000.
"The new HP 3000 remained in use in the New Jersey office until July of this year, at which time it was transported intact to CFA's new location in Alliance, Ohio. Plans were to (really, this time) migrate off the MPE platform entirely, with a complete rewrite on a .NET SQL-based system. This project, originally underestimated to take 3 months, is still in the development stages, and although I've moved to a new job, the 3000 is still going strong. It continues to run the business-critical operations for CFA."
"And the estimated time to finally shut down this venerable 'legacy' system? My personal guesstimate is another 3-4 months. My only desire is that the data be secure and that all business practices be enabled. Long live the HP 3000!"
Peter Eggars: I was off with friends celebrating my 49th birthday. By that day I had too much time, too much money, had lost much of my obsession with computer technology, and lost my faith in HP. I had been told over a year before that it was coming, and didn't hear about the official announcement until much later. It wasn't until I had a long afternoon discussion with Wirt Atmar that I comprehended the importance of the day, and the missed opportunity to have done anything about it.
In hindsight, the spirit that allowed the HP 3000 to grow and thrive in an IT environment that was dominated by IBM (it has 80 percent of both hardware and software market shares) was lost with the embrace of the new IBM, as well as Microsoft, who were able to take shady business practices that monopolize a market to new lows.
The HP 3000/MPE could have evolved into the premiere Rapid Application Development platform for small- to enterprise-class business applications using a Linux kernel and drivers, one of the GUIs, and an open source database. Integration with Open Office (now Libre), would have been icing on the cake. I think there was a good chance HP could have beaten Oracle, had HP started down that track in the late 1990s. But I have to admit now that Wirt Atmar was right -- 2001 was the last possible year that could have been successful.
Gilles Schipper: Unfortunately, I can’t recall where I was. I do remember first hearing an inkling of it from Wirt — and, coming from him, even though it was not confirmed, I knew it would turn out to be true, as of course it was.
Despite all these 10 years that have passed, my company GSA still has enough customers that I perform HP 3000 System Administration and support duties, staying reasonably occupied and earning a living -— although, of course, not to the same degree as 10 years ago.
What I miss a lot is the annual Interex conventions that afforded the means to revisit with old friends such a you. Even a few years back, a couple of GHRUG meetings in Houston were terrific. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the recent Mountain View get-together at the Computer Museum. Hopefully another opportunity or excuse for another conference/meeting/get-together will arise in the future.
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