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February 29, 2012

A Rare Birthday for Eugene Today

He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 44th birthday today, and the co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.

150px-Eugene_VolokhAlthough he's not the youngest community member (that rank goes to The Support Group's president David Floyd, a decade younger) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known outside our humble neighborhood. After he built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft, Eugene earned a law degree as he went on to clerk for US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews. You can also hear him on National Public Radio. When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast in 2010. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University).

In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I first met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and listened to him wax on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. The paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket (Rego and Foster, if you're just coming to this world), was always way ahead of me in 3000 lore and learning.

ThoughtsAndDiscoursesBurn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition of book here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.

Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page

At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.

His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who's still on the go in the US, traveling to visit some of the 1,700 VEsoft customers to consult on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch. I expect that this entry will be eagerly proofed and then corrected by Vladimir, just as he's provided insight and corrections for the next edition of my new novel Viral Times. It's a sure bet that Thoughts and Discourses will remain a useful tool at least as long as Viral Times stays in print. (I've got copies of Viral Times I can ship, too -- but that's an offer unrelated to the 3000's history.)

At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.

02:46 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers, Web Resources | Permalink

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