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March 05, 2012

Telnet opens 3000s with a key cut long ago

Print-ExclusiveEngineering from the past permits us to take the future for granted. In your community the connections between past and present run strong, ties which are now lashed tight by the links of the Web. Programming from long ago stands a chance of tying tomorrow’s computers with the 3000s put into service on a distant yesterday. This technology lay under-appreciated for years — which makes it a lot like the 3000’s design.
   
Once the executives and sales wizards and marketing mavens grab their tablets and go into your offices, they’ll want to use their iPads to work with information residing in safety on the HP 3000. This year the conduit for the connection is telnet, a protocol given the pshaw in the '90s when nobody could see a tablet anywhere but Star Trek episodes.
   
I remember telnet gaining traction in feature lists for connectivity software from WRQ and Minisoft. The access method got strongest praise from Wirt Atmar at AICS Research. His engineers were building their own 3000 terminal emulator, QCTerm, and the NS/VT mysteries were not the primary path for data through that free software. (It hasn't been tested on Windows 7, but the software runs on XP -- which is still running 46 percent of the world's Windows PCs.)

The engineering choice of Telnet at AICS rose up in the face of enabling access to the oldest of 3000 programs. A wide majority of MPE applications used block mode in the '90s to exchange data with terminals and desktop clients, largely because telnet was deemed too slow. Atmar, however, took exception to the accepted wisdom about telnet. The protocol was a standard and vendor-neutral, something NS/VT would never be — and network speeds and bandwidth were on the rise. QCTerm even used an Advanced Telnet setting to take full advantage of a faster network whenever and wherever available.
   
Now the world’s networks pulse at a common rate we couldn’t conceive just 15 years ago. No, the block mode interfaces written in the 1980s are not going to transmit data this year to mobile tablets. A more extensive project needs to pass that protocol to the latest of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) computers. But in the meantime the 3000 can prove itself worthy of a spot in the IT future, so long as it can link some of its programs to a tablet. Telnet never got much respect from the developer ranks of your community in the era of the terminal emulator. But now telnet feels like a piece of 3000 engineering which is finally no longer ahead of its time.
   
Once networking standards swept through the industry, the gamble that HP took to break open 3000 connections became essential. This was catch-up engineering that followed the magic of PA-RISC emulation. There’s other fundamental technology that’s been built or ported to make the 3000 a web-capable database host. The miracle that paves the way into tomorrow is that there is any Perl, or telnet, available for an environment first launched 40 years ago. In a fall when America still hadn’t felt the pulse of disco, a computer took its first steps on a path that would lead to tablets.

01:20 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink

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Comments

Comments

On many government (and probably commercial audited sites as well) any device running unsecured (non encrypted) telnet ports are considered a security violation - even on "internal" network hosts.
Since we'll likely never see native secured telnet on the 3000 this usefulness may never be of much use. Setting up a private subnet and a ssh proxy might be a workaround but it adds complexity levels and points of failure.

Posted by: Chris Bartram | Mar 8, 2012 1:17:05 PM

Those are great points, Chris. Few people out there have got experience on the 'net that goes back before yours.

At least Telnet might offer a better answer to give a VP about HP 3000 access to a tablet or iPhone. "We could hook you up, but the company's auditors won't let us use Telnet without security." It's a better answer than "there's no useful Telnet on the HP 3000." But neither answer changes auditing and governmental requirements, as you say.

The SSH proxy sounds interesting, to be sure, and the downside of complexity and failures might be offset by delaying the expense of migrating a mission-critical application. SFTP didn't make HP's lab closure deadline for the 3000, either.

Posted by: Ron Seybold | Mar 8, 2012 4:26:13 PM

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