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June 20, 2012

Blogging marks history, reports on legacy

Interex 92 programSeven years ago this week, the 3000 NewsWire's blog opened for business. During that week of June that I consider historic, I reported on the Sun initiative to make its operating system an open source item. Seven years later, Sun's Solaris software (hawked by Oracle and former HP CEO Mark Hurd) is pushing Hewlett-Packard into a no-win situation with HP-UX. (We were also looking at customer uptake on HP-UX as a migration target. Trailing Windows, even then.) Back in 2005, the prospects for Solaris looked like a lipsticked pig, as one recently-fired Oracle executive said of the OS and hardware. Given seven years, pulling Oracle's futures out of HP-UX, OpenVMS and NonStop (via Itanium) will cost HP $4 billion in profits through 2020, according to the HP lawsuit against Oracle.

Seven years ago during that summer, Interex entered its last throes of existence by closing its offices and websites virtually overnight. An organization with three decades of activity and service on the books never created a history of itself. That's an omission that Bill Hassell, the former Interex board member and HP-UX expert, noted for us today. Wikipedia believes the former user group has been only a European-MidEast-African (EMEA) venture.

Looking around the Web one day, I typed in "hp interex" to see what showed up. Wikipedia defines Interex as EMEA-HP. Wow -- 30 years of history undocumented, at least at Wikipedia. Have you got any references and history for Interex? I started attending with the San Jose HP 1000 conference in 1980 or 1981. There’s a lot of misinformation about the beginnings of EMEA.  

I made a comment one time in Wikipedia to clarify a term used in serial port communication, but I got critiqued for not having references ('net or paper) for most of my comment. The HP 3000 and the 1000 seem somewhat well-covered, but the history and legacy of Interex seems lost to the Internet.

Not lost, perhaps. But since there's no Interex archives online, you have to piece together the history of the group from accounts such as ours in the NewsWire -- starting with the '05 meltdown and working backwards. We have stories of the user group on the Internet that date back to 1996. Summertime used to be an important meeting point for your community, thanks to that user group. Its legacy is online, but scattered.

Someone with patience to pursue our archives will find a lot of history across the Internet about Interex. Even farther back in the electronic ether you might locate stories like the one about Hurricane Andrew chasing off much of the Interex '92 attendees in New Orleans -- including CEO Lew Platt. The refugees who held on were treated to a user group party tossed together in the New Orleans Hilton ballroom, where complimentary hurricanes were available for every table of attendee.

Hassell provided the improvised entertainment that I recall, doing a medley of songs to a karoke back-beat, sporting a stunner of an all-white suit. Not only was he the user group's go-to liasion for HP-UX (still being at HP), this volunteer also pitched in during a desperate hour at the year's largest conference. Interex (the show) revenues always paid up the tab for the rest of the user group's operations throughout the year.

That financed things like the Special Interest Groups (SIGs), the area of Interex where the finest advocacy and technical exchange took place at meetings like Interex. In '96 I interviewed Tony Furnivall, who was the then-current chairman of SIG-MPE. The operating system had sprouted its own SIG to put a face on a software environment.

Any group of people who get together with a common interest can legitimately regard that common interest as a special interest, in small letters. So no, I don't think that the presence of SIG-MPE is a sign that MPE needs special advocacy. On the other hand, as the group develops cares and concerns, the SIG becomes a good way of clarifying those issues, and working with HP to resolve them.

Advocacy is an important aspect of the SIG's activities, but it is not the only one! The sharing of information and other experiences is just as important. Human beings are social animals, and it is important not to underestimate the need for simple association with others who share the same interests and problems. Despite the ease with which we can communicate electronically, face-to-face encounters are still important for our human needs.

I like to think that one of the greatest benefits of SIG-MPE involvement is that it humanizes the platform -- we can see the people who create or use the product, and realize that they too are people.

Regional User Groups (RUGs) were more popular with the Interex management and board members, especially leading up to the HP exit announcement from the 3000. This push toward a mirror image of the international group, pared down to regional size, was a step that helped marginalize the user group in my view. People began to embrace ideas and concepts as their common denominator, not the part of a country where they lived. The Internet and the Web changed all that, and while Interex posted a great deal of advice and instruction online, it was wiped out in a single business bankruptcy. We're lucky to have a community left behind like Hassell, who cares and wants to help chronicle the life of Interex.

05:00 PM in History, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink

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