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December 21, 2012

A Newsworthy Gift That Keeps on Giving

Over the past two weeks, it could seem that we've written about little else than the new HP 3000 emulator. After all, there was the interview (in three parts) with Warren Dawson, who's put the software to work in his company in Australia to replace a Series 9x7 in production duty. There were the early reviews of the first edition of the freeware emulator, conducted by a couple of MPE veterans in Gavin Scott of Allegro and Alan Yeo of ScreenJet.

I believe that those two reviews represent why the emulator is so important to all of the 3000 community. Alan serves migrating HP 3000 sites, both with development services as well as the ScreenJet and TransAction software. Gavin is among the brain trust of experts at Allegro Consultants, which still provides software for MPE/iX servers, plus supports some of the sites which continue to homestead on them.

The emulator is newsworthy, but especially at this moment. It has finally become technology that anyone can afford on a hobbyist, non-commercial basis in a 2-user version. It has also earned its wings in Australia, in Ireland, and even in the US as a choice for replacing HP 3000 hardware. This is more than a proof of concept this month. It arrives in working condition at the end of a fiscal year, one where companies will be planning their 2013-15 strategies for exiting or sustaining MPE.

Even at production-grade pricing points that represent a fresh five-figure expense, this is likely to be a product that pulls revenues into a community that's been hungry for any new sales.

Playmobil_CatalogueI recognize that the adoption of a software virtualized HP 3000 server will be slow at first. But we are in the opening period of this game, and it's one that's being played for the long term. That schedule is emblematic of the emulator business. In 15 years, when MPE/iX will be facing its own Mayan end of days crisis -- and I mean that literally, since the CALENDAR function will need replacing by then -- virtualized HP 3000s might be the only servers running that could use such a replacement. That's a future that will need imagination to keep giving new stories.

But since you're reading this, you already know that we've survived 2012, despite ancient calendar predictions. Starting next week, we'll be looking back over 2012 to recap some stories which had lasting importance to your community. It's easy to put the emulator at the top of the list because of what Yeo told us more than a year ago. He came away from the September 2011 public demonstration of the Stromasys product, and then within a few months predicted the Charon HPA/3000 was going to slow down migrations, even if it didn't get many adoptions during 2012. This, he could see, was a product already infused with the power of potential.

HP delayed the technical exchange of PA-RISC information too long for this emulator to stem the tide of migrations. If an emulator had been available five years ago, a larger percentage of the community would be making plans to continue the purchase of MPE-related products and services. Of course, the 3000 population five years ago was larger in number, too.

Simply put, the emulator itself cannot forestall the end of MPE's days. Not by itself. It needs to feed on open minds and news from the front lines. We need to make room to tell the story of a creation that gives MPE/iX a place to live for decades to come. When someone says, "it seems to fail the first time you start it up," we need to check in with other testers who say, "of course. It doesn't have an HPSUSAN number on that first launch." Both of those reporters concurred, "it runs just fine on the next startup."

By the same token, we also need to keep track of the licensing hoops the emulator must leap through. Customers are going to have do the jumping there, because right now a limited number of software companies are pronouncing the emulator ready to run. However, when a MANMAN-using manufacturer shows up with a virtualized 3000 and wants to continue application support, or a Powerhouse customer like Dawson keeps up with his Quiz license while using the product, you can imagine the potential realized.

There will be other news that will keep on giving in the year to come. But much of it is likely to be related to exiting the 3000 community. That exit isn't really news; it's been in play for most of a decade. The rate of departure has stopped being newsworthy, too; the exits have been in decline for several years.

So I ask you not to mistake the heavy interest here in the emulator as a cheer for the side of homesteading -- even if I did apply that term to the "we're staying" community back in 2001. When old disc drives stop working, or power supplies become dear, or the number of N-Class CPU boards dwindles, there's another way to boot up MPE and keep companies running -- for as many years as they need until their eventual exit. In a way, the emulator makes the owning and relying on MPE/iX a "make your own adventure" kind of gift, one that needs imagination as well as gusto. That means it sounds like a Christmas present to me, and I've always been a real sucker for the holidays.

We're taking a few of those days off next week to celebrate, to finish our Christmas cards, to have Christmas Eve tamales and apple pies, and the Christmas morning pancakes with our grandson Noah after he's unwrapped gifts like a Playmobil figure set from Santa. (I love Playmobil, from my own son's dragon and castle set of the 1990s to those of today; they require imagination to deliver the joy of a toy.) We'll take time to have a big Christmas turkey with old friends -- and maybe even open a present or two for Grandpa Ron and Grandma Abby, two partners in business and love who've received great gifts from our readers, and the sponsors who keep the Newswire thriving and alive.

We'll see you back on December 26 with the first of our roundup reports -- a Newswire tradition we've kept in each holiday-break week for the past six years -- which will include peeks forward at what we expect out of 2013. If you're celebrating anytime this month, happy holidays. May these months of a fresh calendar bring imagination to your IT playrooms.

03:23 PM in Homesteading, Migration | Permalink

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