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December 31, 2012

Artisanal Computing: A Future for the 3000

ArtisalPowersYou've probably heard of the artisanal concept. That's a hand-crafted, customized product or service that never intends to compete with commodity options. It's better in ways that only the elite can value. You can buy your cheese from Kraft, or your bicycle from Trek. Or you can get a delicious wheel of Terraluna from the dairy up the road, or ride a hand-tooled bike built in that little shop outside Seattle. This might become the stature for the HP 3000 in the years to follow 2012.

Much of what remains in the homestead community is running custom-crafted code and applications. The pros managing this software and these systems are artisans. These companies are doing business with a computer that's become a re-creation of its original design. HP once stamped out 3000s at factories in Roseville, Calif. and in Boeblingen, Germany. The parts rolled out in an industrial process, and the operating system software was bolted together and tested in corporate labs.

An artisanal offering is an alternative to the processing which is usually viewed as industrial. With no more hardware being stamped out of an assembly line, the 3000 is going artisanal with its emulator -- and the OS is sitting in the cradle of Linux, an open-sourced OS of artisanal heritage. You go old-school with your 3000 computing, using tested and proven technology that is as bedrock as the sourdough bread that's baked with decades-old starters.

Brian Edminster, who's been cultivating a repository of artisanal open source software for the 3000 user, pointed us at a web essay that illustrates how artisanal is more than just a step beyond industrial. It's a step forward into something entering a new stage of life, evolving. "It seems to me," he said, "that the entire post applies just as well to our beloved HP 3000." The essay explains.

Only when a thing is made obsolete can we discover if there was some underlying value — beyond utility — that some people found compelling enough to keep alive or evolve into something new. The horses bred today for “recrea­tion” are dramatically different from the workhorses of the past, but they are still… horses.

While horses don't do the work of transport they once did, there's still a $40 billion a year recreational market in them today, more than a century after they dominated the world's transport. "What else is being made obsolete now," the essayist asked, "that might emerge from the ashes in a new, powerful form?"

Edminster offered this idea on the eve of the 42d year in which the 3000 will perform in some stage of its evolution.

Reflection on past, present, and future, is part and parcel of the end of year holiday season for me. This is an opportunity to reflect on what exactly it was that made the HP 3000, its MPE operating system, and various subsystem software such a great platform -- and what parts of that are worth keeping alive for the future.

Like Edminister, we look forward to the coming years and new stories of artisanal computing, as well as the aspect of the 3000 and its community kept alive by prospects for cloud hosting and virtualization -- all using a classic set of tools in its software. We'll take off the first day of the new 2013 to mark this passage into the 42d year of 3000 computing. I'll see you on Wednesday with more reports from the artisanal era that is emerging. 

06:43 PM in Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink

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