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September 25, 2014

TBT: Early winter's taste visits Interex '94

Uhh-coverIt stunned nearly everybody, but the final day of the annual Interex user conference, 20 years ago this week, did not herald the start of Fall. That season might have filled pages on everybody's calendar, but the skies over Denver were filled with snowflakes on Sept. 21. Thousands of HP 3000 customers had to scurry through soggy streets in a month where leaves were supposed to be falling.

Everything happened at an Interex, eventually. Robelle's Neil Armstrong wrote about it in the What's Up Doc newsletter the vendor produced that year.

Welcome to Winterex 1994.

Once again the weather attempted to upstage various announcements and goings on at the Interex Conference. This year it snowed on the Wednesday afternoon of the Denver conference. The "snow" storm, however, was nothing compared to hurricane Andrew which hit New Orleans during Interex '92.

This year's conference was certainly a hit with a lot of the people I talked to. The last Interex I attended was in Boston in 1990, which became known as the Great Unbundling of TurboImage Debate. Interex '94 was a pleasant contrast with HP's new product announcements, the bundling of ARPA services and a general positive tone regarding the future of the HP 3000. The HP booth was a beehive of activity with Client-Server demonstrations and huge printers on display.

Armstrong went on to say that his favorite view at the show was seeing a camera connected to an HP 9000 workstation, one that delivered a live pictures of people passing by the box. "The fun part was moving from side to side quickly and watching the CPU graph go up," he added.

This was the year when the pushback started to ruffle the Unix juggernaut that had promised open systems for so long. Windows was still a year away from being desktop-useful. But that didn't keep the technical leadership from creating a Unix Hater's Handbook.

While MPE was clicking off its 20th straight year of serving business computing needs, system managers who wanted to find fault with HP's favored OS could buy that above book and feel vindicated.

From a book review by Paul Gobes in Robelle's newsletter, commenting on how an online mailing list's posts were turned into a book.

That list has been cleverly edited into a systematic attack in book form. It is often cruel and sarcastic but it is difficult not to empathize with the frustration that many of the users have endured. Some of the chapter subheadings will give you a good idea where the book is heading.

Unix - The world's first computer virus
Welcome New User! - Like Russian roulette with six bullets loaded 
Documentation? - What documentation?
Snoozenet - I post, therefore I am
Terminal Insanity - Curses! foiled again! 
The X-Windows Disaster - How to make a 50-MIPS workstation run like a PC
csh, pipes, and find - Power tools for power fools 
Security - Oh, I'm sorry, sir, go ahead, I didn't realize you were root 
The File System - Sure it corrupts your files, but look how fast it is!

You can still read MPE managers' favorite book of the fall of '94, online. IDG Books printed copies, and one of the early reviewers of the material returned to it, six years ago, to reconsider the accuracy of the gripes and wisecracks. It was invective, far ahead of its time considering how much we hear today. The book was sold with a Unix Barf Bag.

While the snow fell on Interex, HP was putting TurboIMAGE on ice. David Greer warned customers to get in their request to upgrade from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The latter was new and making its way into "about a twelfth of the customer base at a time."

"Unfortunately, you must ask HP to add IMAGE/SQL to your support contract; it is not the default.  And you only get one chance!  It will be easy to miss out on IMAGE/SQL and all future IMAGE enhancements. The following statement by Jim Sartain, HP SQL Program Manager, appeared on the Internet."

When support contracts are up for renewal, customers are given the option of upgrading from TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL. The product support cost is from $10 to $325 per month depending on the MPE/iX user level and whether the customer is on basic line or response line.

Customers who decline this offer will continue to receive a functionally stable version of TurboIMAGE (no future enhancements). Should the customer want to upgrade to IMAGE/SQL in the future they must purchase the upgrade and pay for IMAGE/SQL support.

"Better warn purchasing today. If you don't ask for IMAGE/SQL now, asking for it later will be expensive."

02:49 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink

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