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October 01, 2015

Throwback: The 3000 World's Forever Era

ForeverIn the final October that HP was building HP 3000s, the community was still mounting a rally point about the system's future. The Fall of 2003 was presenting the fall of HP's manufacture of MPE/iX servers, although plenty of them would be sold and re-sold in the decade to come. In the waning weeks of that October people wore pins that promised MPE Forever and IMAGE Forever, rebellious chants to shout down HP's 3000 forecast.

The pins were prized at that year's HP World conference in Atlanta. The MPE Forever pin had been re-struck the previous year. The IMAGE Forever pin was harder to locate on caps and polo shirts. Early this week, a 3000 developer and consultant offered one on the 3000-L mailing list. Joe Dolliver reported that it went to the highest bidder, Frank Kelly. "Priceless" was how Dolliver valued the metal stamped as a protest.

As 2003's conference swelled up around the community, the people who supported IMAGE as well as the customers who used MPE's keystone reached out to touch each other's faith during uncertain times. The database, after all, was gaining a consolidated code base so advances like LargeFile datasets would work on some of the oldest PA-RISC systems. It was a more stable and efficient way to handle datasets bigger than 4GB. LargeFile datasets could be dynamically expanded. They were locked up, however, in an MPE release the majority of the customers could not use.

HP was still finding its way to the proper pace for migrations. Some of HP's missing steps were trying the skip the last stands its customers were making on hardware already a decade old.

Adager’s Alfredo Rego chaired the SIG-IMAGE meeting in Atlanta. When Rego proposed LargeFile datasets be delivered for the widely-installed 6.5 and 7.0 MPE/iX releases, HP had a rapid delivery date in reply. “They will be,” said HP’s Jeff Vance. A PowerPatch for 6.5 and 7.0 was ready by the end of the year. It brought LargeFile capability to the majority of 3000 customers.

“This will help a tremendous number of people who are still running on Series 9x7s,” Rego said at the meeting. “There are still many people running on those HP 3000s.”

But the Forever sentiment was not uniform that year, even from the most staunch supporters of MPE. Paul Edwards, a former Interex board director and a director for the then-emerging OpenMPE, believed that year’s HP World would represent the last major gathering of the MPE community at a conference.

“Homesteaders feel like they don’t need to spend money to go to a conference to learn anything more,” Edwards said. “I think we’re going to lose a lot of the core group of volunteers. The 3000 vendors are either not going, or cutting way back.” About 170 companies were booked for the expo floor. Two dozen firms had some HP 3000 product or service to offer other than migration expertise — although a few of those were authorized resellers, whose 3000 business expired on Oct. 31.

Consolidating that IMAGE code was an important concession to a classic use of 3000s. Decade-old systems were receiving data from the newest A-Class and N-Class servers. But the datasets created in new releases of MPE/iX wouldn’t work when restored on systems with older versions of MPE/iX and IMAGE. HP had to deliver TurboIMAGE C.10.05 to three in-production releases. It was an era when HP was supporting the 6.5, 7.0 and 7.5 versions of MPE/iX. Migrations were more of a concept than being active projects. 2003 was the first budget year for migration spending, since the HP pullout was announced so late in 2001 few had earmarked 2002 expenditures.

The pins were shining after HP explained about why its 3000 assembly lines would be cut down by October of 2003. The vendor talked about an ecosystem going dead, and then how customers didn’t want to get caught when their computers couldn’t serve business needs anymore. The Forever pins were the last of the user revolt's iron as surely as that October's HP-badged 3000s in Roseville, Calif. were the final builds of a 30-year-old line. It would take another nine years to get a fresh piece of MPE/iX metal into the world: The Stromasys-Charon virtualized 3000, riding Intel iron, got ready to carry MPE further into the promise of Forever.

08:12 PM in History | Permalink

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