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March 30, 2016

Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch

Wheaties 3000This month marked the 150th anniversary of General Mills, the benevolent cereal giant that started its business just after the Civil War milling flour. The maker of Wheaties, Gold Medal Flour and Play Doh, the company known as the Big G got a rousing eight minutes of celebration on the CBS Morning News this weekend. When the report turned to Wheaties, it triggered a memory of one special era for the HP 3000. MPE/iX once managed a giant boxcar-load of operations for the food company, a firm so large it acquired fellow 3000 customer Pillsbury in a 2000 deal that teamed century-old rivals to make the world's fourth-largest food company.

Powerhouse was an essential part of the Pillsbury legacy, but the reach of the 3000 was even deeper at General Mills. Mark Ranft, who operates the Pro 3K consultancy, said his time at the Big G covered the years when core corporate functions were controlled by a fleet of 3000s.

"I was the system admin for all the HP 3000s at General Mills," Ranft said. "At one time they had 30 systems.They were used for plant, logistics, warehouse management and distribution applications. We had a proprietary network called hyper channel that allowed fast communications between IBM mainframe, Burroughs (Unisys), DEC and the HP 3000 systems."

It was an era where the 3000 community dreamed of earning attention from Hewlett-Packard, as well as enterprises which were considering Unix. The 90s were the period when HP-UX vs. MPE was in full flame inside HP as well as among customers. In 1993 Hewlett-Packard ran an ad in Computerworld and InformationWeek touting the use of the 3000 at General Mills. One of the best pieces of HP advertising about its longest-tenured business system, the ad captured the flavor of the cereal giant.

It also helped us on the way to another anniversary being celebrated this month. Ranft dropped us a congratulations, along with other 3000 lovers, on the 21st anniversary of the first stirrings of the NewsWire. "I am so happy that you have done this for us for all these years," he wrote us. Growing notice of the large customers of the 3000 pushed Abby and I to start a business plan, project revenues, and research readership and sponsors during March, 1995.

General Mills was glad to point the way to lifting the 3000 into a higher rank than Unix. In the period where The Unix Hater's Handbook was making the rounds, IT Manager Mike Meinz booted out HP-UX from General Mills' datacenters after a brief fling. In language of the era, Computerworld said that General Mills "tried Unix, but it did not inhale."

"There is a panacea of thought that you have to have Unix," Meinz said in the article. "You don't have to have Unix."

Cheerio ComputerworldGeneral Mills went so far as to pull an HP 9000 out of the IT lineup and move its warehousing application over to its HP 3000s. The company was just into the process of converting those Classic 3000s to PA-RISC models. The vendor was taking steps to position the 3000 as a less-proprietary choice. "Not only is the HP 3000 open," Meinz said in the ad, "but it's an excellent, easy-to-use transaction-processing system for business-critical operations."

The headline that provided too-rare coverage of the 3000 in Computerworld enjoyed a joke at the expense of Unix. "Cheerio to Unix, cereal giant says," noting that the 9000 was chosen at first because it was the only platform that could host a preferred warehouse system. General Mills bought the source code for the application and did the porting. "What followed became a testimonial to MPE's portability," the article said. Meinz said he had anticipated the porting project would take six months, but it only took two. And much of that time was spent developing enhancements rather than actually porting it."

08:10 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink

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