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October 11, 2017

Keeping Watch On Answers From Support

Hp-01_calculator_gf_set_01Getting answers about how to use interfaces can be troublesome. Graphical interfaces never made it to the native MPE/iX applications unless a third party tool helped out. VPlus wasn't graphical, but ScreenJet made it more like a GUI. Powerhouse and Speedware developed graphical skins for MPE/iX apps written in those fourth generation languages.

Underneath all of that is the common language of the 3000, the commands and their prompts. The computer's user base by now has this command interface drilled into memory. Once in awhile the managers and users on the 3000 mailing list ask for a refresher on how to configure a network or a storage device.

A mailing list like that is one way to approach 3000 support. In this, the 44th year of MPE and 3000 life, you could expect users supporting each other to be a popular choice. There is no guarantee about the accuracy of any support you scrape off an email or a website, unless the information comes at a price. "Information wants to be free" drove the concept of user-swapped support. Support ought to flow freely, but paying for it keeps the resources fresh and responsive.

Apple_watch_series_3The 3000's interface seems like an anachronism here in 2017. You might expect that, but it's something companies must accommodate if a 3000 becomes a foreigner in a datacenter without expertise. The OS can seem as obtuse as anything not well known. New owners of smart watches have a learning curve that can seem as steep as knowing which network services to disable in MPE/iX for the stoutest security. I rode that watch curve today and came away sore. The support saddle provided an experience with Apple that reminded me of Hewlett-Packard's customer situation.

A new Apple Watch comes with an interface no user has experienced before. It has little to do with a smartphone's design and nothing at all related to a laptop. You are either pre-Watch or you're Watch-ready; there's no prerequisite warmup ownership to give you a lift. The Watch Series 3 comes with no on-board help, either. This makes it inferior to the 40-years-older MPE, and also makes the Watch something like a high-concept product from HP's past, the HP-01. That was the personal device which, like many products from the HP Way, was way ahead of its time.

The HP-01 has a legendary slot in HP's history because it was the most consumer-driven product the stodgy HP had ever created by 1977. It came out of the company's calculator group, a unit that had a stellar reputation by 1997. HP's calculators were the ultimate tool of engineers, rivaled only by the TI products. Nobody had the benefit of a touch-sensitive screen 40 years ago. A watch with a stylus as its only pointing device didn't have much chance in the 70s.

Apple's got the benefit of those 40 years of experience in sales to consumers. That does not mean the support for the Watch is much better. Learning from Apple how to use it has devolved to a 30-minute session over a laptop video call. An hour of persistent, patient calling and chats with Apple today yielded only an invitation to a class that "tours" the Watch. If it's a group of 20 customers in that room, there's probably not going to be ample time to learn during the Q&A. This is why customers of the 3000 purchased training, resources that are on a par with paid support contracts.

The Apple Watch experience is new at my house. I feel much like I did when I sat at my first 3000 terminal and tapped out the fundamental commands to configure the system. My experience was limited to experimental work, because I never was paid to manage this system I've written about since 1984. My role was to carry forward and curate training and techniques from 3000 experts.

Those experts are still out there making a living, sometimes by doing a Q&A (that's a support call) with their customers who've forgotten or never learned some aspects of MPE/iX. Just like you can paw through the YouTube videos to learn the Apple WatchOS, the Web delivers 3000 training in antique documents. A 1998 Using HP 3000 MPE/iX Fundamental Skills Tutorial is pretty much the top hit in a Web search of "MPE/iX Training." The tutorial is a useful HP document to prepare a new operator, although it includes 29 pages of EDIT/3000 lessons, which is about 28 pages more than that text editor deserves.

We're only three weeks into our Watch era here at my house. Apple made it easy to desire and to buy, the kind of skills that lifted the company beyond the realm of Hewlett-Packard. I read a recent analyst note that asserted Apple's outrun HP because the former is enjoying a healthy middle age. The Watch was a noted example of the continued pace of advancement. I'd pay for Apple Watch training. Since a 3000 owner doesn't have that training option from the vendor anymore, the support vendors can perform those duties.

When the HP-01 made its swan dive in the market, interface training was part of its failure. Your MPE, which grew robust in the same timeframe, thrived on training. It's a lesson that goes along with any new interface -- or it would if Apple could look over at the legacy of something like the HP 3000, made mighty with on-board help and training from the vendor.

09:01 PM in Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink

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Comments

Paul Edwards & Associates still offer MPE/iX training. See details at www.peassoc.com.

Posted by: Paul Edwards | Oct 13, 2017 10:49:26 AM

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