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December 18, 2017

Reaching for replacement systems is news

IMG_2873Replacing HP's 3000 hardware is a natural occurrence in a homesteader's life. Components and systems built in the middle 1990s wear out after 20 years of use, whether it's frequent or infrequent. I felt the same way when I checked out the stored recordings here in my offices. I've been at conferences and interviews with a recorder since 1996. I used Sony's Minidisc all the way through the middle 2000s. It was better at indexing than cassettes. Finding anything is the real magic trick once the talk or the interview is done.

A homesteader might feel the same way about their applications and data created for MPE/iX. My Minidisc recorder above that failed was built in 2001 and like an HP 3000 of that era, alas, it runs its recordings no more. I could walk away from the Minidiscs — a couple of dozen at 74 minutes each — and assure myself nothing of value would be there.

MZ-R50Homesteaders don't have that luxury because their applications are so much harder to replace. It's easier for them to replace their aged hardware. My replacement Minidisc unit that's on its way was built even earlier than the one that just failed on me. The new-to-me MZ R-50 scheduled to arrive Saturday was first sold in 1997. The one that eBay's delivering might be a little less aged than that. But it's safe to say my replacement system will be 18 years old. It's advertised as still-working. Lots of its brethren are being sold for parts only.

In 1997 Hewlett-Packard was rolling out the Series 997, a high-end server that delivered the best performance numbers MPE/iX could claim by that fall. The Series 997 sold for $327,930 for a single-processor server, including a 100-user license, 512Mb of memory, a console and a UPS. IMAGE/SQL was part of that package, but the real value there is the compatibility with the applications—the equivalent of those talks and interviews.

IMG_2874That 997 server costs as little as $1,200 for a 5-processor unit today. A homesteader will need to arrange an MPE/iX license to step into that replacement hardware. I don't need a license to run those old Minidiscs, but I don't get the same level of hardware discount, either. The $329 R-50 now sells for $71. It will, if it arrives in working shape, run these recorded bits of 3000 history above.

That's 80 percent off for the 1997 Minidisc, and almost 100 percent off for the Series 997-500. The mere availability of 1997 hardware for business or recording is a testament to good design and the willingness to spurn change.

The 997 was sold in the fall of 1997 as network-ready, something not to be taken for granted just three years after the Web emerged. ARPA Services was how HP described the industry-standard networking software. HP changed customers for each new IO slot for the card cage to increase capacity (the $950 part A1828AZ). A DDS-3 DAT tape Autoloader was $7,999.

Today's tape systems that still work for these classic beasts usually sell for under $200. The tape is a moving component, much like the Minidiscs are. Again, that they're sold at all is the miracle of us all staying connected. A simple search for "Series 997 replacement hardware" turns up parts for a Porsche. Adding "HP 3000" to the front of that search points to a web page from Cypress Technology.

In addition to being forced to pay a much greater part of my original Minidisc recorder price, I also don't have the emulation option which MPE/iX apps enjoy. There's no equivalent of the Stromasys Charon HPA virtualized server in the Minidisc world. The Minidisc recorder-players didn't do much calculation, although I could tag and name recordings and jockey through them using a crude thumbwheel input.

By the end of the week I'll see how well an 18-year-old business recorder has survived in the wild. It will do well to perform like an HP 3000 does after two decades. But the hardware vitality is not really news to us, is it? Oh, and the Minidisc media—that's still for sale (new) today.

07:50 PM in Homesteading | Permalink

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