March 13, 2017

3000 friends: Meet in the Valley, or seaside?

Dream InnAn HP 3000 user group meeting has become so rare by 2017 as to be legend. After Interex closed up shop suddenly in 2005, Alan Yeo organized a late-binding gathering in 2005, then another in 2007 and another in 2009, all in Silicon Valley. By 2011, Yeo was working along with me and Marxmeier Software's Michael Marxmeier to put on the HP3000 Reunion at the Computer History Museum. The Reunion provided the debut spot for the only HP 3000 emulator, the Charon HPA from Stromasys.

Then the meetings began to evolve to reconnect us without needing a formal program. The most enjoyable part of the formal meets, after all, was the SIG-BAR gatherings in the hotel lounges. Gossip and speculation were always a key part of SIG-BAR. Lately the meetings have moved exclusively to this Special Interest Group. Last year there was a lunch meeting at the Duke of Edinburgh pub, set up by Birket Foster.

There's something about these leaders that can rouse people to return. The Bay Area in summertime has drawn a rich collective of 3000 veterans and experts. In 2008 the Computer History Museum hosted a seminar on 3000 software history. Another fellow with user group meeting experience is leading this year's charge to the Valley.

Dave Wiseman notified us about a 2017 gathering he's setting up for the Bay Area.

So we used to all be good friends in the community and its about time we met up again for a beer or three. We had a couple of very pleasant meetings in the UK and I am in California early June so I thought that I might organize one in the valley around June 5/6/7th. I am happy to organize a meeting while I'm in San Francisco. Could you tell me if you would be interested in coming? We’d love to see all of our old friends again

Dates: Any preference for Monday June 5th, or Tuesday June 6th?
Location: San Francisco/ SFO airport hotel/ Cupertino, or Santa Cruz (I’d see if we could book the Dream Inn for a Santa Cruz location)
Time: Lunch, afternoon or evening

Please email me, davebwiseman@googlemail.com, so we can see if there are enough people interested to make it worth everyone's while.

I'd put a vote up for the Dream Inn (above, seaside) since it was a stop on my cross-California 20th wedding anniversary trip with Abby. They're even got a Dream Floor at the top.

Stan Sieler has already said he's available for the meeting, even before it's got a firm date and time and location. Stan has to make room for a magic class he teaches on Monday nights. With enough interest, users could make a meeting appear this summer.

Unlike the full-on group meetings of old, today's gatherings feature no Powerpoint slides and plenty of memories—plus updates on what everyone is doing these days that's different.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:18 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 01, 2017

Wayback Wed: Customers' Proposition 3000

Computerworld April 22


During the month of March 21 years ago, the 3000 community tried to raise a ruckus. The object of Proposition 3000 was to prod HP into making the 3000 a full citizen of the future of business computing. After only a couple of years of introduction, the new processor HP was developing with Intel looked like it would pass by the world of MPE/iX. HP and Intel dubbed the IA-64 technology the future of computing. HP had backed away from plans to make the 3000's OS run on the new chip it was calling "Tahoe."

"The company appears to be making a fundamental but flawed assumption that MPE migrations will be channeled directly into HP-UX or NT-on-HP hardware." This was enough of a crisis that application vendors were standing up at an Interex Programmer's Forum to report HP asked them to rewrite their apps for HP-UX. We launched the NewsWire with a fanfare of it promoting the HP 3000 Renaissance. Not so fast, HP's top management was saying. We set down the challenge to HP and its customers in our FlashPaper (which you can read here to recall the outrage of the moment.) In this era, NT was the name of what would become Windows Server.

Customers want these systems, and vendors believe in their superiority. But those kinds of business blessings apparently clash with HP's profit motives; that's the only reason we can fathom for threatening to force an entire installed base to migrate to HP-UX or NT. You can decide for yourself how that kind of a productivity hit will impact your company's profits.

FlashPaper headline Mar 1996This was the canary in the mine shaft, the HP debate about whether to include MPE/iX in the future of business computing systems. In 1996 the IT world was allowing HP and Intel to call Tahoe the future, because the joint project was only a couple of years old. Tahoe had not yet become Merced, and then Itanium, all the while slipping release dates and getting lapped Intel's own by x86 generation enhancements. In 1996 the future looked to be slipping away. The most alarming development was HP asking vendors to rewrite for Unix. Soon enough, a few of them did, most notably the software company that put the 3000 into the world of the Web: Ecometry.

At the meeting we learned the problem wasn't really profit at HP. At the time of the Proposition, HP was earning $600 million a year in profit on sales of $1.2 billion. The 3000 division needed more engineering hands to move MPE/iX forward, resources the company would not provide.

The protest was staged at a Bay Area Interex meeting, a setting similar to the ruckus 3000 users raised in Boston at an Interex show six years earlier. But IPROF was not the annual show attended by thousands. The Proposition 3000 name and the movement were so-named because it was the new era of California's state propositions. HP's Tony Engberg replied that he would work to get the 3000 advocates an audience with top HP officials. The hearing felt desperately needed after Ecometry's Alan Gardner laid out the future HP presented him.

“I’ve got two visions of the HP 3000,” Gardner said. “One’s a nightmare, and the other is a fantasy. The nightmare is that the 3000 is going away, while the fantasy is that HP will begin to promote the HP 3000 as the operating system choice of the world."

The March movement arose in the face of HP's slow pace of advancing the 3000. At the time the servers were on an older release of the PA-RISC designs HP first rolled out in the late 1980s. The HP 9000 was farther ahead. 3000 General Manager Harry Sterling, still new to his job, explained that rolling forward MPE/iX was taking longer than expected.

“We do not have a firm commitment yet that we can talk about in terms of an implementation on the new [Tahoe] architecture,” Sterling said. “Last year I was hoping we would, but our roll-forward has become even more complex than it was at that time. We have the current focus of getting to the PA-8000. The next thing after that is what we might do to take advantage of 64-bit architecture on that chip. Beyond that would be the use of the new Intel architecture.”

The next year HP assured 3000 customers that the architecture, being called IA-64, was on the 3000's distant horizon. Computer Systems chief Dick Watts, computer chief Rick Belluzzo and CEO Lew Platt moved out of HP's computer orbit within a few years. The items within the Proposition became a list of desires HP would not fulfill.

  • 64-bit chip commitment for the HP 3000. We heard last night they would look into it,” Kell said. “Last year we heard that they would do it.”
  • Available platforms for MPE. “One new precedent that was somewhat disturbing was when the D-class servers were introduced, they said MPE wouldn’t available for it. This is the first time a PA-RISC platform has not been available across both systems.”
  • Lead time on critical products for MPE/iX. “We’re still waiting on 32-bit ODBC drivers, and we’ve waited a long time for telnet server. DCE is still in an intermediate stage, but largely it’s still lagging behind.”
  • MPE and HP-UX cooperation. “It’s what we’re really missing. They co-exist; that was the buzzword a couple of years ago. Dogs and cats can co-exist given enough management supervision, but they won’t necessarily co-operate.”
  • Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both servers with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX “as trivial as any other Unix platform.”
  •  Stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, “and not its weaknesses. We don’t have to be told anymore what the 3000 can’t do, because a lot of the things we were told it can’t do it now can.

HP plans of 1997 had to be reset by a Hewlett-Packard that was acquiring Digital during 2001. Product overlap meant the larger of the two systems — VMS instead of MPE/iX — would get its road cleared to Itanium. Things had changed enough in HP's management to make the displeasure of vendors and programmers a lesser concern than product consolidation needs. Computerworld's Jai Vijayan called the Proposition "rumbling in the ranks of the old faithful." The majority of the customers didn't want to look at a proposition of no 3000s in HP's future.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 02:15 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 22, 2017

Simulator knows what day it is, or was

Feb22The SIMH project has created a software release that mimics the HP 3000 Classic CISC hardware. The software makes it possible to emulate HP 3000 servers that go back to the 1970s—the same systems HP mothballed in the middle 1980s even before the PA-RISC products of the past two decades.

So while SIMH won't give anyone an emulated HP 3000 that can run MPE/iX, the package somehow seems to know its way around the calendar. Even after MPE V has long since gone obsolete, the SIMH combo using MPE V from trailing-edge.com adjusts the year to match the current layout. As it turns out, the year 1989 has the same days of the week falling on the same calendar dates as 2017. It offers some hope of getting MPE/iX rewired so its CALENDAR intrinsic works beyond the end of 2027.

An emulator that virtualizes the ultimate generation HP 3000s is the domain of Stromays Charon HPA. SIMH is more of a hobbyist's dreamland, or as one serious veteran called it, "my version of toy trains."

Glen Cole fired up SIMH and reported that "the only user input below was 'hp3000 mpe-auto' ... Neat how it auto-magically knew that 1989 had the same calendar layout as 2017." He did a SHOWTIME to verify the date.

$ hp3000 mpe-auto

HP 3000 simulator V4.0-0 Beta        git commit id: f9cfae0c
Logging to file "mpe-auto.log"
Listening on port 1054
LP: creating new file

Cold load complete, P: 177664 (PSHR Q)
Press <CR> to start MPE.

HP32002E.01.00
WHICH OPTION <WARMSTART/COOLSTART>? COOLSTART
ANY CHANGES? NO

DATE (M/D/Y)?02/20/89
TIME (H:M)?22:35
MON, FEB 20, 1989, 10:35 PM? (Y/N)Y
LOG FILE NUMBER 5 ON
*WELCOME*
:HELLO OPERATOR.SYS;HIPRI

Another longtime 3000 pro, Gavin Scott, summed up how to get these 30-year-old instances of HP 3000s up and running.

I just successfully created a database and an associated Basic/V program with SIMH/HP3000. If you want to play with your own
Series III get the SIMH 4.0 beta and the MPE V/R software kit.

Extract the MPE V/R zip file into a directory along with the HP3000.exe out of the beta, then drag mpe-auto.sim onto HP3000.

COBOL, COBOLII, BASIC, RPG, SPL, FORTRAN are included along with FOS. You can have Reflection connect via telnet on port 1054 to get an actual HP terminal session going that can run FORMSPEC etc.

 

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:48 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 15, 2017

Wayback Wed: An Emulator's Partners Enter

Javelin-004Four years ago this month, the software that will continue to propel MPE/iX into the next decade earned its first partner. The support for the Stromasys Charon emulator first showed up from Minisoft, the vendor who announced an iPad-ready version of Javelin when Apple's tablet empire was new. Charon got a version of Javelin while the Stromasys product was just making its way into production status.

The promise of an emulator slowed down migrations in 2012. Freeware was showing up during that year that was tuned to Charon's HPA model. Keven Miller created a free utility to transfer Store to Disk files to the virtualized 3000 in the HPA. Minisoft broke the commercial software company ice with a product license created especially for the emulator. For $49, managers could now buy a Javelin to work inside the freeware version's 1-2 user license.

It was a small and initial development to show a marketplace was emerging for the sustaining aspect of the 3000. Freeware Charon (the A-202) was replaced by professional installation and proof of concept within a year. That change elevated the success rate for deployments. Software licensing became the only serious issue to resolve for a Charon site. For nearly all vendors, even though they didn't rework software itself, the licensing became an easy transfer. Software from one 4GL vendor remains an exception, but that company has vexed 3000 sites throughout three different ownerships.

For decades now, Minisoft has been selling a terminal emulator as well as ODBC middleware to link 3000 databases. Years ago, the MS92 terminal emulator became Javelin, rewritten to use Java. Javelin got its Charon groove on in 2013.

"We have a special Javelin 2-user HP700/92 Terminal Emulator that is customized to work with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator," said the company's Danny Greenup. A press release announced the first license to be crafted for an emulator since's HP announced its MPE/iX licensing strategy for the likes of Charon in 2004.

Minisoft has enhanced its Javelin HP700/92 Terminal Emulator to work in concert with the Stromasys CHARON MPE Emulator by adding support for raw connections to the TELNET type and support for SSH tunneling. With the communications set to TELNET(raw)+SSH, the console ports are accessible from outside the Fedora (Linux) system to a user with SSH logon privileges.

The cost of this special 2-user version of Javelin is $49. In addition to HP 700/92 terminal emulation, Javelin support access to legacy host computers requiring IBM 3270, IBM 5250, and DIGITAL VT320/420 terminal emulation. All Minisoft Terminal Emulators include scripting, SSH/SSL connectivity and network file transfer.

As of this year, we've seen 15 years of migration and decommissioning 3000s, all of them projects that sparked engines of IT spending and vendor revenues. Some sparks have been as small as $49. It's been an amazing example of dexterity, faith, and hope as your community has pivoted its business and operational practices. 2013 was not the first year companies sold software and services to spark a model of 3000 sustenance. But four years ago, one vendor saw that emulation was going to provide growth in the 3000's ecosystem, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:30 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 01, 2017

Wayback Wednesday: The 3000's e-Moment

SnowWithBezelIn the waning days before the Year 2000, the HP 3000 was running behind popular labels. The position was nothing new to the server and its fans. Hardly anyone outside of the MPE community knew about the computer and its legacy across the final 25 years of the 20th Century. For many years it didn't matter that the computer ran in the shadows of IBM big iron, Unix dot-com servers, and Windows PCs. The 3000 performed without problems and delivered impressive returns on investments in the HP iron.

But as far as the world outside the community could tell, the HP 3000 had little to do with the Internet. Once Y2K's survival mission was in the industry's rear-view mirror, HP decided to do something about the shadows around MPE/iX. In the prior decade MPE became MPE/iX to show the world the 3000 knew a bit about Unix. In February of 2000 HP rebranded the computer as the HPe3000, dropping that lowercase vowel in the middle of a name that hadn't changed in 27 years.

E3000Label-0002A vowel is an easy thing to add to a product. The Internet, not so. Engineers across the community, eventually those inside HP, worked between 1996 and 1999 to bolt on elements like a Web server, DNS software, Unix mainstays like bind, and more. The server was already working on the Web in spots like the e-commerce shops of Hickory Farms and Brookstone retailers. Despite the larger profile of well-known customers like M&M Mars, using the 3000 on the Internet was a secret weapon.

A new name was proposed to change that. HP Product Planning Manager for 3000s Doug Snow brought the idea to division GM Harry Sterling in 1999. By early the next year the entire server lineup had been re-branded. The new server bezels, both those for the standard cabinets as well as racked 3000s, wore a new badge. The name change story extended to our offices as well. The publisher of the NewsWire became known by a new name. Dottie Lentz became Abby Lentz to the world after I spread the news about a name as nascent as the 3000's Internet abilities.

Our publisher's name in every issue since 1995 had been Dottie Lentz. She'd earned her stripes in publishing since 1982 using that first name and never gave a thought to any other. She'd been Dottie since 1948. During those years while the 3000 was earning its Internet abilities, though, she gathered a new name. In her circles at yoga retreats she called herself Abby. She played the lead in a high school play using the name. My yoga name, she called it. I took that name change, and in an editorial alongside the news of e3000, compared hers to HP's re-naming.

Change can be a good magnet for attention, especially changing something as fundamental as a name. While watching the HP 3000 division change the name of its product, I thought of my wife and partner in the NewsWire. To the many people in the 3000 market — er, I mean the e3000 market — she’s known as Dottie Lentz. But some people know her by a different first name, one that represents new ideals and ideas.

The women in my wife’s yoga and healing community know her as Abby, a name she’s long admired. Sometime last year she decided she’d like people who know her in these personal realms to call her by this new name. She didn’t go to the courthouse and have a judge attest to her new name. She simply began to wrap it around her like so much new attire, a glad-rag that represents the changes she intends to make in her life, her heart, and her soul.

For her oldest friends, the change has been a struggle at times. This week one of them introduced her by her new first name. A few minutes later in the meeting he called her Dottie. And while my wife had brought business cards to the meeting with her old name, she had to explain why she was being called by the new one as well.

The lesson seems to be that a name change can draw attention, not only to who you are, but to who you want to become. When Dottie—er, Abby—explains her new name, she talks about goals of fitness, harmony, and creativity. Changing your name can be a sign of commitment to a new future. I expect that the 3000 division will be doing that same kind of explaining this year, especially to its oldest friends.

The complications that rose up for Abby were nothing like the 3000's Internet growing pains. Advertisers called her in those days, and after reading her re-naming story they wanted to call her by her nouveau name. Just like Snow and those who loved the 3000 wanted to call the server the e3000, she answered the phone by one name and left the calls using Abby.

That's where the stories begin to diverge. HPe3000 was the last effort to put the 3000 in a new orbit. Abby was just the beginning of my Dottie's ascent.

The HPe3000 arrived with a lineup of servers that was already running with 12-year-old base technology. The new speed champ was a Series 997 10-CPU system selling for $311,000 without discs and tape backup. One year later the ultimate-generation 3000s, using a new PCI system bus, finally gave the servers a un-numbered name. A 3000 was an A-Class or an N-Class by 2001, but on the day the e3000 made its debut, every model had at least four digits in its name.

AbbyLentz_YogaPose_300dpiAbby Lentz used her name to become a yoga pioneer, if you can forgive the viewpoint of her biggest fan. Search Google for Abby Lentz and she hogs the first three pages of Google results, right down to a credit in TV Guide. She named her concept HeavyWeight Yoga, because it was most of a decade before body-positive and curvy this-or-that became yoga brands.

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 6.16.46 PMDottie Lentzes are out there as well, but those Dotties don't have three DVDs produced, TV and radio and newspaper and magazine credits. Abby's a person who led overweight and obese people to yoga long before the practice was as cool as it is today.

In contrast, HP's 3000 marketing manager Christine Martino said the re-naming of the 3000 was meant to make the server less boring. Not exactly pioneer stuff, that strategy.

Martino said HP’s objective in renaming the system is “to really help people take notice of the 3000 again.” New print advertising including the new brand is being scheduled for what HP calls its “solution-based” publications, those focusing on vertical markets such as healthcare and e-commerce. The installed base will get a mailing of a special coupon book containing discounts from software partners related to the e3000’s launch. And HP came to its press briefing with new data on penetration in credit union and 911 dispatch industries which show the e3000 as a leader.

“We’re not making it a key player in the Internet space; our customers and partners are doing it already,” Martino said. “It’s all of the boring stuff behind the dot-com stuff that’s necessary to have a viable solution."

It's tempting to say that one re-name was part of a launch that's still in orbit; Abby's yoga videos are streamed via Vimeo today as well as shipped from Amazon by the thousands each year. The HPe3000 iron is shipped from one customer to another today, or via brokers, in numbers nobody can track in total. The server isn't often connected to the Internet, although from time to time we see customers who use the DNS naming and IP address improvements to better network the computer. A few customers call it e3000.

The changes HP made in its 3000 software for its e-branding have been vital in keeping the server useful for homesteaders. While the HP iron has a few advantages in those ultimate models, Intel-based virtual servers running Stromasys Charon have the edge in futures. Nobody will ever stamp out another PA-RISC chip. Boxes like ProLiant servers and ever faster iron will continue to use Charon to lift MPE/iX performance beyond HP's 2003 levels.

Could the 3000 have survived this long without its e-features? The installed base had more success with that e than HP did. Less than two years after the e-rollout, Martino was pivoting on HP's message to explain that Hewlett-Packard judged the HPe3000 had a fatally flawed ecosystem. The new vowel didn't impress enough new customers to suit HP's accountants. For the springtime that led off the 3000's fourth decade, though, it appeared that naming something old with a trending letter could help the 3000 stretch and breathe—those yoga keystones—toward a future as laudable as its past.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:56 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 09, 2017

3000 experience floats up to the Fed

FedRichmondReid Baxter started his work in the HP 3000 world in 1981. This year he's helping to support the IT at the US Federal Reserve in Richmond, VA. There is no direct line between these two postings. Baxter has made the most of his career that started with MPE and terminals to lead to his current post where he helps maintain computers that serve the US banking bedrock, The Fed.

Baxter, one of the earliest 3000 Newswire subscribers, checked in this week to congratulate us on another anniversary as we crossed into the 22d calendar year of publishing. It's been quite a while, as Baxter says, since an HP 3000 was in his life: seven years ago he transitioned off everyday 3000 duty when his employer JP Morgan-Chase closed down its MPE/iX servers.

Baxter went into support of the 3000's successor at Chase, HP-UX, and then onward into Linux. When your skillset goes as far back as HP's Data Terminal Division, a new environment presents more opportunity than challenge. The 3000 once had a place in banking IT, which is why Chase once deployed the ABLE software suite from CASE for asset management.

After Chase did a downsize in 2015, Baxter went on a lengthy quest to land a new spot in finance computing. He's working today for HP Enterprise Services, by way of the Insight Global staffing enterprise. His mission is support of that Fed IT center, work that he can do remotely. One reason for that telecommute is that banking has often needed remote computing. Banking software on the 3000 once drove the adoption of Internet services on the business server, after all.

When the 3000 division at HP had to pick up the pieces of a failed Internet partner Open Market, Inc. 20 years ago, Chase and CASE were reasons to keep the MPE/iX Internet project on target. 3000 sites needed a commercially-supported Web server during that era when open source freeware powered many Web servers.

Customers using HP 3000s in commerce need a secure Web server, according to senior software specialist Rick Gilligan of Computer and Software Enterprises (CASE). The California firm is installing new HP 3000s as part of its business, which includes banks that are among the five biggest in the US. CASE's reference customers include companies like NationsBank and Chase Manhattan.

CASE will soon be offering its HP 3000 clients Internet access within CASE applications, so bank customers will be able to see loan data. Gilligan, who chaired its most recent meeting of the SIGWEB Special Interest group and  said a secure Web server native to the HP 3000 makes a lot more sense than using another Web host.

"My clients don't want another box that they have to maintain and get approval for in their company," Gilligan said. "Banks aren't looking for any more boxes or any more bodies when all they want is a Web server. A Web server is a very small part of all the things the 3000 is doing for them, and a Web server on that 3000 certainly makes more sense than putting it on another box."

That server software in 1997 was going to be the Open Market product chosen by HP, but the Web company closed down web server business once Apache and Microsoft's servers rose up. HP bundled the OMI product into the fundamental operating system, only to give it a sudden end of life date months later. Vendors like CASE, and their clients like Chase, looked at a period when Apache running on the 3000 had no support from HP. Some used it anyway and waited for HP to catch up and offer Apache/iX.

Now Baxter is making the best use of his career that started at DTD in 1981, onward to the DeskManager group at the UK's Personal Office Computer Division — another place where connectivity drove the advance of the 3000 using HP's business email suite.  

By the time HP was announcing the end of its 3000 business, Baxter moved on "to Bloomington Illinois, contracting through Radiant Systems working for 13 months for HP's Business Continuity Support Hardware 'Hands On' team at State Farm corporate—incidentally, the largest HP 3000 shop in the world."

Changes in the fortunes of the HP 3000 have been easy to spot. It's always a pleasure to discover the continued careers of people like Baxter who help mold your server into a linked business tool. Such experience in IT continues to be a trading option for supporting the newest enterprise solutions. You can think of those many years of working savvy as the common coin in a career, whether in finance or elsewhere.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:59 AM in History, Migration, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2016

The True Meaning of A 3000 Christmas

Charlie and LinusCharlie Brown shouts to the stars in the 1966 TV classic, "Isn't there anybody here who knows the true meaning of Christmas?" Linus leads him to the story that started the season which we're now ending. I like to think of that character's voice delivering an answer to the question, "Doesn't anybody remember the true meaning of MPE/iX?" Linus might say, "Its value, Charlie Brown, and its promises kept."

Like the commercial holiday that Charlie despised, there was always the phrase "you could just tell them to migrate" while discussing what HP's 3000 iron cannot do.

Feelings can affect choices and confirm faith. There was a design to extend the 3000's memory from 8GB to 32. But HP explained it couldn't justify doing that kind of work any longer. Adding "So migrate" might have sent people looking for systems with better memory, like a Christmas tree all shiny and new.

There are people who have known MPE/iX just as long as HP's lab experts, and some more deeply. A team of third party experts wrote the book Beyond RISC. HP bought thousands of copies. These two sides, first inside HP and now out in the expert community have wooed and rued that MPE gal, all while she has gained weight (years) and lost her tone (customers, demanding updates) and shown more grey (elderly versions of Ethernet, SCSI, all the tendrils of open source).

Yes, they've both had a relationship with her, but the outside experts still love her. HP's experts took her out, bought her dinner, even gave some gifts to show they knew her. The true meaning of MPE/iX and protecting a promise now resides in the wise Linus of our world, the independent software and support providers.

"I don't know what you see in MPE," HP experts wrote while drifting beyond technical theory. "Why not just leave her at home to watch old movies? She's happy enough there. And there's younger people you could take out. They even know music written after 1992!"

"They do, those new ones," I hear an indie expert saying. "But MPE knows more song lyrics than those new women will ever learn. Remember when lyrics mattered to make a song a classic? Poetry, that stuff. Plus, I still see her beauty. It was striking when she was younger. Fellas swooned over her—even the big guys who pass her by now."

"You could do better."

"Maybe so. But what about my commitment to her. What's that worth?"

"Lock yourself in with her, if you want," HP said. "I just wish people would stop hitting her website. I gotta maintain that place, you know. It doesn't feel like anybody appreciates that work that I do — or what I've done for years, really." And with enough time, even that web information became invisible. Third parties reposted it. To think that the documentation was once licensed by HP— it is as surprising as seeing that Christmas tree come to life in Charlie Brown's world.

"You could do more," your indie experts said to the vendor. "She deserves it."

"If my parents would let me, I could," HP said. "But they tell me that I should be with a younger partner, one who can give them more grandchildren, not a load of medical bills and health issues. Shin splints, geez. Next it'll be something else. It always is with the older ones."

Feelings are not facts, but they just lead to thoughts, and those led to actions. MPE/iX isn't a tool that's worn out, not any more than the words of Christmas carols are empty of faith. Words matter. Enjoy your loved ones during the holiday break — whoever they are, and whatever they have been or can become again.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:18 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 21, 2016

Wayback Wed: A Dark Day for Emulation

LasthopeThe future looked dim for hosting MPE/iX on virtual hardware in December of 2009. Your market had little news about the forthcoming Charon HPA 3000 emulator. That software was only in alpha testing. This was the month that Strobe Data announced it was curtailing development of its 3000 emulator. Your community headed into 2010 with the hope of a Stromasys success and HP's promise to announce the new independent holders of MPE/iX source licenses.

Licensing source for an OS that only runs on aging HP hardware has value, indeed. Support customers benefit from outside licenses. It's well worth asking if your support vendor has such a license. But as a model to extend the lifespan of MPE/iX in production, source won't do the work that an emulator does: create new boxes.

Strobe hoped to do that using new hardware. The company started as a venture to emulate Digital computers as well as the HP 1000 real time machines. Many roadblocks stood in the way of a successful 3000 emulator launch in 2009. Strobe's founder Willard West intended to sweep away some obstacles by obtaining new PA-RISC processors. The chips were to be integrated on cards that would go into high-end Windows servers.

But development takes money. The resources for non-Digital development at Strobe did not materialize. It would take two more years for the ultimate winner in 3000 emulation, Stromasys, to bring out a product that needed no special HP hardware—just a special OS to run, MPE/iX.

An economic lull at the end of 2009--HP was reporting declines in all of its businesses except services --set the 3000/PA-RISC emulation work onto Strobe's back burner. The rate of hardware aging made a profound difference to Strobe, a small concern compared to Stromasys.

"We are just trying to survive the lull in government orders right now," the company's Alan Tibbetts said during the dark of that December. "The trouble is that the sales of our [Digital] PDP-11 line are down. The PDP-11s became unreliable more quickly and we have sold a bunch of them in the past, but the easy ones have already been captured." The month was a moment like the epic one in The Empire Strikes Back. Yoda watches Luke fly off Degobah, his training unfinished. "That boy was our last hope," he said. "Now matters are worse."

"No," Obi Wan replies. "There is another."

Stromasys announced in the summer of 2009 it was putting its PA-RISC emulation solution into alpha testing in the fall. We reported the Stromasys product "won't rely on hardware components, going to an all-software solution that provides cross-platform virtualization. The emulator will permit MPE/iX to boot up and run on Intel's Xeon-x86 processor family as well as AMD's PC chips." A stalled IT economy looked like it just claimed the leader in emulator work.

Tibbetts said that Strobe has leaned itself up in order to weather the lull and it continues to meet with customers to secure new emulator sales in the 1000 and PDP markets. He added that he's traveling to New York State this week to install an emulation product at BAE Systems, which is testing US military jet engines using 1985-era minicomputers.

The sidetracking of emulator work at Strobe can be viewed in more than one perspective. HP 3000 community members have long wondered if competing emulator solutions could survive in the MPE/iX marketplace. The market has a strong inventory of used hardware, much of which could be considered an upgrade for owners of older 3000s. Companies have already left the market who might have been emulator customers—had HP made technology licensing available sooner to the vendors' R&D teams.

Stromasys bridged that gap, finding new 3000 clients from companies who were not on obvious maps. Two years later the first steps of a public Charon showing appeared on the trail. Watching an emulation company run short of funding didn't spook Stromasys—it also had Digital emulation customers. It had a different concept, through, as well as a broader set of resources to make the design a reality.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:35 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 14, 2016

HP: Still a font of talent after all these years

It's Wayback Wednesday, but the 3000's history recall has fresh entries from the current day. A lot of HP 3000 sites turned away from Hewlett-Packard's offerings over the last 15 years. But more than a few have not, even after three CEO ousters and a split up of the company into consumer and enterprise parts. There's still something in the split-off parts to admire. A new book chronicles lasting HP lessons to the industry players who are lapping HP today.

HewlettandPackardAmong the former: thousands of HP employees who've spent decades serving the HP customer. From engineering desk to conference presentation room, too many people to count or name have lifted the level of service. We heard from one today, Guy Paul, who once managed HP 3000s for the vendor and now is working on network storage for HP Enterprise. When asked what's remained stellar about the company where he's worked for 32 years, Paul pointed at people.

"The only thing that has remained that is good is the dedicated hard-working people I have had the pleasure to work with and learn from all these years," he said. He was compelled to add that many are leaving after the HP split up "and a merger all happening within one year." It's always been true that HP's loss of superior people is the industry's gain. So much of the 3000 independent enterprise earned its stripes by way of direct work with HP, too.

Some of that bounty has been released this week. A new management book might be cause for little celebration, but take a closer look at the new Becoming Hewlett-Packard. It was co-authored by a former top HP executive, Webb McKinney. He was interviewed eight years ago at the Minicomputer Software Symposium at the Computer History Museum. More than 20 of us were contributing 3000 stories at the Symposium, but the oral history McKinney gave at the Museum was even better. Best practices for the industry haven't changed that much since then. The HP book even makes a case for why the practices that have changed ought to change back. We're talking the HP Way here—although the book makes it clear that donuts are not a pillar of the Way.

In a great book review and summary at the MIT Technology Review, the HP Way is among four lessons Hewlett-Packard's departed leaders still offer for top movers of our current day.

Make sure “culture” is about values, not practices. HP’s founders created what became known as the HP Way in several ways. Examples include insisting that the company enter markets only where it could make a meaningful contribution of valuable technology; asking employees to take pay cuts in tough times to avoid layoffs; and fostering understanding and collaboration between all corners of the company. “Management by walking around,” they called it.

But as the years passed, many employees came to equate the HP Way with particular traditions, such as the daily doughnut breaks meant to encourage conversation, or the right of top performers to earn full product-and-loss authority over their own product groups. That last one became a huge problem for [former CEO] John Young, because building computer platforms requires development of hardware, software, and other technologies that are all interdependent.

The future leaders of today’s tech giants should be prepared for similar grumbling if they have gotten too many employees accustomed to such perks as on-site massages, laundry service, and climbing walls. Dropbox said in a filing this year that it spent $25,000 in perks on every employee.

McKinney took note of the software-hardware interdependence of the mid-1980s Hewlett-Packard. His story about the era when the 3000 was growing fastest includes references to the HP 150, PC software created to enhance the value of such hardware, and a multi-division company that was ready to roll out something way ahead of its time called NewWave for PCs.

He praised HP in that oral history interview and can help us see how people like Guy Paul were attracted to—and stayed with—the HP that was built upon the Way.

When HP got in the minicomputer business...there was the HP 1000 and the HP 9000 and the HP 3000 and the HP 250 and then it kind of got all sorted out and they said, “Oh, we need [to have] one architecture and we need to be able to market [a product line].” One of the interesting parts about HP is it's just a very creative place and somehow it gets rationalized in time and [inter-divisional] doesn't become a general problem.

The part of HP that was split off, PCs, took its first steps in HP as a product to sell to 3000 customers. McKinney explained that 3000 begat PCs at HP.

In the beginning of this period there was still a hope that we could build a proprietary architecture [PC] product. Now obviously, how you sell it was one of the issues. Well I think in the beginning the [market for our PC] was major accounts who were buying the HP 3000. This is a little bit like the saying: “when the only tool that you have is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail.”

The 3000 was that hammer in an era where some top talent worked at Hewlett-Packard. It's refreshing to see that the subtitle of the new book is "Why Strategic Leadership Matters." The answer: you want to be around for decades making a difference and growing by 20 percent a year from 1958-1998. The HP of the Way did that and built the 3000, too.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:02 PM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 16, 2016

Noteworthy dates drive views of the future

Nov. 14 pageThis week on the 3000 newsgroup, Alan Yeo of ScreenJet picked up the remembrance torch to note the anniversary of 2001's 3000 business shut-off at HP. About your resilient computer he added, "In some ways it seems to have survived in some places in better shape than the HP that announced they were killing it!"

We agree and noted as much in the Nov. 14 NewsWire article. I promised to make not such a big deal about the history of the event; instead I tied it to recent advice about a hybrid of local and cloud-based ERP alternatives

Jan 1 pageThat event brought some benefit along with all of its carnage. Canceling the HP business operations for the 3000 (never an end-of-life; vendors don't get to define that) also sparked the completion of the first PA-RISC hardware emulator from Stromasys. The software continues to assure us all that the aging HP hardware won't be our only option over the next 11 years or so. Remember, on Jan. 1 2028, at 0000 hours, the dates stop working. Not MPE altogether, however.

A fix for that date issue might become a project for some remaining support company which has an MPE/iX source license. As you might infer from a date in this month's political events, stranger things have already happened.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:19 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 14, 2016

The best wishes for your long life: a Plan B

Congratulations to us all. This is the 15th anniversary of the "we're killing off the 3000" announcement from HP. The end-game hasn't played out like HP expected. In 2001 the company's management didn't see three CEO resignations coming over those 15 years, or the company being forced to split itself to stay relevant to enterprise IT. Those two events are related. Yes, the 3000 got its pink-slip notice at the HP of 2001. So did the overstuffed, unwieldy Hewlett-Packard. The company that lurched toward every business while stepping back from others. It took 14 years almost to the day, but HP is half the size it was: HP Enterprise is the severed sibling from 2001's family.

Inside the 3000's division during that year, no one was talking about emulating the 3000 PA-RISC hardware that the company would stop building in 2003. That's now a reality, a new development since the 10-year anniversary of this sobering date. Hewlett-Packard was going to lead four customers out of every five away from MPE/iX, delivering them to the Unix alternative of HP-UX. Windows was going to get new customers out of the upheaval, too. No one figured three of every four departing companies would choose a non-HP environment.

DDoS Outage MapHere on this date in 2016, the idea of an environment as a crucial strategy is feeling outdated. IT directors always cared about applications. Now they're told they don't have to worry about environments. The cloud computing providers will do that for them. Except when they cannot provide the cloud. Behold (above) the map of Internet outage from last month on an ugly day.

The Support Group's Terry Floyd offered a Plan B strategy to the manufacturing customers of CAMUS last week. More than 30 companies using HP 3000s and MANMAN are in the CAMUS user group. Floyd's company is delivering a fresh alternative to help MANMAN sites move on from the 3000. But he also supports homesteading sites. With a foot in both worlds, he recommends staying safe by having a Plan B, even while you employ cloud computing for your future.

"I'm still a little bit paranoid about the cloud being out there," Floyd said on the 90-minute RUG conference call. (Keep in mind, he's bringing a traditional manufacturing site's IT onto the Kenandy ERP cloud solution, so he's being extra-careful.) One of the Support Group services runs manufacturing datacenters for some clients.

If any of you are thinking about cloud apps, you should think about a hybrid app. You'd have some stuff in-house on your own boxes, and some stuff out there on the cloud. For instance, we're doing EDI [for a client]. It's pretty much local. We'll be able to receive and send stuff even if the Internet went away for a day. It would kill us not to be able to do EDI. Even hours of Internet downtime would kill us in some situations.

Think about what you might consider really critical to your company—and think about putting some of that stuff in-house. Having shipping on a local server, for example a SQL Server, we'd be able to ship whether the Internet's up or down.

"Sometimes the Internet goes away for different people for different reasons," he said, and it's so very true. DDoS attacks are becoming a too-regular event for the world's Internet. When Twitter, Netfix, Amazon, Tumblr, Reddit and Pinterest can be taken offline at once, as they were on that map of Oct. 22, everyone needs to manage the risk. A Plan B once meant staying on the HP 3000 in spite of HP's community exit. Today it means keeping some computing local, no matter what your enivronment.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:06 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 12, 2016

Wayback Wed: HP's Oracle-MPE discounts for 3000s hoped to spark new applications

Spark-plug_s600x600Go back 20 years this week in the history of the 3000 and you'll find cheaper Oracle as a lure for application growth on MPE. Hewlett-Packard sank human resources and money into making Oracle a more attractive and affordable option for 3000 owners. By October, 1996 the pursuit of new applications was at its most ardent peak. HP would bring down the cost per seat of Oracle 7 by 25 percent just to get a company to install it on a new HP 3000. What the deal was seeking was places where Oracle might sell into a community that grew strong on IMAGE/SQL.

The deal, plus Oracle's applications, was trying to overcome three barriers to implementing Oracle. First, sites had data in IMAGE databases with no straightforward way in 1996 to move that information to Oracle's format. Second, site managers experienced higher management demands while using Oracle on other platforms. Finally, the price barrier for purchasing a second HP 3000 database (since IMAGE was bundled, even in 1996 after HP's efforts to split it off) kept sites from adding Oracle to their database mix.

HP's offer reduced one portion of the last hurdle. It offered Oracle's 7.2.3 version to 3000 sites at prices starting at under $1,200 per seat with an eight-seat minimum. Purchasing Oracle for an HP 3000 for under $10,000 hadn't been possible before. The price per seat increased based on HP's CPU tiers—the $9,600 price was available only for the lowest HP 3000 tier.

Oracle was always at arm's length from the 3000 user base, though. During the 1990s when HP was promoting HP-UX as a complete enterprise solution, the many Unix-based apps relied on Oracle foremost. In the middle 1980s, when Oracle was just rising up, a VP of market development asked me, "Why would I want to offer a database to a market where they already have a free, bundled database?" The question was a good one that never got a good enough answer for existing customers. HP and its Oracle allies had a good answer, but it was one that didn't matter much to the installed 3000 base.

We summed up HP's motivation on behalf of all customers with two words.

Applications available. Those two words have been harder to associate with the HP 3000 over the past few years, as companies continue to press their systems into service for new business needs. Implementing Oracle on the HP 3000 gives sites a path to the collection of Oracle-written applications for the HP 3000. It's another way to let companies continue to host programs natively under MPE.

Oracle has lined up its applications of Internet Commerce (an EDI gateway) financials for government sites and other enterprises, human resources, project control, manufacturing, and data warehouses in its stable. The 10.6.1 version of these hit the 3000 market this month. The latest improvement in the Oracle application saga is the use of "smart clients," which balance the logic an application needs between clients and the HP 3000. SmartClient is supposed to keep network traffic down while your clients remain completely responsive.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:50 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 10, 2016

Duke diners deliver some wayback news

Wayback sherman peabodyIt's always a great event—since it's so rare now — to see 3000 folk gather in person. Last week an invite over 3000-L and other channels requested the pleasure of the company of anyone in the Bay Area who remembers — or works with — MPE and HP 3000s. The number of lunchtime diners at The Duke of Edinburgh pub was at the intimate level, which is not a surprise. What was interesting was how informed some attendees were.

"Some were finding out about the [Stromasys] emulator," Stan Sieler reported. He was among the few who were still working on MPE tasks. I was surprised that the news of the emulator was just arriving in October 2016, five years after the product's debut in the Bay Area.

In the fall of 2011, about 80 HP 3000 folk gathered at the last HP3000 Reunion. (I won't say final, because reunions tend to hold on until organizers and the ardent alumni lose the ability to travel, drive, and have meals together. We're not young, us 3000 folk, but we're spry.) The story of the Charon HPA product has orbited the MPE solar system for many months. Not everybody looks up at the sky to see the stars, of course.

Those getting wayback news about Charon included one who needed a free hobbyist license. That kind of license went off the market at the end of 2014, when Stromasys transitioned to an all-proof of concept licensing and sales plan. The PoC strategy has yielded a string of green-lit transitions to the non-3000 hardware. Hobbyist/freeware licenses got abused; free software was caught running in commercial settings. Other people might have failed at their no-cost DIY approach. You don't always get news of failures when you never knew about the attempts.

News travels slowly, especially for managers who are not in everyday contact with MPE and 3000s anymore. Sometimes 3000 news has traveled slowly for reasons other than simple oversight, or becoming busy with non-3000 computing.

It's been embarrassing to see, year after year, that the events we publish as news just don't stick with all people who rely on 3000s. You can't get everybody in the loop, not on anything. (Okay, all people have heard of Donald and Hillary, if they've heard of the United States.) HP discovered these gaps in the news loop when it started to spread the word that the 3000 was finished. The company that created MPE called the end of its 3000 business an end of life announcement. Almost a decade after that first finale, the computer isn't finished. The HP we knew, that's finished.

The news of an end of life sometimes flows slowly, or too fast like in that End of Life fable above. This afternoon I heard someone register surprise that Arnold Palmer was dead. It's not just a popular soft drink; Arnold was among the greatest golfers ever. Late last night, Abby was pretty sure the actor Rip Torn wasn't alive anymore. Not yet true, and Not Dead Yet could be a regular magazine, sort of a more gruesome What Are They Doing Now?

When HP's news about the end of its 3000 business rolled out -- trumpeted by at least five publications, covered in ABC News, circulated in serious correspondence to the customers paying for HP support -- it took years to become universally-known. That 2001 announcement was still news to customers more than five years later. For other managers who knew, they kept it to themselves, since the computer was still working. What's surprising is that good 3000 news, like Charon HPA, hasn't arrived yet in a few quarters.

In a way, though, that's good news for Stromasys. "They're coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith earlier this year about finding 3000 users who were on nobody's radar. When you're selling a solution that keeps good software in place, it has a better chance of surfacing than reports of the death of a close ally like HP's 3000s.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:28 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 03, 2016

Emulation customers got all they wanted

Signed Sealed DeliveredFive years ago this week Stromasys was doing a full technical detail demonstration of its PA-RISC emulation software. Since then, such virtualization has become an everyday choice for interim homesteading (just a few years of use needed) or long-term plans, too.

The software got its debut in front of a sophisticated crowd: HP 3000 veterans at that year's HP 3000 Reunion. In 2011 skeptics were schooled and devotees bowled over.

The rap on emulator choices from out of the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like Intel's Xeon chips will over the year to come with Skylake. Here's a surprise nobody saw coming: the ultimate Itanium chip, Kittson, began development in 2011, and it's still not running in HP's servers. To think, MPE/iX could've had that fate if HP had chosen to port the OS to that chipset.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts at the Reunion believed in Charon's emulation future. In 2011 there were more in attendance at the Reunion than could fit in a single-family home. What's still in the years to come is making a home for MANMAN on one Ubuntu-Charon partition of a big Skylake Intel server, and MANMAN's replacement Kenandy on another.

Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group manufacturing and 3000 support firm, posted glowing comments five years ago about the future of Charon in a CAMUS.org report. What he's foretold has come to pass.

It was amazing to learn that within a year, MANMAN (and everything else that runs on MPE/iX 7.5) will be running on Intel/AMD 64-bit machines. MPE Virtualization: what a home run! Dr. Robert Boers, who came all the way from Switzerland to give his speech at the Reunion, showed MPE/iX running on a small Linux PC costing about $600, and MPE/iX is expected to run many times faster than on an HP 3000 A-Class machine. They also had it running on Craig Lalley’s laptop in the same room; he’s been consulting on this project, but now it’s open to any developer with a good reason to download it.

It was non-obvious to me that MPE would need to boot up in 2 or 3 minutes, mainly because all the memory, IO, and disc checking had been done by the underlying OS (Ubuntu Linux in this case), but also because of the PDC rewrite they must have done. No more watching all the dots and 1s, 2s, and 3s etc. going by on the console for 10 or 20 minutes (or longer on large-memory HP 3000 machines).

Later, in a more technical briefing at the Reunion's hotel, Floyd noted that all the right answers flowed from Boers.

It was like Christmas and Boers was Santa Claus (there is a slight resemblance). MPE booted on both the laptop and the little Stromasys server Dr. Boers carried under his arm off his flight from Europe. Fun was had; DEBUG was run; Glance worked in Block Mode! Stan Sieler asked if MPE crashed in all known ways.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:46 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 30, 2016

Earliest birds to eye Charon stick with 3000s

One week ago the 3000 Simulator Project rolled out a new version of software to simulate an MPE V Classic 3000. That news led to a look at the modern emulation product Charon HPA and what has helped make it a success. Diligent engineering and testing of the Stromasys product across the community started just about five years ago. One of the earliest vendors to green-light their software for emulation was a company who's still selling new customers on MPE software: Minisoft.

BirdseyeHistoryFounder Doug Greenup called last month to report on some new sales into your market, the one which established his company. He mentioned Minisoft's connection to See's Candies' HP 3000s. See's is using Minisoft's middleware, and the connection between emulation and Minisoft popped up when I found Greenup's earliest report on testing against Charon. Minisoft was the first third party company to announce their products were Charon-ready, including ODBC, JDBC, and OLE DB products. These were the days when PA-RISC emulation was as new as Clarence Birdseye's frozen food was in the 1940s. Greenup's report was so early in the Charon HPA lifespan that the Stromasys software was being helped into the market by independent consultants like Craig Lalley.

Craig [Lalley] gave us access to the Stromasys emulator to test some of our legacy MPE products. The HP 3000 terminal emulators under Windows and Macintosh worked fine connecting up via Telnet. We ran some VPLUS screens with no problems. Connections were reliable and fast. We also tested our middleware drivers, connecting and running queries.

The bottom line is our products worked like they were interacting with an HP 3000. So if any of our customers deploy Stromasys, we are confident our MPE products will work.

Charon HPA needed software vendors who were familiar to the 3000 community to step up and certify. It's satisfying to see that one of the earliest adopters of your market's emulator is still selling software to MPE/iX sites. We'd call those sites 3000 customers, but its possible the HP hardware has been replaced by Charon HPA. Which is precisely why it was good business to step up and demonstrate that the emulator worked just like an HP 3000. Works better, now that HPA is not five years older like those boxes with "HP" on the front.

There's your report. MPE/iX still running at high-profile candy manufacturer. New 3000 software still being sold in a few places. Stromasys now moving toward five years of support from the MPE third party vendors, support that started with Minisoft.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 28, 2016

Meeting at Building D: the rarest 3000 link-up

DukeSnugNotices were posted this week on the 3000-L mailing list about a rare meeting next Monday, Oct. 3. At opening time 11:30, people who know and remember the 3000 will gather at The Duke of Edinburgh pub. It's a site popular enough with the MPE crowd that it's still called Building D by some seasoned community members. The Duke is on Wolfe Road, just to the west of where the 3000 grew up. As the 3000 group intends to arrive at opening time, it might be able to commandeer the snug (above).

In-person meetings for the 3000 community happen in bars and pubs by now. The last one we heard about this public was SIG-BAR's meeting in London in 2014. Dave Wiseman, a vendor and software maven whose history includes a software project called Millware for 3000s, set up SIG-BAR. The 2014 meeting was announced so far in advance that people were able to plan their summer vacations around a gathering at Dirty Dick's. There's something about English pubs that attracts the 3000 crowd.

AppleCampusThe Duke of Edinburgh is within walking distance of a mecca of the 3000 world, now departed: The HP Cupertino campus. Building 48 has been replaced by the rising concrete and steel of the new Apple world headquarters building. There's no word yet if the 3000 friends who meet Monday at Building D will bring their drones to take their tour of the Apple-ized HP campus.

A walk through the HP parking lot and across a cozy margin of poplars used to bring you to the Duke. "It's right across the street from where MPE lived," said Stan Sieler of Allegro while announcing the meeting. As of Monday, MPE's heart will be among the taps and chips of The Duke. Two years ago, Robelle's Bob Green said this about the last in-person meeting at that London pub:

We exchanged notes on the current state of the machine—especially the new emulator—- and discovered what each of us was doing. An amazing number of people are still doing the same thing: helping customers with their IT concerns. But in reality, most of the time was spent swapping war stories from the past, which was great fun.

As for that emulator, Charon HPA is in full swing by now, a certainty of life going forward with MPE/iX systems. For one additional lunchtime, a pub will be emulating the home of the system, even as it continues to move into a virtual existence.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:10 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

September 21, 2016

Power outage, or no problems? It's been quiet on the 3000-L. "Yeah, too quiet."

SergeantIn the classic war movies, or a good western with Indian battles, there's the moment when someone notices the silence on the field. "It's quiet out there, Sarge," says the more innocent hero. "Yeah, too quiet," the non-com replies. That kind of quiet might be the sound we're hearing from the 3000-L mailing list today.

It's been five weeks without a new message on the mailing list and newsgroup devoted to MPE and its servers. Advice and solutions has flowed for two decades and more off a mailing list that still has 498 members subscribed. The number of subscribers has remained steady over the last three years. Like the number of migrations in the market, the exit from the list has slowed to a trickle. So has new traffic, of late.

The silence may not be ominous. In 2016 the 3000-L is used almost exclusively to resolve MPE/iX problems. The hardware posts are limited to the rare announcement of used server prices, messages that the members still howl at if they don't include <PLUG> in the subject. The server hasn't been sold by HP in more than a decade, but its owners still don't like to be bugged by sales messages. They solve problems in a grassroots manner. As a notable ballplayer once said, you can look it up. There might be no problems to solve.

1996-L-TrafficHowever, no messages at all over 35 days sets a new record for the 3000-L quiet. This 3000 resource was much more lively a decade ago. And 20 years back? Well, HP was still selling enough 3000s in the fall of 1996 to be sending its new marketing manager Kathy Fitzgerald to speak at an Indiana RUG meeting about the new servers. There was also advice on storage compression, because compression-enabled DDS drives were becoming more common.

3000-L migration messageGood advice: If you can find a DDS tape drive from 1996, you should take it out of service. Your MPE server, no. And evergreen advice from the L is still available online. Jeff Kell, the deceased 3000 guru who started the server on a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga server, built it to last.

In 1996 people wrote on the L that they understood most drive and backup software vendors recommend against using both hardware and software compression. "You should try each separately and use the technique that achieves the best result consistently," we reported. Mark Klein of ORBiT Software gave an interesting explanation of what was going on and the compression possibilities.
"Actually, there are cases where multiple levels of compression are useful. But first let me describe the various types of compression available.

"Hardware compression is typically LZW or some variant thereof. This type of compression uses a dictionary of repeating strings that can be dynamically determined on the fly and, as such, doesn't require the dictionary to be stored with the data as with other types of compression. There are other types of hardware compression available, but LZW is the most common found on compressing tape drives. LZW can also be done in software.

"Since the compressibility of the data really depends on the data itself, there are instances where negative compression will be achieved as well as instances where very large files can compress down to almost nothing. In fact, I've seen an instance where a large, multi-Gb database that was mostly empty got compressed into less than 32K using LZW.

"LZW is not effective in trying to compress something already compressed with LZW. This can result in negative compression (the resulting data actually gets larger). For that reason, I wouldn't recommend using LZW software compression on top of LZW hardware compression.

"Another type of compression is called run length compression. This is in essence a combination of a length tag and a string. The length indicates how many times to repeat the following string. For example, a line of 80 blanks would be represented by (80," ").

"Now, using a combination of RLC and LZW one can achieve better levels of compression than with one or the other method. So, if you want to use software compression with a hardware compressing tape drive, I would recommend using RLC compression in software."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:21 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 02, 2016

Open launch has become a workaround tool

Jon Backus 2016Fifteen years ago this week I put the finishing touches on a Q&A with Jon Backus. He might be best known to one group of 3000 managers who flagged down his taxi-like service of MPE education — his Tech University had independent experts whocarried people from one point in their MPE careers to the next, better trained. An MPECert program was part of the venture that went into business just before HP changed its mind about continuing with 3000s. Tech University offered an alternative to Hewlett-Packard training classes, vendor-led education that was on the decline in 2001.

However, there's another milestone in his career just as well known. He launched OpenMPE as 2002 began, starting with a conversation with then-lab manager Dave Wilde. On the strength of that talk, the advocacy movement ultimately delivered MPE source code to third parties. It did take another eight years, but hopes were high at the start. HP named a key lab engineer to a board of directors. Minisoft donated middleware and MPE software from some of its licensed 3000s.

Backus began it all when he launched a discussion group on the Internet to explore the ways MPE might be preserved by its customers after HP steps away from it in a few years: a homesteading option. The group moved quickly to a consensus that open source methods didn’t fit MPE very well.

Jon Backus 2001“The feeling and desire is very much not open source,” Backus said at the time. “The vast majority feeling is a migration of support and control of the entire MPE environment, including IMAGE, to a new entity. The source would continue to be closely controlled, similar to the way it is today.”

Starting a education group for HP server customers was a bold move. We interviewed him as one of the last 3000 experts to sit for a Q&A before HP's November 2001 exit announcement. August 2001's HP World was the last show to offer any HP hope for the server. Without OpenMPE and its work to capture that source code, however, to independent support companies such as Pivital Solutions, the trade secrets of MPE/iX would be lost. Instead that source acts as workaround and custom patch bedrock to help homesteaders.

Source for MPE/iX was not the initial goal Backus proposed for OpenMPE, though. The whole of the 3000 business would pass to a third party in his opening gambit. HP took months to even respond to that, saying the computer's infrastructure was decaying. Tech University was already addressing the brain drain before OpenMPE was born.

"You gradually have a mind-drain of how to use the operating system to the fullest, how to use the third-party utilities to their fullest," he said at HP World 2001. "You end up stuck in a legacy mind-set. Just because the 3000 was created 30 years ago, doesn’t mean it’s frozen in time. It’s evolved. The paradigm shift is that your knowledge of the platform needs to evolve right along with the platform.

"People bash HP for not offering more training. But until you push the boundaries of what your 3000 can do, you don’t have any right to pick on HP for not doing more."

One of the 3000's best HP friends at the time was Jeff Vance, who subsequently spoke for the vendor's intentions from a division-level viewpoint. OpenMPE's ideal of getting the 3000 to a new home outside HP would test the strength of a community that had just been cut off from the vendor.

“We could see if the ecosystem is still deteriorating at the rate we’ve determined, or if customers are willing to accept, say, IMAGE support from a third party,” he said. “That would be my guess at how we’ll get out — and that may lead later on to true open source.”

Vance said that HP didn't have plans to keep its MPE enhancements engineering team together beyond October 2003. As it turned out the team put a few enhancements into the community beyond that date, including an SCSI pass-thru module and a means to connect larger disk storage devices to MPE. Vance said HP resources would be vital to making any new entity successful in extending MPE’s life.

“It has to come soon,” Vance said of HP’s decision on how to help OpenMPE. “We have to make a pretty important decision, and we have to do it quickly. The longer we delay, the more the infrastructure decays.”

This isn't a story with the happy ending Backus and the advocates dreamed about in 2002. But seven companies got limited source code licenses just as HP closed down all of its MPE operations — more than eight years later. If you do business with one of the support companies with a license, that source is there to help solve a problem if needed.

 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 12:01 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 29, 2016

How Good Things Are Slow to Change

Change for the BetterFive years ago this week I was debating Apple's place in the future of tablets. The iPad was roaring along with more than 60 percent of the share of tablets shipped at the time. I bought one for my wife a few months later, to help her convalesce following a hip surgery. It was an iPad 2, and it's turned out to be the equivalent of a 9x9 HP 3000. It might run forever.

My debating point in late August of 2011 was Apple would not be chased off its leadership of market share anytime soon. In 2011 nobody offered a tablet featured with apps and an infrastructure like Apple's. I heard the word "slab" to describe tablets for the first time. That label predicted that a tablet could become nothing more special than a PC. White box, commodity, biggest market share will eliminate any out-sold competitors.

Sue KieselThe trouble with that thinking is that it's the same thing that drives the accepted wisdom about the future for datacenters still using MPE/iX and the HP 3000. Last Friday I attended a 20th work anniversary lobster boil at The Support Group for Sue Kiezel. She left her datacenter career on MANMAN systems to become a part of Terry Floyd's consulting and support company. All through those years, HP 3000 experience has remained important to her work. There's years ahead, too, years with 3000 replacements -- in their own time. Slowly, usually.

Terry Floyd-LobstermanThose 20 years also track with the Newswire's lifespan. It's always a chipper afternoon when I visit the company's HQ out in the Texas oaks near Lake Travis. In addition to things like barbecue and cake -- and last Friday, lobsters large enough to crowd a deep pot--reminders of the success of the 3000 are often laying about. Last week I noticed flyers and documents outlining software from Minisoft. Not all of that software is MPE-centric products, but it is all designed for any company that still makes and ships products using a 3000-driven datacenter. Even if that datacenter is hooking up iMacs to MPE/iX, a specialty Minisoft has come to own completely. The 3000 users who remain in the market believe they have a good thing. Change comes slowly to good things, behavior which mirrors human nature.

Change came slowly to the iPad's market share of shipped tablets. It took three years for the shipped-per-quarter numbers to drop below 30 percent. At one point they were below 20 percent -- this is share of units shipped, not total overall share of tablets in use. Then the iPad rallied and grabbed more sales. It was and remains a good thing to use if you need a slab computer.

Like the HP 3000s and those MPE/iX users, the tablets made by Apple are built to last longer. That iPad 2 which first sat on Abby's lap while she healed from her hip? Still working every evening here, five years later, streaming Netflix all through the night and delivering emails. Another model of tablet which captured 16 percent share that fall, from newcomer Amazon -- well, those Fires are well-extinguished now. It's not a snipe hunt to find a Fire from 2011. More like the pursuit of a heffalump.

What's similar to the tablet-slab derbies is the way the ownership shifts. People leave iPad ownership when cost of acquisition becomes the primary factor. Why pay the $400-plus when an LG or a Samsung is less than half as much? Why keep using MPE/iX when Linux can drive less costly hardware? Ownership is about much more than capital costs, whether it's an iPad or an MPE server. When the pad -- Abby just calls hers "my computer" by now -- is doing what's needed and doing a good job, then it gets to stay.

And the 3000 and MPE are helped along by companies that retain experience and expertise in products and professionals. Companies with a realistic view of the long term (things will change, but slowly) and devotion to keeping that solution running well. After eight years of using iOS mobile devices, phones and slabs, I finally got my hands on an Android tablet. ATT did the Android brand no favors by giving it to me for free, unprompted. The phrase "We're gonna give you 40 acres, and a mule" rattled in my head after the ATT business rep told me about my upgrade.

Using Android is different than iOS, but in one particular way it's as different as a mule and a Caterpillar tractor. I don't expect this modest LG G Pad to outlast an old mule. It was inexpensive, but as one owner said on the BestBuy site where you can have the tablet for 99 cents, "If you are looking for the cheapest 8-inch tablet with LTE service, this is it, but one gets what one pays for."

And sometimes you get more than what you pay for because it lasts so long. It's easy to find statistics on how much Android holds over iPad in market share. Proof that MPE/iX and its experts have a slim market share is easy to find, too. It's harder to see how many five-year-old tablets are still in everyday use. Or how many MPE-based applications are pushing into their third decade of service. Good things change slowly. That's a blessing in an era littered with tweets that announce a new world order every day. 

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:15 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 15, 2016

Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns

OC Register Poster

The biggest statement 3000 users made worked its way onto a front page. 847,000 OC Register readers took note.

Twenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community staged its most prominent protest. The stunt landed the server on the front page of a metro daily paper's news section for the only time in the 3000's history. It also produced sunburns and filled a football field. The lasting impact was memories, like so many computer stories. But a world record was set that remained unbroken longer than HP's product futures were intact for the server and MPE.

1996 Poster ChildrenIt was August of 1996 when a team of 3000 users, vendors, and developers gathered on the football field of Anaheim's Loara High School to build the world's largest poster. The stunt was also a message aimed at HP's executives of the time: Glenn Osaka, Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon and especially CEO Lew Platt. "Pay attention to the 3000's potential and its pedigree," the poster shouted. Acres of it, mounted under the Southern California sun of summer. Computerworld (above) was skeptical.

Wirt on the fieldSummed up, the organizers led by Wirt Atmar unfurled 2,650 3-foot x 4.5-foot panels needed to say "MPE Users Kick Butt." Atmar was one of the most ardent advocates for the power of MPE and the 3000. He printed those thousands of sheets off a 3000 Micro XE, a Classic 3000 because why would you need a PA-RISC system? It drove an HP755CM DesignJet printer for two weeks, printing the required 463 billion pixels. Atmar said, after he and his employees loaded and drove the 687 pounds of sheets in a U-Haul truck from his New Mexico offices to California, that "moving the paper into the vehicle was our company's corporate fitness program."

Poster and housesThey all had to be numbered and sorted and placed on the field. That was a spot where the winds arrived by lunchtime or so. It would be a race against the clock to build it, but the 3000 was always racing against an HP clock. The statement made for the server moved the needle for existing customers. General Manager Harry Sterling was just taking his job that summer and pushed for funding and lab time to bring the 3000 into parity with Unix and Windows NT servers HP sold. Often, it sold them against the 3000.

The image of the poster made it onto the Metro front page of the Orange County Register. The NewsWire provided lunch and recorded the event for our newsletter just celebrating its first birthday that month. We supplied sub sandwiches and pizzas, recording every request for things like a vegetarian kosher option. It was easier to get media attention than get a kosher veggie delivered to the Loara sidelines, it turned out.

There was so much white paper on the ground that the rising sun began to give the volunteers tans —and then sunburns. The project had to be assembled and taken down in less than eight hours, because football practice started at 4 PM. The field turns on its Friday Night Lights once again in about two weeks.

Poster Aerial ShotComputerworld noted that test assemblies extrapolated from a field trial showed that it would take four days to assemble, not four hours. The wind arrived as promised. A hasty trip to a local hardware store delivered 97 pounds of gutter nails to tack down the sheets. Each nail was gathered up at the end of the stunt, using the precision that only software engineers can supply for a computer they love.

More than 100 volunteers were organized and recruited using the HP3000-L mailing list. That nexus of noteworthy 3000 news had been our inspiration and font to unfurl the NewsWire at the previous year's Interex conference. Robelle reported on the show in its "What's Up Doc" newsletter, another staple of that era's news.

Dilbert"According to Interex, 6,000 attended in addition to the over 2,000 vendor show staff. The Monday night keynote speaker was Scott Adams, the cartoonist of the now-famous The Dilbert Zone cartoon strip. The HP World '96 Daily wrote, "Never has the 22-year-old [sic] HP World '96 (Interex) conference opened with so much laughter and good feelings. Everyone left the room smiling and ready to buy an autographed copy of Adams' book Still Pumped from Using the Mouse."

Multiple sources of coverage, front page notice, a world record, a new general manager and fresh budget. What could go wrong?

The sunburns faded while the profile of MPE rose for awhile. HP later tried to usurp the record with a stunt inside a high school gym, but that was a different category—and challenge met—than the one the 3000 mastered. Grassroots efforts on high school grass kept the 3000 in the Guinness Book for years until then. Even today the largest poster, built in India, isn't so much larger than the one that was created by a community instead of a corporation.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:46 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

August 08, 2016

August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy

Legacy ContinuesTwenty years ago this month the HP 3000 community was discovering windows into the World Wide Web. At the Interex conference held that month we heard the first about Javelin, a new Java-based terminal emulator that required nothing but a browser to connect a PC to an HP 3000. It was the first MPE terminal to run inside a browser, a technology that was searching for a commercial market in 1996. You requested a session and Javelin delivered one out of a pile of user licenses. At the 25- and 50-user tiers, Javelin got cheaper than Minisoft's MS 92 terminal.

That August was the first one with the NewsWire on hand in the community. Java was sexy and hot and Javelin provided a way to care about it while you managed an MPE/iX system. We reported with a hopeful eye that "Java is maturing as a platform for HP 3000 applications."

The Minisoft product is effectively a Java-based version of the MS92 terminal emulator, and it allows users to connect to HP 3000s without a client-based emulation program installed on their local desktops. Instead, Javelin downloads a Java applet in five to 20 seconds into a Web browser on the desktop. The resulting thin client handles HP 3000 terminal emulation tasks.

But customers won't have to modify existing HP 3000 VPlus application forms to deliver them over browser-based connections using Javelin. It reproduces function keys and special keys as well as performs Windows-grade slave printing. Minisoft's Doug Greenup said the product had been tested against MM/II and MANMAN on the 3000, as well as many custom VPlus applications, Qedit, Speededit, Powerhouse and Quiz.

"It's a little slower than our Windows product right now," Greenup said, "at least with character-mode applications. Block mode screens are faster." He said the product would be a good fit for inquiry and modest data entry applications, as well as public access to HP 3000 databases in government and university settings or for remote sales staff.

The point was to reduce the cost of connectivity and give casual users a simple link to HP 3000s. Java was in vogue at HP's MPE labs at a time when the goal was to give the 3000 an equal set of Web tools. HP-UX and Windows NT were claiming to have all of the momentum at the time.

Minisoft still sells Javelin, which can do so much more now than when its first release emerged in that summer of the Anaheim Interex conference. The show was the first of 10 to be called HP World before the user group folded in 2005.

Another bit of news from that conference was the publication of a new book about the HP 3000, co-written by the engineer who led the way in Java adoption for MPE/iX. Mike Yawn wrote The Legacy Continues along with HP's George Stachnik, a book engineered to show the world that "Despite claims from both the UNIX and Windows NT communities that their respective operating systems will be 'taking over the world,' the reality is that enterprise data centers are increasingly multi-platform."

You can still buy a copy of The Legacy Continues on Amazon. The book marked the last time HP invested in any publishing designed to serve only the 3000 market. Unless you count the many advertising dollars sent to the NewsWire, support for which we remain grateful. Our current sponsors make it possible to remember the many beginnings of the HP 3000, so homesteaders can point at the way their servers were designed to take advantage of forthcoming technology.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:59 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 18, 2016

Samba-3000 sync and Formspec data tips

Samba sharing on our 3000 using Windows Explorer is slow, but it gets the job done. However, if I take down networking on the 3000 and bring it back up, Windows Explorer tells me the 3000 is inaccessible. Ping works, Reflection connections work and Internet Explorer has no trouble connecting to our Apache/iX web site. What's happening to the 3000's networking?

Frank Gribbin resolves and explains:

Samba-on-3000After rebooting the PC, everything works again until networking on the 3000 is refreshed. Your solution should address the fact that Windows is maintaining a table of connections that needs to be refreshed in DOS. From the DOS command line, issue the command nbtstat -R or nbtstat -RR.

James Byrne also points out:

You can get into trouble with cached credentials with Windows Active Directory as well. You can clear them from the command line with:

net session \\samba.server.ip.address /delete

Or you can do it through the Credentials Manager on the workstation's Control Panel. However you clear the cache, you still need to restart the workstation with the problem cache — because the credentials are still in memory.

It's been a long time since I worked with FORMSPEC. I have a screen that is used to enter data.  I want the data to remain on the screen after the enter key is pressed. Is that done using FORMSPEC, or is it done in some sort of a COBOL statement?

Alan Yeo says:

VPLUSThat is the default behavior. When you press enter, the host program is triggered to read the data (if it chooses) and then to either update, clear, etc. By default VPLUS won't clear the data from the screen when you press enter (in fact it does virtually nothing when you press enter) — either the host program (or Entry?) is doing it explicitly, or one of the clear/ repeat/ append settings for the form in FORMSPEC has been set to instruct VPLUS to clear the form.

Gilles Schipper points out:

You can do it in FORMSPEC or programmatically. When creating or modifying the form in FORMSPEC, simply specify "R" in the repeat option for the form you wish to repeat.

Programmatically, you can set the appropriate parameter prior to issuing the appropriate series of VPLUS intrinsic calls.

Generally, the specifications of your form design can be dynamically overridden programmatically — unless you use ENTRY.PUB.SYS to enter your data into a data file.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:09 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 15, 2016

An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped

Carly TumblingBill Hewlett and Dave Packard were HP's most famous CEOs, but aside from the founders, the most notorious HP chieftain was Carly Fiorina. With the news today of Donald Trump's VP candidate choice -- not Carly, but an Indiana governor with genuine political chops -- this may be the time when Ms. Fiorina finally settles into that Fox News chair which is the terminus of her trail. As the picture above recalls, announcing Trump's rival Ted Cruz as the next President, then falling through a trap door onstage, might have ended her political hijinks.

Or not. Nobody can be really sure what Ms. Fiorina will do next, which seemed to make her an ideal pairing with The Donald. Unlike the presumptive nominee, she's better known by her first name, as if she was Cher or Hillary. So what follows will cite her as Carly. 

I've written about this shiny and shallow CEO since her first day. In 1999, in a July of 17 years ago  there was still an active 3000 business to manage at HP. We probably have different reasons to relay a smarmy track record of Carly's at HP, but the headlline "Carly Fiorina pans TSA on Yelp" pretty much sums up how she's always trying to fail better, apparently to teach us her new rules. Yelp, after all, is not so fraud-proof.

Her latest birthday cake was decorated with her Super PAC's logo. It was a show of hubris as raw as forcing out Dave Packard's son from the board of his father's company, or trying to get that board to pay five times what PriceWaterhouse turned out to be worth.

Carly pushed the HP cart into a ditch when she loaded it with Compaq, but she was just one of several CEOs in a row, all hired from outside HP, who ransacked R&D and spent acquisition money like it came off a Monopoly game board. Carly, Hurd, Apotheker. Three people whose smell of success has helped HP focus on enterprise computing once again -- after Carly yoked the company to those Compaq tigers who took over the company's spiritual campus. At least HP's business computing organization got the ProLiant out of it all.

An old friend of the 3000 at HP who watched the wreck of Carly break onto company shores recently marked his 30th anniversary with the system. Carly was called She Who Must Not Be Named inside the workplace, but SWMNBN's CEO behavior was a slap in HP's face as sharp as anything in 2016 politics.

SHMNBN’s disregard for ‘the little people’ has long been demonstrated. Her inability to sync with the company middle management was evidenced by a growth in employment during her self-declared hiring freeze. Then when the cuts did come, rather than having your boss or lab manager inform you, some VP you’d never met invited you to a meeting and delivered the news. From where I sat hard it was to tell if she was just a person encased in an over inflated bubble of self-regard who’s lost touch with reality.

This may be the last time we'll have Carly to kick around, as President Nixon said of himself in 1962. That didn't turn out to be true, either.

"I will agree that the Proliant continues to be a strong product," said the anniversary employee, "one important to migrating HP 3000 sites. Although she couldn’t have foreseen the Oracle stab in the back which basically killed the already declining proprietary UX business, she did establish a base that gives HPE a stronger position than organic HP (Netserver) probably have had on its own."

Which proves that nothing is completely worthless, even as it appears so after thorough scrutiny. "There's got to be a pony in there somewhere," goes the joke about mucking out an impossibly foul stall. ProLiant and a base for HPE might be Carly's pony. She might also be holding out for a cabinet spot. Secretary of Commerce might be above her skill set, though.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:38 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

July 13, 2016

How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free

KiteThe 3000 community has been receiving updates for simulator project this year. This isn't the software that virtualizes the PA-RISC servers which were the ultimate boxes in HP's 3000 line. This simulator software is strictly shareware, strictly free, and strictly built to emulate a previous generation's HP 3000s. The SIMH project can turn a PC into a Classic HP 3000, the sort that used MPE III, IV, or V as its operating system.

This is also a project that points to the lifecycle of HP's operating system products in the public domain. A hobbyist -- or a company that could get along with a 3000 with circa 1991 power and OS -- needs a copy of MPE V to make this freeware simulation work. Where you get this software is up to you. But it's not a secret, either. The process to free involves the passage of time, the end of commercial sales, and perhaps HP's tacit approval.

The creators of SIMH are assuming HP won't be reining in the 20-year-old OS built for the previous MPE generation. Dave Bryan, who posted a note about a new version of the SIMH simulator for the 3000, said that the HP Computer Museum in Australia has helped to make MPE V available for simulator use via a website.

I assembled the kit from the tape image in that directory, which was supplied to me by Al Kossow of Bitsavers. Al then posted the kit and tape on his site.

Before undertaking the 3000 simulator project, I verified with Al in 2011 that he would be able to post an MPE image, and he confirmed that he could.

This year marks a milestone in the 3000's Classic generation: a moment to download the needed MPE V OS without a license concern. If Kossow's upload is legal, this version of MPE V has become freeware.

This kind of open source status is what the 3000 community pursued for MPE/iX for the better part of a decade. As the ultimate 3000 OS, MPE/iX hasn't moved into the state of a GPL license (for sharing). Not yet. But there was a time when HP's MPE V was closely guarded and licensed, too. Nowadays, not so much. The transfer to open access for an OS requires time. HP hasn't sold an MPE/iX system in almost 13 years. The company stopped selling MPE V servers 21 years ago. The clock might be running toward an unfettered MPE/iX.

The release of a 3000 OS into the skies of sharing is based on other HP operating system lifespans. More than a decade ago, HP issued a free hobbyist license for OpenVMS. This was possible because the product started its life in DEC. Later on, though, the release of the HP 1000's RTE into the open skies showed how HP could set an older OS free. The HP 1000 was off the HP corporate price list for less than 15 years by the time its OS went native.

Bryan explained how MPE V came to be available as a download from a site called Bitsavers. Al Kosslow's help was important.

Al is also the software curator of the Computer History Museum. I know that the CHM obtained licensing from HP for the HP 1000 Software Collection that Bitsavers hosts, and I know that Al and the CHM were in discussions some time ago with HP regarding their 3000 software. I don't know the content or extent of those discussions.

A visit to the Bitsavers link shows what's available for MPE V. The simulator's software help file reports the following.

A preconfigured MPE-V/R disc image containing the Fundamental   Operating Software (FOS), selected SUBSYS language processors (BASIC, BASICOMP, COBOL, COBOL II, FORTRAN, PASCAL, RPG, and SPL), and example programs is available from Bitsavers. The archive contains instructions and simulator command files that  allow ready-to-run operation.

The disc image is contained in "mpe-vr-software-kit.zip". The directory also contains "32002-11018_Rev-2548.zip", which is the MPE-V/R FOS  tape, if you prefer to generate everything yourself. The software kit includes the console logs from the RELOAD that used the above tape image to produce the disc image.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 22, 2016

What's MPE got to do with emulators?

Thoroughbred-horsesCompanies that want to use their MPE/iX applications a long time might count their timelines with two eras: Before Emulator, and After Emulator. The B.E. period left the MPE/iX user locked to Hewlett-Packard hardware and waiting for upgrades to HP boxes. The A.E. era uses virtualization via Charon to permit many beefy Intel boxes do the MPE/iX work. But what does MPE/iX code have to do with the magic of Charon? Not much, which is a good thing.

There's a stubborn story we hear about how the gem of MPE's source code is at the heart of what Charon does. What a virtualization engine like the Stromasys product delivers is a new capability for Intel hardware. An Intel box can pretend to be a PA-RISC processor, thanks to the software engineered by the creators of similar products for the Digital market.

But Charon doesn't rely on MPE/iX secrets to do this magic. It's like thinking a jockey is the being who's running a 2-mile racetrack course. He's the rider, and the horse in this metaphor is Charon. The basic design of Charon products, like the ones that virtualize the Sun Sparc systems and the PDP systems of DEC, creates the expertise for booting up Intels like they're 3000s. Nobody expects the ancestry of the jockey to play a role in making the horse faster. We don't sit in the grandstands to watch jockeys hoof it around the track.

Source code for MPE/iX was a big part of the push for emulation that started in 2002. The thought at the time, though, was that MPE itself could be taken on as a third party tool. That somehow something could pretend to be MPE, instead of pretending to be the PA-RISC hardware. Emulation is a broad term. Virtualization is more accurate, and these days, almost as well known thanks to titans like VMware.

OpenMPE fought the good battle to get HP to release source code for MPE/iX. It won, but the group never got a copy of the source for itself. The reasons run to finances and organization of the board of directors, struggles we've documented starting six years ago. Then 2011 dawned as one of the dimmest years for the 3000, just dumped off HP's support and with no apparent future for fresher hardware. The only advocacy group was reeling from lawsuits among its leaders. For the last two elections of its board, the number of nominees was the same as the number of directors. Few people could volunteer with gusto. Some of the best were already there, or had already done their bit.

It's a good thing indeed that MPE/iX source code plays no role in the technology of Charon. The code is not open source, as OpenMPE wanted. (That's the whole reason it's called OpenMPE, instead of FreePA-RISC.) What the community got was a license from HP, not freeware. If Charon needed MPE/iX gems, it would mean HP retains control over a product that will let newer hardware take over when the battleship-grade HP iron hits the scrapyard. Nobody wants Hewlett-Packard to have a say in MPE/iX host hardware futures. The vendor's had enough impact on those. In the days of A.E. the virtualization miracle needs nothing from MPE/iX but a stable copy of the OS to carry in its saddle. The horsepower comes from an independent company, the kind that's kept the MPE/iX journey on course.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:58 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 15, 2016

Throwback of mid-June marks much change

Amid the midpoint of June, we have reported a lot of change in that month of the 3000 community's calendar. In the blog's first year of 2005, this report said HP's Unix was named in about a third of migrations.

HP-UX gains in later results (2005)

These revised percentage totals keep Windows in the lead. But with 71 companies reporting their migration plans or accomplishments to us, HP-UX has managed to poke above the 30 percent mark, to just about one-third of the target platform choices.

And there remains in the community a vibrant devotion to migrating to Windows. Linux was less than 10 percent back then. How enterprise tastes have changed.

New, independent training begins (2006)

MPE-Education.com becomes the hub for 3000 training as of this week, since HP has called off its training courses for the platform. Many companies still have years of HP 3000 use in front of them.

Paul Edwards and Frank Alden Smith revitalized HP's 3000 training materials and put the education experience online at $1,750 a seat. The market didn't materialize for the noble, useful service.

So much to see, so far to go (2007)

RibbonsOn a rack in one of the Mandalay Bay's wide lobbies at the Encompass show — lobbies so wide that a semi truck can pass unfettered — a stand of adhesive badges sparkles. The array of ribbons stamped with silver letters lays out the known future for an HP customer or prospect.

To no one's surprise, no "MPE/iX" ribbons. This is a conference which looks toward a new future with HP, instead of the past, or MPE's ongoing tomorrow without the vendor. 3000 community members are coming here to make plans for something new from HP—or hear from vendors and experts about how to make better use of something else from Hewlett-Packard.

The new Las Vegas digs for the annual user group show "improved its curb appeal," said the user group president. A sprawling show in a Vegas casino resort still showed off HP-UX training. "Windows on HP" suggested the vendor was scrabbling to keep customers on its platform.

HP to release more 3000 patches (2008)

"We did a lot of work in that area," said HP's Jim Hawkins at the Tech Forum. "For a lot of patches that have been languishing in beta test status, we've been able to move them into General Release status so they can be downloaded from the HP ITRC, which makes them freely available."

Indeed, those patches remain free if a 3000 customer knows how to ask for them. Help from an independent support vendor remains a good way to stay in touch with what HP might've forgotten—or which of those patches you ought to avoid.

Retired HP lab leaves issues behind (2009)

But while a 3000 issues list logs many HP decisions, some key items remain unresolved.The issue with the broadest potential impact on homesteading customers appears to be resources for the HP 3000 hardware emulator project.

HP didn't release test suites it used to develop MPE/iX, for example. It would be three more years until Stromasys released the Charon emulator. This was the year HP started to change its mind about helping out.

Red-blooded sites shape new scheduler (2010)

The new Windows-based MBF Scheduler grew up in MB Foster’s labs, nourished by the experience of engagements with several sites migrating from the 3000.The 3000’s depth of scheduling was integrated into the environment from the early days of system delivery. The cloned feature set reminds migrators of what they’ve learned to rely upon. 

MBF Scheduler is still the Windows job scheduler that accommodates MPE procedures best. Experience from "true, red-blooded sites" gave the software its feature set.

N-Class price points at value (2011)

At one end there's a 20-year-old 927 server still working in a production setting. At the other end, the most powerful 3000s built by HP are now less than $10,000, at least in a spare-parts or hot DR offering with your own licenses. 

Prices for N-Class servers have been quoted below $4,000 this year. That 927 may still be working. That's what the indie support companies make possible.

Is HP porting HP-UX to Xeon, or not? (2012)

In a Wall Street Journal interview, new CEO Meg Whitman tossed off a message that HP-UX is on its way to the Intel Xeon processor line.

To answer the question: not. The heir apparent to the MPE enterprise-class datacenter will be on Itanium chips for the forseeable future.

Emulator: how far it goes, and what's next (2013)

Even among the potential allies for the Stromasys emulator, uncertainty is afoot. In a conversation with a reseller last week about the product, he was not sure that IMAGE was a part of the solution. People approach the Charon emulator from their best-known persepective, and in most cases that’s MPE/iX and its database. Good news: Charon doesn’t emulate any of that software. It simply uses what Hewlett-Packard created and installed on everyone's 3000.

This remains a misunderstood point among 3000 customers with very old hardware. The MPE/iX operating system runs the same on Charon as it does on HP's iron.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:19 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

June 08, 2016

Blog's birthday marks 11 digital years

Birthday-candlesThey're like dog years, these digital years: each counts for much more considering the change that they chronicle. This space on the Web has now been open 11 years. On June 8 of 2005 a death in the 3000's family rose into the news. Bruce Toback, creator of several 3000 software products and a man whose intellect was as sharp as his wit, died as suddenly as HP's futures for the HP 3000 did. I wrote a brief tribute on that day, because Toback's writing on the 3000-L made him a popular source of information. His email posts signed off with Edna St. Vincent Millay's poem about a candle with both ends alight, which made it burn so bright.

Like the best of the 3000's community leaders, Toback flashed bright ends of technical prowess and a smart cynicism, the latter which couldn't help but spark a chuckle. His programming lies at the heart of Formation, a ROC Software product which Toback created for Tymlabs, an extraordinary HP software company here in Austin during 80s and early 90s. Toback could demonstrate a sharp wit as well as trenchant insight. From one of his messages in 2004:

HP engineer [about a Webcast to encourage migration]: During the program, we will discuss the value and benefits of Transitioning from the HP e3000 platform to Microsoft's .NET.

Bruce: Oh... a very short program, then.

Without the news and developments of migration, though, we might not have arrived at this space with as much copy by now. Today there's more than 2,800 articles here going back 11 years, and there are 10 additional years of reporting and commentary on the 3000newswire.com site as well. (You can search it all through the link at the left, and people do every day.) After more than a couple of decades of this work, we thank the community — and in particular, our sponsors — for the opportunity to blog about the present, the future, and the past.

In this blog's first month of 2005, I wrote

"HP 3000 enhancements can travel like distant starlight: They sometimes take years to show up on customer systems. A good example is jumbo datasets for the 3000's database. Jumbos, the 3000's best tool for supporting datasets bigger than 4GB, first surfaced out of HP's labs in 1995, just when the NewsWire was emerging. We put our news online in the months before we'd committed to print, and our report of September 1 had this to say."

HP will make the enhancement available as part of its patch system, bypassing the delay of waiting for another full release of MPE/iX. But there are already discussions from the HP 3000 community that a more thorough change will be needed before long — because 40-gigabyte datasets someday might not be large enough, either.

"Why care about 20- or even 10-year-old news? Because the 3000 has such a long lifespan where it's permitted to keep serving. In the conservative timeline of 3000 management, jumbos were the distant starlight, only becoming commonplace on 3000s a decade later. Jumbos are finally going to get eclipsed by LargeFile datasets. HP's engineers say their alpha testing to fix a critical bug in LFDS is going well."

"Like the jumbos before them, LFDS are also going to get a slow embrace. How slowly did jumbos go into production systems? Five years after jumbos first emerged, John Burke wrote in our net.digest column "it is hard to tell about the penetration of jumbo datasets in the user community beyond users of the Amisys application." His column also offered some tips on using jumbos, even while database experts in the community continued to lobby for a way to build larger files."

That reporting in 2005 marked the first time in a decade that 3000 customers could build a dataset as big as they needed. Up until then, LFDS had not been recommended for 3000 customers except in experimental implementations.

The nature of the 3000 community's starlight made a 10-year-old enhancement like jumbos current and vital. Alfredo Rego of Adager once said that his database software was designed like a satellite, something that might be traveling for decades or more and need the reliability of spacecraft to go beyond the reach of support transmissions. HP's signal for 3000s has died by now. We hope to repeat signals, as well as report, for more than another decade, onto the cusp of MPE's calendar reset of 2027. Thanks for receiving these transmissions.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:58 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 27, 2016

A Weekend Memorial to the Future's Past

Here in the US we start our Memorial Day holiday weekend today. Plenty of IT experts are taking a few days off. I reported the start of the HP 3000 emulation era over a Memorial Day weekend, five years ago. We'll take our long weekend to celebrate grandkids and a cookout, and see you back here next week.

In the meantime, here's that first report, a three-parter, showing that Stromasys set and met its development schedule, one that gave the 3000 homesteaders a future beyond the lifespan of HP's MPE/iX hardware. One year later, the software, called Zelus at the time, had a formal debut at a Training Day. Now as Charon it's preserving MPE/iX applications.

ZelusBoot-e3000-a400-2

During that 2011 springtime, Stromasys offered screen shots of the PA-RISC emulator as evidence the software could serve as a virtual platform for the 3000’s OS. The screen above shows the beginning of the boot sequence (click for detailed view). HP provided internals boot-up documentation to assist in the software's design.

A product journey toward a 3000 hardware emulator took another significant step this spring, as the Zelus cross-platform software booted MPE/iX on an Intel server.

CTO Dr. Robert Boers of Stromasys reported that the OS has come up on a version of the emulator that will managed, eventually, by Linux. Although the test screens that Boers sent were hosted by Windows, the "fairly preliminary version" will be released on an open source OS. "Windows is a little passé," Boers said. "But we now have a first prototype."

Stromasys said it has now been able to use Zelus to tap PA-RISC hardware diagnostics to get the bugs out. "The way we had to debug this was just looking at the code instruction by instruction," Boers said, "to figure out what it does. That took us a long time." Compared to the emulators for the DEC market, "this is by far the most complex emulator."

The accomplishment means that Zelus can do enough to create an MPE/iX image in memory and log to the files. For MPE that was complex, Boers said, while examining and transferring bits and pieces of 32-bit and 64-bit code. Linking to the Processor Dependent Code (PDC) calls that check for 3000 hardware held the project up. One decimal in a table — which turned out to be 666 — "kept us from booting for three months," Boers said. "It's an infamous number that turned out to be a coincidence when we found it."

The pilot milestone comes about one quarter later than the company estimated last year. Pilot versions of the emulator were scheduled to be in beta test by now, with a full release available by mid-year. Boers said the complexity and construction of HP's MPE boot code taxed the tech skills of a company which has built thriving DEC Alpha and VAX and hardware emulators.

"It was a tough one to write," he said of the 3000 effort that began in earnest last year but reaches through HP's licensing delays back to 2004. "It's a pretty deviously complex system. The big problem is that large parts of the operating system are still running in 32-bit mode. MPE's basically an emulated operating environment. We were debugging an emulator running on an emulator."

Hewlett-Packard said in the 1990s that MPE/iX was going to get its full 64-bit version when HP revised it for the Itanium processors. When the vendor cancelled its product futures, the OS remained in emulation mode.

Zelus product delivery to a limited number of sites will take some time, "because it's been such a long project and it's a matter of pride. This has been just a proof of concept. We started trying to build a 918, but then we decided to build something really good, so it now is [software that emulates] an A400."

Making a market for an emulator

HP won't resell an emulator to help the market

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:34 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 16, 2016

A Spring When The Web Was New to You

May 1996 Front PageTwenty years ago this month we were paying special attention to the Web. We called it the World Wide Web in May 1996, the www that does not precede Internet addresses anymore. But on the pages of the 3000 NewsWire released in this week of May, a notable integration of IMAGE and the Internet got its spotlight. We've put that issue online for the first time. The Web was so new to us that our first 10 issues were never coded into HTML. Now you can read and download the issue, and it's even searchable within the limits of Adobe's OCR.

As an application for higher education, IRIS was serving colleges in 1996 using MPE/iX. The colleges wanted this new Web thing, popular among its professors and students, to work with the 3000 applications. Thus was born IRISLink.

IRISLink is not a product that Software Research Northwest will sell to the general market. But SRN's Wayne Holt suspects that a generic version of something like it is probably being built in the basement of more than one third-party vendor for rollout at this summer's HP World meeting.

"The message traffic on the HP 3000-L Internet list shows that a lot of sites prefer the COBOL lI/IMAGE model over writing piles of new code in a nonbusiness oriented language," Holt said. "But people are telling them that won't fly in the world of the Web and - take a deep breath here - the time has come to dump their existing well-developed COBOL lI/IMAGE infrastructure on the HP 3000. Not so."

The integrators on this project made themselves big names in the next few years. David Greer convinced Holt at a face-to-face meeting at a Texas user conference where "I listened to him share his vision of what the Web would someday be in terms of a standard for access to resources and information." Chris Bartram was providing a freeware version of email software that used Internet open systems standards. Take that, DeskManager.

It was far from accepted wisdom in 1996 that the WWW would become useful to corporate and business-related organizations. Even in that year, though, the drag of COBOL II's age could be felt pulling away 3000 users from the server. An HP survey we noted on the FlashPaper pages of that issue "asks customers to give HP a 1-5 rating (5 as most important) on enhancements to COBOL II that might keep you from moving to another language." There wasn't another language to move toward, other than the 4GLs and C, and those languages represented a scant portion of 3000 programs. Without the language improvements, some 3000 customers would have to move on. 

Linking compilers with the Internet for the HP 3000 was not among the requested enhancements. The 4GL vendors were already moving to adopt this Web thing. The 3000 was still without a Web server, something that seemed important while Sun and the Windows NT bases had plenty to choose from.

HP was struggling to find enough engineers to do everything that was being proposed in a wild time of Internet growth and innovation. We complained of this in an editorial. HP would tell a customer who needed something new in 1996, "Help me build a business case for that." As in, let's be sure you'd buy it before we build it. Puh-leeze, I wrote.

One business case - a need for a product - doesn't eliminate another. Some customers need COBOL 97 support, the speed of the Merced chip and the ability to run Java native on their HP 3000s. Maybe they need the COBOL support first, Java after that, and the Merced by decade's end. There are others who need the same things but in a different priority. If CSY draws its input only from customers, they pit one set of priorities against another. I doubt this is the intent of being Customer Focused - but it's what happens when every development needs a Business Case.

HP itself was still pulling away from legacy technology: systems running corporate IT that didn't even have an HP badge on them.

For many years mainframes from IBM and Amdahl have been among the most business-critical servers in the company, and on May 17 HP will replace those systems with its own. According to reports from the Reuters news service. HP 3000 systems as well as HP's Unix systems will take the place of those mainframes. That comment came from HP's CEO Lew Platt, interviewed while on business in Asia. The mention of the HP 3000 by the company's CEO begins to fulfill at least one Proposition 3000 proposal - a higher profile for the computer system within HP's own operations.

Proposition 3000, of course, was the advocacy push launched to put the 3000 in a frame like the propositions on the California ballots of that era. Changes in the infrastructure, voted in by the constituency. Computerworld "asserted that HP had been "put on notice" during the SIGMPE meeting at San Jose in late March where the Proposition was first presented to HP management."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink | Comments (0)

May 13, 2016

Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds

Proving GroundThree years ago today, Stromasys hosted a community meeting at the Computer History Museum. It was the coming-out party for the debutante HP 3000 virtualization product Charon. The software had been running in several production sites for awhile, but the CHM meeting collected several dozen partners, prospects, and Stromasys experts. Some spicy slide decks were shared, along with promises that saving MPE/iX applications just got easier. This was billed as training.

In the 36 months since that day, the Charon HPA software has been enhanced twice to better its performance levels as well as establishing more complete emulation of the HP hardware environments. One major change to the solution came by eliminating an option — a kind of addition through subtraction that's pushing the software into production use more often. The Freeware A-202 of 2013 has been removed, replaced by Proof of Concept. PoC is pretty much the only gateway to using the software that transforms Intel-Linux boxes into PA-RISC 3000 servers.

3000 sites "are coming out of the closets," said product manager Doug Smith when he flew into Austin to update me about the product. He's running a program that discounts PoC engagements, with savings based on the size of the license. Companies that few of us knew were using 3000s have surfaced to adopt Charon, he explained. There's also a 6-way and 8-way configuration of the software that moves above the performance levels of the biggest N-Class server. Meeting and beating HP's 3000 iron performance is a big part of the approval process to get Charon sold and installed.

A proof of concept engagement takes real production data, integrated into the software-server combo of Charon over a period of five days, and shows managers in tech and the boardroom how seamless emulation can look. Smith says that MPE sites don't even need a Linux admin to do this virtualization. One part of that is because of the proof of concept phase gets everything in place to run. Three years ago, the issues to resolve were license-based in some prospects' eyes. By now, putting Charon in play involves five days of time and a license that can be either annual or perpetual. 

But Smith says just about all the Charon licenses sold to 3000 sites today are perpetual. This might be one reason why going to Computer History Museum for that 2013 coming-out seemed so fitting. Legacy and history are often co-pilots that deliver stable applications.

That meeting room brimmed at the Computer History Museum in 2013, where Stromasys spooled out more than six hours of technical briefing as well as the product strategy and futures for Charon HPA/3000. This emulator was anticipated more than 11 years ago, but only came to the market in 2012. And that gap, largely introduced by HP's intellectual property lawyers, killed one license needed to run MPE on any Intel server. But the good news is that an HP licensing mechanism still exists for MPE/iX to operate under the Charon emulator -- pretty much on any good-sized Intel system that can run VMware and Linux. However, you need to know how to ask HP for the required license.

The phrase that permits a customer to switch their MPE/iX from HP iron to PC hardware is called "an intra-company license transfer." If you don't ask for it by name, the standard HP transfer forms won't pass muster. Most SLTs happen between two companies. Who'd sell themselves their own hardware, after all?

In short, HP's using its existing and proven Software License Transfer (SLT) mechanism to license emulated 3000s. It's doing this because of that delay which ran out the clock on a hard-earned path to the future. HP called it the Emulator License back in 2005. It just happened to need an emulator on sale in order for a customer to buy this license.

The Emulator License isn't quite like the mythical griffin of ancient lore. It's not common, but HP will know what a customer is seeking when they ask for a intra-company license transfer.

Perhaps HP's lawyers -- who certainly had to be convinced by the 3000 division at the time -- insisted on the "existing emulator" clause in the license. The license was supposed to cost $500, but HP could never collect that money without a working emulator for a 3000 on the market. Then HP stopped issuing MPE/iX licenses because its Right To Use program ran out at the end of 2008. No RTU, no emulator license: this was a moment when the 3000s in the world were limited to whatever HP iron was on hand.

However, this was not the first time HP had ever tried to make it legal to run one of its OS products on non-HP gear. By the time OpenMPE wore HP down and got that Emulator License, the Stromasys product line was running hundreds of instances of VAX and PDP emulated systems, all using VMS. Digital, even after it became part of HP, didn't care if you were emulating its "end-of-lifed" PDP and VAX systems. What Digital-HP cared about was the ongoing support revenue, and the good will, of keeping older systems running where they remain the best solution.

This time around, for the 3000, HP intended to cut off all of its business by 2006. Er, 2008. Well, certainly by 2010, even though some 3000 owners still could call on HP for MPE and hardware support during 2011. No matter. Customers are the ones who determine the life of a computer environment, and software never dies. At that coming-out, the company said that the natural end state for every computer is virtualization -- what a classic 3000 customer calls an emulator.

The company has said they've always believed that the value of the system is in the uniqueness of the application. A product like Charon is dedicated to preserving the investments made across more than three decades of HP 3000 hardware generations.

Customers don't get to create MPE/iX licenses for Charon systems, though, and Stromasys cannot sell any licenses. Neither can HP anymore, either. But those licenses come out of the closets, or off the CPU boards of resold systems. HP never got a chance to sell an emulator license, but it wasn't the first time Hewlett-Packard built an item for 3000 customers it never did sell. HP wanted to emulate an HP-UX server on HP 3000 hardware with the legendary MOST project of 1994. Virtualizing operating environments is a long-standing concept, one that's getting proved all the time in this year's 3000 community.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 06:06 PM in History, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

April 01, 2016

MPE source code ID'ed as key to encryption

In a news item that appeared in our inbox early this morning, the researchers at the website darkstuff.com report they have identified the key algorithm for iPhone cracking software to be code from the 1980 release of Q-MIT, a version of MPE. The iPhone seized as part of an FBI investigation was finally cracked this week. But the US government agency only reported that an outside party provided the needed tool, after Apple refused to build such software.

IPhone crackThe specific identity of the third party firm has been clouded in secrecy. But the DarkStuff experts say they've done a reverse trace of the signature packets from the FBI notice uploaded to CERT and found links that identify Software House, a firm incorporated in the 1980s which purchased open market source code for MPE V. The bankruptcy trustee of Software House, when contacted for confirmation, would not admit or deny the company's involvement in the iPhone hack.

A terse statement shared with the NewsWire simply said, "Millions of lines of SPL make up MPE, and this code was sold legally to Software House. The software does many things, including operations far ahead of their time." HP sold MPE V source for $500 for the early part of the 1980s, but 3000 customers could never get the vendor to do the same for MPE/iX.

Lore in the 3000 community points to D. David Brown, an MPE guru who ran a consulting business for clients off the grid and off the books, as the leading light to developing the key. An MPE expert who recently helped in the simh emulation of Classic HP 3000s confirmed that Brown's work used HP engineering of the time in a way the vendor never intended. Simh only creates a virtualized CISC HP 3000 running under Linux, so MPE V is the only OS that can be used in simh.

"Lots of commented-out code in there," said the MPE expert, who didn't want to be named for this story. "Parts of MPE got written during the era of phone hacking. Those guys were true rebels, and I mean in a 2600-style of ethics. It's possible that Brown just stumbled on this while he was looking for DEL/3000 stubs in MPE."

The FBI reported this week that its third party also plans to utilize the iPhone cracker in two other cases that are still under investigation. Air-gapped protocols were apparently needed to make the MPE source able to scour the iPhone's contents, using a NAND overwrite. The air gapping pointed the DarkStuff experts toward the HP 3000, a server whose initial MPE designs were years ahead of state-of-the art engineering. "Heck, the whole HP 3000 was air-gapped for the first half of its MPE life," said Winston Rather at DarkMatter. "It's a clever choice, hiding the key in plain sight."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 04:34 PM in History, News Outta HP, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

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."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:10 PM in History, Homesteading, User Reports | Permalink | Comments (0)

February 29, 2016

Making the Years Count in One that Leaps

He was once the youngest official member of the 3000 community. And for a few more years, he still has the rare distinction of not being in his 50s or 60s while knowing MPE. Eugene Volokh celebrates his 48th birthday today. The co-creator of MPEX must wait every four years to celebrate on his real day of birth: He was born on Feb. 29 in the Ukraine.

Like the HP 3000 and MPE itself, years do not appear to weigh heavy on the community's first wunderkind.

Eugene at 48Although he's no longer the youngest 3000 community member (a rank that sits today with Myles Foster, product manager for MB Foster in this first year after his recent double-degree graduation from Carleton University) Eugene probably ranks as the best-known member outside our humble neighborhood. He built and then improved MPEX, VEAudit/3000 and Security/3000 with his father Vladimir at VEsoft. Then Eugene earned a law degree, clerked at the US 9th Circuit Court, and went on to clerk for now-retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor -- all en route to his current place in the public eye as go-to man for all questions concerning intellectual property on the Web and Internet, as well as First and Second Amendment issues across all media.

Eugene's profile has risen enough since his last birthday that the Associated Press included him in its latest "Born on This Day" feature. He's appeared on TV, been quoted in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, plus penned columns for that publication, the New York Times, as well as Harvard, Yale and Georgetown law reviews.

When I last heard Eugene's voice, he was commenting in the middle of a This American Life broadcast. He's a professor of Constitutional law at UCLA, and the father of two sons of his own by now. Online, he makes appearances on The Volokh Conspiracy blog he founded with brother Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University). Since his last birthday, the Conspiracy has become a feature of the Washington Post.

In the 3000 world, Eugene's star burned with distinction when he was only a teenager. I met him in Orlando at the annual Interex conference in 1988, when he held court at a dinner at the tender age of 20. I was a lad of 31 and people twice his age listened to him wax full on subjects surrounding security -- a natural topic for someone who presented the paper Burn Before Reading, which remains a vital text even more 25 years after it was written. That paper's inception matches with mine in the community -- we both entered in 1984. But Eugene, one of those first-name-only 3000 personalities like Alfredo or Birket, was always way ahead of many of us in 3000 lore and learning.

Burn Before Reading is part of a collection of Eugene's Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software, published by VEsoft long before indie publishing was so much in vogue. (We've got copies of the 4th Edition here at the NewsWire we can share, if you don't have one in your library. Email me.) The book even had the foresight to include advertisements from other members of the 3000 indie software vendor ranks. His father reminded me this month that the Russian tradition of Samizdat was a self-publishing adventure born out of the need to escape USSR censorship. These Russians created an enterprise out of the opportunities America and HP provided in the 1970s, when they emigrated.

Eugene got that early start as a voice for the HP 3000 building software, but his career included a temporary job in Hewlett-Packard's MPE labs at age 14. According to his Wikipedia page

At age 12, he began working as a computer programmer. Three years later, he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Math and Computer Science from UCLA. As a junior at UCLA, he earned $480 a week as a programmer for 20th Century Fox. During this period, his achievements were featured in an episode of OMNI: The New Frontier.

His father Vladimir remains an icon of the 3000 community who still travels to consult in the US, visit some of the VEsoft customers to advise them on securing and exploiting the powers of MPE. The Volokh gift is for languages -- Vladimir speaks five, and Sasha once gave a paper in two languages at a conference, before and then after lunch.

At 37,000 words, a single Q&A article from Eugene -- not included in the book -- called Winning at MPE is about half as big as your average novel. The papers in Thoughts and Discourses, as well as Winning, are included on each product tape that VEsoft ships. But if you're not a customer, you can read them on the Adager website. They're great training on the nuances of this computer you're probably relying upon, nearly three decades after they were written. Happy Birthday, young man. Long may your exacting and entertaining words wave.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:59 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 28, 2016

TBT: A Terminal Commemoration

ChallengerThirty years ago today I sat at a Columbia PC, reading the reports of the Challenger disaster on Compuserve. The news flashed over an amber display attached to the PC, an IBM wannabe that had another life for us at the HP Chronicle. That PC was our link to an HP 3000 in downtown Austin. A printer there managed our subscription database. The software that made it possible was PC2622. The product from Walker, Richer & Quinn was the first independent terminal emulator in the Hewlett-Packard market, a way to link to 3000s without purchasing a dedicated terminal.

PC2622 boxThe purple PC2622 box sat atop that amber monitor like it perched in many 3000 shops. HP's 2622 terminal was a staple in an installed base that was growing from 10,000 to 20,000 installed servers. The HP products were priced much higher than third-party terminals. There was independent hardware to mimic the HP engineering inside the 3000-only boxes. By 1986, however, PCs were in every office and companies needed desk space for the new tools and wanted to reduce costs with a single tube at each workstation.

PC2622 disksHP was trying to promote a combo idea of its own in the era, the HP 150 PC. It was not compatible with much of the software of the day, but a Touchscreen 150 was automatically ready to be a console for MPE applications. In contrast, the Walker, Richer & Quinn PC2622 gave companies compatibility on both fronts: MS-DOS, and MPE. George Hubman was the point man for pushing the purple boxes into 3000 shops. An array of resellers around the world was making converts, too.

The late Doug Walker, founder of the company who recently died in a tragic accident, said the earliest days for PC2622 were entertaining in a "may you live in interesting times" setting. HP was not giving ground to the strategy that independent companies could deliver key software. Well, the management wasn't. But HP's field engineers, the SEs of the day, were big fans of terminal emulation, according to Walker. 

"Version 1.1 of the product had an HP 3000 file transfer program," Walker said. "The problem was how to get the file transfer program onto the 3000 side."

We needed to be able to upload the file transfer program from the PC. We solved it by using the logic in the HP terminals for reading a tape. You could do a binary transfer of blocks of data using FCOPY, so we’d convince the terminal to upload our file to the HP 3000 from a tape.

In those days we had to figure out how to bootstrap the file transfer operation to get the program on the 3000. Because it certainly wasn’t the case that HP was going to distribute it for us.

HP didn’t really have a terminal emulator, and they weren’t too sure of their attitude about us jumping in and offering one. HP had their own PC back then, the HP 150, and the 150 had a file transfer program. So HP could distribute the HP 3000 portion of that program themselves. They took a not-necessarily friendly view of us doing this. They even offered to buy the company in 1985.

We asked Walker when he retired in 2005 if HP could have offered a price that would’ve made his company say yes. "Yes, but they weren’t anywhere near it. We said it would cost millions of dollars, but they wouldn’t even think in terms of six zeroes."

Terminal emulation was so profound a concept that Tymlabs, Minisoft, and host of other companies soon offered a way to make MS-DOS boxes become consoles and terminals. Eventually HP created AdvanceLink software of its own. The Touchscreen 150 now sits in basements and a few museums. The purple boxes and floppy disks are long gone, and the concept of a terminal itself is quaint. But it was a mighty linchpin to 3000 computing's rise out to the desktop.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:21 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 08, 2016

Calculating Classic Value of 3000s

Hp3000_Family1The market price for HP 3000s on the used market can hover between $1,500 and $3,000, using quotes from Cypress Technology. Jesse Dougherty just posted an offer for an A-Class single-CPU system at the low end of that range. Licensing such a 3000's MPE is usually a second step. If it's a replacement 3000, there's a chance no upgrade fee would be involved.

But for the company that's seeking a fresh 3000, determining the market value with license gets to be trickier. HP 3000 gear is available from Pivital Solutions and other resellers, systems that ship with license documentation.

What's a license worth in 2016? We found a classic price point for MPE/iX in the archives of 3000 news from the winter of 2007. It was a year when HP support was still available in full-on versions, so HP was selling something it called the Right to Use License. This was the means to upgrade a 3000, and the extra power could cost as much as $89,000, less the current value of your MPE system. Business manager Jennie Hou explained.

There seemed to be confusion in the marketplace on how customers could ensure they had valid e3000 systems. We’re putting a product back on the price list to enable this for the 3000.  We’re really doing this to accommodate customers who need to upgrade their systems.

Client Systems was called out as the resource for the software upgrade, but that outlet may not be online in the market anymore. Midrange five-figure HP pricing for a server whose manufacture had halted more than three years earlier marked the final time the vendor put MPE/iX on its corporate price list. It's something to measure against when calculating licensed HP hardware value against the cost of virtualized HP 3000 gear.

About a year ago, Stromasys updated us with a base-level price for its Charon HPA line. $9,000 would get you the software needed to boot up MPE/iX in an A-Class power range. The HP iron on the used market may sound less costly, but it depends on the price of the license.

HP put out stout language to encourage buying license upgrades. "Using MPE/iX on original, upgraded, or modified hardware systems without the appropriate right-to-use license and/or software license upgrade from HP is prohibited.” The language wasn't in the original MPE/iX license that most customers hold now. HP explained that it was implied.

In the late stages of the previous decade, licensed 3000s carried some extra value because they qualified for HP support. But paying five figures for any of HP's 3000s today might be a stretch, because that solution won't ever get faster.

That's probably not the case for virtualized 3000s. It would require a replacement of the Intel PC hardware, but a Charon install could get faster by boosting CPU speed and cores. Threading matters less, because lots of 3000 software doesn't use multithreading.

When a manager looks back at that $89,000 from nine years ago, and then sees a server selling for less than five percent of that, the mid-point with a future built-in would be a virtualized 3000. More costly than the license-to-come HP iron. Less expensive than relicensing MPE/iX -- if there were anyone around to do that.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:45 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

January 07, 2016

TBT: Client Systems wanted, or missing?

In a routine check of what's available to help 3000 managers, over the holiday break I poked into a few Web locations to see where HP's Jazz papers and software were still hosted. Links from 3k Associates to those papers came up empty when they directed to the Client Systems website in late December. From all reasonable research, it appears the company itself may have gone into the everlasting shadows.

Many 3000 customers never did business directly with Client Systems, but the company had a hand in plenty of official 3000 installations. The vendor rose in community profiles in the late 1990s when HP appointed the firm its lone North American HP 3000 distributor — meaning they stocked and configured systems destined for companies around the continent. Thousands of servers passed through the Denver offices, each assigned the unique HPSUSAN numbers as well as the official HP CPUNAME identifiers that made a 3000 a licensed box.

FBI BadgeThat official license became a marketing wedge for awhile. We'd call it an edge, but the company's claim that re-sold 3000s from anywhere else could be seized by the FBI was designed to drive used systems away from buyers. There was never anything official about the FBI claims passed along by the company then. But in the era of the late '90s, and up to the point where HP pulled its futures plug, buying a 3000 included a moment like the ones from WW II movies: "Let me see your papers," an HP support official might say.

This was the strike-back that Hewlett-Packard used to respond with after widespread license fraud ran through the marketplace. By 1999 lawsuits claimed that a handful of companies had forged system IDs on PA-RISC hardware. A low-end L-Class box could be tricked up as a high-end 3000, for example. To push back, after the HP lawsuits were settled or had rulings dispensed, Client Systems started Phoenix/3000, something like an automaker's official resale lot.

Client Systems did lots of things for the marketplace much more laudable, operating a good technical services team that was upper-caliber in its depth of hardware knowledge. At its peak, the company provided 3kworld.com, an all-3000 portal in the days when portals were supposed to be important on the Web. The company was a partner with the NewsWire for several years, as we licensed our stories for use on the free 3k World website. 3kworld.com folded up, but the current clientsystems.com site still has Jazz tech information available, at least as of today.

Over the last two weeks we've received email bounces, even while the website is online. The whois information points to one physical address of a personal injury attorney's practice in Seattle. Our phone calls have gone unreturned, and we're not the only ones. Pivital Solutions, one of the last standing official HP resellers in that time when such things existed, still serves 3000 customers with hardware and support. Pivital's president Steve Suraci also has searched to find a light on.

"I tried back in the September timeframe to get in touch with anyone there that would answer the phone," Suraci said. "I left messages and re-tried for weeks and finally gave up on them." He wondered who might be picking up the pieces of whatever the company was doing at the end."

It can be tricky to confirm a death notice for a company. Unless the principals deliver the news, a demise can be creeping. Suraci said he was reaching out to buy something that only Client Systems ought to be able to sell: a license upgrade, even in 2015.

I had a customer that was looking for some hardware that I was have trouble sourcing.  I was also looking into the possibility of purchasing an upgrade license for a customer for TurboStore to the version that included the ONLINE option. When you don't get a call back on something that should be easy money... it probably means a bigger problem!

The website's reappeared recently, so perhaps this is a Mark Twain moment (reports of my death have been exaggerated) for Client Systems. It's the phone calls that look like they confirm the fading lights. One other pertinent address in the whois file lands at a single-family house in Colorado. To be honest, so does the address for the NewsWire, but we've always been a home-based business and never needed warehouse and office space. Stories and papers don't take up that much space.

Things were so much different back in the time of FBI threats. One meeting at that Denver HQ included some arch banter between us about relative size of companies. The NewsWire was, it appeared to one staffer, "just a lifestyle business." Guilty: The NewsWire has been a part of our lifestyle a long time. Hard to think of it any other way when the office is on the other end of your single-family home. We all laughed, some more than others. This week it's looking like lifespan, instead of lifestyle, is what could be measured. Nobody's dancing on a grave yet. We're not a community that embraces loss.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:55 PM in History, Homesteading, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 30, 2015

3000's '15 was littered with crumbs of news

It's the penultimate day of 2015, a date when summary and roundups prevail in the world of news. The year marked some milestones for the NewsWire, some losses of the community's oldest treasures, and one major breakup of an old flame. Here's a breadcrumb trail of stories of extra note, retold in the final stanza of the 3000's 43d full year serving businesses.

ChecksChecks on MPE's subsystems don't happen, do they? — We learned that HP's subsystem software doesn't really get checked by MPE to see if it's on a valid HP 3000 license. "None of HP's MPE/iX software subsystems that I've ever administered had any sort of HPSUSAN checks built into them," reported Brian Edminster, our community's open source software resource. Licensing MPE is a formality.

Virtualized storage earns a node on 3000s — A new SAN-based service uses storage in the cloud to help back up HP 3000s. The  HP3000/MPE/iX Fiber SAN doesn't call for shutting off a 3000. It can, however, be an early step to enabling a migration target server to take on IMAGE data.

NewsWire Goes Green — After 20 years of putting ink on paper and the paper into the mails, we retired the print issues of the NewsWire and went all-digital. We also marked the 10th anniversary of service from this blog and waved a proud flag of history to celebrate our founding Fall of two decades ago. We miss the print, but you won't miss the news. Bless the Web.

SuitPatches Are Custom Products in 2015 — HP licensed the MPE source code five years ago, and just a handful of elite support companies are using it to create customized patches and workarounds. If your support provider doesn't have a source license, it may be time to spruce up your provider chain. 

Still Emulating, After All of These Years — Several sites where the Stromasys Charon HPA emulator is working reported the solution is as stable and steady as ever, while others continued to emerge in the community. Even a 3000 using antique DTCs could be bought over to the light side of Intel-based virtualization.

N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000 — The bottom-end price on the top of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware line approached the same number as the server. A $3,000 N-Class 3000, and later a $2,000 model, both appeared on the used marketplace. A fully-transferred license for a server could lift the prices, of course, for a persnickety auditor.

Big companies still use the HP 3000 — A reader asked for proof that large companies were still relying on the 3000, and we discovered more than you'd expect 12 years after HP stopped making the server. Publicly held companies, too.

Work launches on TurboIMAGE Wiki page — Terry O'Brien of DISC started up a new project to document TurboIMAGE on Wikipedia, an effort that drew summertime attention.

3000 world loses points of technical light — The passing of Jack Connor and Jeff Kell left our hearts heavy, but our eyes full of the light of the technical gifts those pioneers and veterans gave us.

MANMAN vendor wants to run datacenters — Infor is still managing MANMAN support for 3000 sites. The vendor is encouraging all of its customers to turn over their datacenter operations to them.

Hewlett-Packard Enterprise trots out security in opener — The old flame that spurned the 3000's future ran into another kind of split-up when HP cut itself in two at the end of October. Hewlett-Packard Enterprise got custody of business servers and the support websites split up as HPE became the new name for that old flame.

Returning to Software, After Services — The most primal of the HP Platinum Migration partners, MB Foster, started to turn its focus onto data migration software for sale. The future of UDACentral lies in becoming a product that integrators and consultancies can buy, and customers can rent by the month. The CEO says the year to come will mark a rise in the percentage of software revenues for his company, where migration service has been leading sales for years.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:38 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 23, 2015

Throwback: The Holiday Welcome Message

Merry Christmas TreeIn the days when 3000 users logged on to their systems each day, the welcome message was a part of the social exchange between system managers and their customer base. Since the HP 3000 harks back to a day when only a specialized terminal could produce graphics, the server's messages had to be delivered using ASCII characters. This was a challenge that the 3000 manager of the 1980s and 1990s would warm to during the coldest of seasons.

On the archives of the 3000-L mailing list, we find messages on creating the ASCII tree as recently as 1996. "For those of you that have always wanted to put one of those Christmas Trees (with the blinking lights on an HP terminal) in your welcome message," said Tracy Johnson, "but never had the time to bother keying it in, I've attached (for those that can handle attachments) an ASCII text file you can upload."

Merry Christmas WelcomeThe skills to create artwork that would be plugged into a welcome message probably spring from the era's necessary focus on detail. What also helped was perhaps the quieter days of the holiday week we're about to enter. “I use QEDIT's full screen mode,” Costas Anastassiades said when MPE/iX 5.0 was new, “and switch the terminal to graphics mode (Ctrl N/Ctrl O) and then mess around with the various graphic keys. It's all there, on screen, and I can see what I'm doing. So we've had some animation (blinking lights on the original X-mas Tree), and I've added some "Rich Text Format.” Now if only someone can get a terminal to beep "Silent Night"....:)"

Of course, that emoji at the end of Costas' 1996 message is the bridge between the era of ASCII messages and the social media of today.

We're taking a few days off for the Christmas holiday at my house, a time to enjoy grandsons who'll scarcely understand that a computer couldn't display pictures. I hail from the era when A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas were new holiday cartoons, so I'm of an age to understand why the magic of a terminal display was something to play with. I'll leave us all with an ASCII-style holiday poem shared by Paul Edwards, user group director and legendary 3000 trainer, back in 2002. Enjoy your good nights to come, the one before Christmas, as well as those after. We'll be back next week with our 2015 wrap-up reports.

'Twas the night before Christmas 
and all through the nets
Not a mousie was stirring, not even the pets.
The floppies were stacked by the modem with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The files were nestled all snug in a folder
The screen saver turned on, the weather was colder.
And leaving the keyboard along with my mouse
I turned from the screen to the rest of the house.

When up from the drive there arose such a clatter
I turned to the screen to see what was the matter.
Away to the mouse I flew like a flash,
Zoomed open a window in fear of a crash...

The glow from the screen on the keyboard below
Gave an electronic luster to all my macros.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a little sleigh icon with eight tiny reindeer

And a tiny disk driver so SCSI and quick
I knew in a nano it must be Saint Nick.
More rapid than trackballs his cursors they came,
He whistled and shouted and faxed them by name.

"Now Flasher! Now Dasher! Now Raster and Bixel!
On Phosphor! On Photon! On Baudrate and Pixel!
To the top of the stack. To the top of the heap."
Then each little reindeer made a soft beep.

As data that before the wild electrons fly,
When they meet with a node, mount to the drive,
So up to the screentop the cursors they flew
With a sleigh full of disks and databits, too.

And then in a twinkling I heard the high whine
Of a modem connecting at a baud rate so fine.
As I gazed at the screen with a puzzling frown
St. Nicholas logged on though I thought I was down.

He was dressed all in bytes from header to footer
The words on the screen said "Don't you reboot 'er."
A bundle of bits he had flung on his back
And he looked like a programmer starting his hack.

His eyes how they glazed, his hair was so scary,
His cola was jolt, not flavoured with cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a GIF
And the pixels of his beard sure gave me a lift.

The stump of a routine he held tight in his code
And I knew he had made it past the last node.
He spoke not a word but looked right at me
And I saw in a flash his file was .SEA.

He self-decompressed and I watched him unfold,
Into a jolly old elf, a sight to behold.
And the whispering sound of my hard drive's head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He went straight to his work without saying a word
And filled all the folders of this happy nerd.
And 'tis the whole truth, as the story is told,
That giving a nod up the window he scrolled,

He sprang to the serial port as if truly on fire
And away they all flew down the thin copper wire.
But I heard him exclaim as he scrolled out of sight
"Merry Christmas to All, and to all a good night."

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:06 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 18, 2015

Will The Farce always be with us?

Carly FaceIt was well past quitting time this week when I saw the force re-awaken on my TV. In our den, that television is a 7-year-old Bravia LCD, which in TV terms is something like an N-Class server today. A fine midrange machine for its day, but mostly revered now for its value. We paid for it long ago and it continues to work without worries or repairs. Remaining 3000 owners, raise your hands if that's your situation.

On the Bravia, Abby and I watched Steven Colbert's late-night show. Like all of the talk shows it opened with comedy, because by 11:30 Eastern you're ready to laugh and forget the troubles of the day. Colbert poked fun at the latest Republican Presidential debate. You probably can see where this is going now, since a famous HP CEO remains in the running for that job.

Within a few minutes I watched the comedy lampoon of CNN's teaser for its debate broadcast. The leaders in that race swoosh by in close-ups, each with a light that washes across their face and their name blazing below. Trump. Cruz. Bush, and so on, but the lineup of hopefuls this week remains too long for everybody to get their name ablaze. The rest of CNN teaser included faces of other candidates, including the infamous Carly Fiorina. No name there.

But Colbert wasn't quite done. Following Carly's face were other close-ups. Faces from the cast of The Walking Dead washed across. We couldn't contain our delight at the skewering of Carly and the rest. HP's third-most-famous CEO was still having the last laugh, though, since HP became two companies as a result of merging with Compaq. Her Farce continues, even while the HP split-up tries to recover from the Hewlett-Packard fall she induced.

HP Star Wars laptopWe kept watching, even through the late hour, because a J.J. Abrams-Harrison Ford skit would air after the commercial. Oh, what an ad, how it pushed along The Farce. HP Inc. rolled out a commercial for its new Star Wars-themed laptop, a device so crucial to HP Inc success the laptop was mentioned in the latest quarterly analyst report. The tsunami of Star Wars branding is at its peak today while the critically acclaimed blockbuster opens to a sold-out weekend. HP's PC is just the kind of thing Carly would tout with a stage appearance. Thinking a laptop will make a $50 billion corporation's needle move is something of a Farce, but you never know. Nobody knew that The Farce of Carly's HP could cleave off a loyal customer base, either. Then there's the farce of Carly's convenient truthiness about her role in what she did while leading at HP.

It was leadership, but down into a ditch. HP's breakup is the evidence that becoming the biggest computer maker in the world — one that didn't want to make 3000s anymore — was a mistake, if not a misdeed. Low margins on big sales didn't endear customers for decades. The 3000 people stayed true to HP for decades, at least a couple. Unique products like 3000s, not Star Wars laptops, paid the bills with their profits.

Yes, it's a Farce. But will it always be with us, we luminous beings of the MPE community? How can we forgive the past when it's so difficult to forget? It made me wonder how and when we might let Hewlett-Packard off the mat, even while Carly's Farce plays out its end days.

When I posed that question to Abby — as she recovered from a hip replacement which my government is helping fund with her Medicare — Abby said it might not be soon. Our futures changed, like yours, when the 3000 became an End of Lifer in the new Very Large HP. Carly's Farce was believing a very large corporation would continue its growth unchecked. Endless growth isn't possible in economics, but endless devotion might be something real, not a farce.

I say of a few people, "I'll hate 'em until I die." It's unkind and unskilled. But mostly it's about sports, a place where passion lives. The 3000 owners, some of them anyway, displayed that kind of passion. Derek Fisher, the Laker who killed off my beloved San Antonio Spurs' chance to defend a title, tossing in a miracle shot with 0.4 seconds left — him, I'll hate until I die. Abby and I sat in seats in the ATT Center and watched that 2004 devastation. We'd already been blindsided by HP more than two years earlier. But for a Lakers fan, Fisher's shot was a stellar moment. Some HP reps and execs found that End of Life promise about the 3000 to be a stellar moment. It rattled my faith in HP. We could all have faith in HP until 2001. HP's first and second most famous CEOs saw to that, because their names were on the company.

Why You FailAs it turns out, faith is at the heart of The Force. The newest movie restores the faith of the Original Three films, but none more so than The Empire Strikes Back. Deep at its core that 1980 movie contains an exchange between Luke and Yoda. The young Jedi is trying to raise his X-Wing out of the Degobah swamp, using the Force. He struggles to lift it and collapses. Yoda takes over and the small creature uses the Force. The fighter soon sits on a bank beside the swamp.

"I don't believe it," Luke says.

"That," says Yoda, "is why you fail."

Okay, forgive me for sharing a moment so dear to my heart. I considered Empire's story my religion, in my years after Catholicism. My point for the readers who are still with me is that belief, shown as faith, is essential to loyalty and continued growth. Apple is going to have to acknowledge, in time, that it's saturated the world's computer users. It'll be a moment like the late '90s when new 3000 customers became as rare as Integrity buyers of today. What's left, to continue the growth, is the same thing the old pre-Carly HP used. Repeat business from existing customers. That is something HP failed to recover, and so it could not lift its X-Wing of the 3000 out of the Hewlett-Packard miasma of "If it's not growing, it's going." The 3000 wasn't going to survive a Compaq merger where VAX systems competed with 3000s.

Waiting for a Jedi master like Yoda to teach us about any faith in the new Hewlett-Packard Enterprise would be foolish. We don't need to learn, we have to unlearn what we have learned. Yoda told that to Luke. We need to unlearn our lessons about how a company could promote stock price and market size while its CEO knew and cared little about its products. That neglect might look like Apple coming to care little about its Mac line. Funny thing is, even while Apple made its cuts to the Mac, the force of faith remains strong in its customers. Mac sales keep growing, even while tablets cratered HP's Very Big plan, even while iPhones came to rule Apple rather than laptops and desktops.

LIke those laptops at Apple, there was always a core of profit in those phones, though. Apple charged more for them and relied on the faith of customers to remain loyal. I believe in the power of faith to move hearts and let us all survive the future. Once we have faith in Hewlett-Packard to hold its products in highest regard, instead of its growth and stock price, to see it pursue profits through quality and loyalty, we might release our anger.

Forgiveness is a vulnerable act. In forgiving we believe we're capable of trust after a mistake or a misdeed. Maybe after Carly exits the political field, I can work on forgiveness. She seems too shabby to hate until I die. Whenever forgiveness happens, that day could mark my start of leaving The Farce behind.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 01:48 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 17, 2015

TBT: When 2006 Meant 2008 to 3000 Owners

Mark Twain report of deathTen years ago this week, our community was anticipating overtime news for retaining their 3000s. The year 2005's late December marked the HP announcement that the long-running "end of life" date for the server was being delayed an additional two years. After four years of telling customer that the promised end-of-2006 closing of Hewlett-Packard support was indelible, HP erased its plans and added 24 months of HP support availability.

The timing of the news included a message all its own about the 3000's expected life. When a full day-plus elapsed with nary a customer comment, we reported

As for the relative silence from the customer community, this might be the result of making an announcement three days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Much of the world is already making plans or departing for R&R. As for the business planning of the 3000 sites’ budgets, well, 2006 is already spoken for. All this does is change the options for 2007.

We'd heard all of that year that "2006 means 2006." But by the week before Christmas, 2006 meant 2008. The impact was mixed among the community. The companies who had invested heavily in migration looked up with some dismay at an extended deadline that meant those projects had an extra two years to complete. The homesteading customers who relied on HP's support to justify homesteading breathed a sigh of relief.

But it was the community's vendors who took the bullet for the rest of our world. Platinum Migration Partners were working to fill their project calendars. Some had hired on extra contractor and staff help to service an expected rush of migrations leading to the end of 2006. There was a serious glut of experts during 2006 because of the change. In the homesteading sector, independent support providers looked up to see HP moving the goalposts on the support game. Rather than having a 2006 when expiring HP service contracts could be replaced by indie agreements, the year to come was still more than two years removed from a mandate to switch to third-party support.

HP always like to call the finale of its support program the 3000's End of Life. Prediction of the server's death were like the notices of Mark Twain's demise. That icon of humorists said in 1897, to set the record straight in The New York Journal, "The report of my death was an exaggeration." HP could not be certain even the end of 2008 would be the new end of life for the 3000.

"HP intends to offer basic reactive support services for e3000 systems through at least December, 2008," the company's fact sheet reported. There was the intention part of the statement (no promise) and then the qualifier of "at least." Four full years had elapsed in the migration era by the end of 2005, and Hewlett-Packard had no firm idea of how long its customers would spend using a system whose lifespan was exaggerated — in the wrong direction. As it had for many years, the 3000 was getting short-changed.

The year 2005 was the first for the Newswire's blog, so this extension of HP's plans was good news in our office. Rather than starting the Independent-Only Era in just 12 months, it turned out we wouldn't begin that period for another five years. End of 2008 would become End of 2010, an extension not as notable because it was not the first revision of HP plans.

We had the foresight or luck to consider the HP fact sheet to be a piece of history that we'd better preserve ourselves. The company's been scoured and sliced so completely by now that any mention of HP 3000 takes deep detective work to find on the HP Enterprise website. There's printers over in HP Inc with that designation. In 2005, the 3000 extension notice was on an all-3000 page that included migration success stories along with updates about licensing MPE's source code.

When HP no longer offers services that address the basic support needs of remaining e3000 customers, HP intends to offer to license HP e3000 MPE/iX source code to one or more third parties -- if partner interest exists at that time -- to help partners meet the basic support needs of the remaining e3000 customers and partners.

We spent the next several weeks dissecting the HP announcement for clues about its meaning. Since 2006 no longer meant 2006, extra study of the most current HP strategy was in order. I wrote at the time

As for the third-party MPE source licensing offer, it’s real, but it’s hard to say when it will be extended, or to who. Or what will be in the license. HP's said, "HP intends to license major portions [italics ours] of MPE/iX source code to qualified providers for the purpose of helping them support their customers." Right now HP doesn’t have to open up the source code to anybody until December, 2008, when the vendor is currently scheduled to end all its HP 3000 support. It could be later than that, according to HP. They say they keep listening to what customers want to keep buying (if you overlook the fact that the customers wanted to keep buying 3000s in 2001 -- just not enough customers to keep HP interested in building them.)

As for the support business, guarantees got an extension. Sort of.

HP will remain in the support business in 2007 and 2008, but it will be “basic reactive” support, unless you need mission-critical enterprise level support. Basic reactive gets you HP’s repairs, but nothing proactive. And the vendor’s “6 hours from call to completion” guarantee isn’t part of the basic reactive service, according to Murphy from HP Services  — ultimately the arbiter of how long HP will remain in the support business.

It was something to ponder during a lull in business for the community. This news was dropped on the Monday of Christmas Week. Not exactly the most effective and productive time to announce a new lease on life for a mission-critical server and its OS. But for the owner of a 3000 hoping to wring out as much time as possible on a stable platform, HP's change looked like a holiday gift.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:41 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

December 03, 2015

TBT: When feeds and speeds led HP's talks

Dave Snow and Abby LentzHP used to talk feeds and speeds to its faithful customers. This was never so obvious as in the product update talks delivered by Dave Snow, Product Planning Manager for the HP 3000 line. (He's shown here with Newswire Publisher Abby Lentz at the Chicago HP World conference, the last one where 3000 updates were delivered by Snow.) From those days when the server had its own division, I recall his gait across hotel and conference center meeting room carpets. He was lanky and dressed business casual, Snow with A-Classholding a mic with a lengthy cord that he'd reel in and coil as he talked in his Texas drawl, walking customers through the improvements to HP's iron. At another show in 2001 he carried in the smallest 3000 ever built, the brand-new A-Class system, tucked under his arm.

HP product line 2015This week's HP presentations around servers stood in stark contrast. The high-level view (above) assigned entire product lines to segments ranging from SMB to Service Providers. In the 1990s, customers wanted to know CPU speeds and IO capacity, the number of disks that could be attached to the freshest systems, how fast the LAN speeds were. When HP talked to its customers this week in the London HP Discover show, entire lines of hardware like Integrity and Superdome could be summed up in six minutes. Snow could take six minutes on one branch of the 3000 family, answering questions along the way and pushing through dozens of slides.

Dave Snow at HP Tech Forum 07Even as recently as a decade ago, Snow was unreeling tech data to customers at shows, but had shifted to the HP-UX servers in this picture from an HP Tech Forum. The passion remains in an HP presentation, but the technical details are often a throwback element. There was little Internet to deploy such details in a breaking news setting of the '90s. But Snow took on explaining details of upcoming hardware releases with relish, it seemed. In 1998 he prepped the crowd in San Diego with feeds and speeds like this:

Our first introduction of FibreChannel will be on the next generation platforms. We have decided to work on next generation platforms before we complete doing anything in the FibreChannel/HSC world. We are still looking at whether it makes business sense — in the timeframe of 2000 — to also bring the FibreChannel bus back to the current platforms. We’ve not made a commitment to do that at this point.

The 3000 really needs higher buses than HSC. The industry is moving toward PCI; not just PCI you might get on a PC, but times-two and times-four PCI. These high-speed interface cards will require a high-speed interface to the devices themselves, a place where Ultra-SCSI is being investigated for HP 3000 use.

Very quickly we see on the horizon gigabit Ethernet LANs coming down the pipe. That’s probably where we’re going to focus our first effort — allowing you to reuse the cable you’ve already put in for 100 megabit LANs, in the 2000 timeframe.

In contrast, during a six-minute segment at Discover this week, the director of Product Management for HP Enterprise Networking said that "Removing complexity is extremely time-consuming. When building a datacenter, the rule is 'Keep It Simple and Stupid." Native English speakers will recognize that the Stupid needs to be addressed to the datacenter designer, not at the solution itself. Meetings with customers today wallow in such simplification. Perhaps it's because the attendees are no longer "technologists," as the Encompass user group and HP started to call the feed and speed fans of the 1990s.

It's not that the customer interplay was focused entirely on tech benefits. Snow gets credit for proposing the name change of the 3000 to e3000, a change that included a new color of bezel on the boxes that still didn't have a PCI bus. A full year before the A- and N-Class systems emerged, we reported

HP has created new hardware bezels for rack-mounted HP 3000s in a slate-grey color, “so you’ll be able to look across a crowded computer room at a series of 9000s and 3000s and clearly pick out which are the 3000s,” said Product Planning Manager Dave Snow. It was Snow who brought the rebranding proposal to the division last summer. All new systems will get new nameplates, whether they are racked models or not.

There is far more meat on the bone for the tech-inclined HP customer today, if they're ready to browse webpages or watch Livestream presentations or in YouTube videos. HP used the latter two methods this week to spread the word about its Hewlett-Packard Enterprise products at Discover. The work of a product manager is different at today's HP. When the most serious technologist traveled to learn about new HP servers, they expected tech details delivered in person, and Snow had no equal in that critical mission. My throwback question at the end of such a talk was, "Can I get a copy of those slides?"

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:10 PM in History, News Outta HP | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 25, 2015

3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies

Jeff Kell Dec. 2014Jeff Kell, the man who founded the keystone of 3000 help, advice and support that is the 3000-L mailing list, died on Nov. 25 of liver cancer and complications from damage induced by a diabetic coma. He'd battled that illness in hospitals and hospice since 2014. Kell was 57.

"It is a very sad day when a good wizard passes on," said coworker and colleague Richard Gambrell at the University of Tennesee at Chattanoona. "Jeff had a gentle soul and brilliant mind."

Kell was the rare IT professional who could count upon 40 years of experience running HP 3000s, developing for MPE, and especially contributing to the state of the art of networking for the server. He created the ultimate network for the 3000's community by establishing HP3000-L, a LISTSERV mailing list now populated with several hundred thousand messages that trace the business computer's rise, decline, and then revival, rife with enduring high tech value and a thread of humor and humanity.

Kell's obituary notes that he came by his passion for scuba early, having worked for a short time at the Chattanooga Aquarium where he fed the sharks. A key contributor to the development of LISTSERV, Kell was instrumental in UTC’s earning the LISTSERV 25th Anniversary plaque, which lists UTC as the 10th University to deploy LISTSERV.

Jeff at ReunionKell also served as a volunteer to chair SIG-MPE, SIG-SYSMAN, as well as a 3000 networking SIG, but it's nearly impossible to sum up the range of experience he shared. In the photo at the top of this post, he's switching off the last N-Class system at the university where he worked. Almost 40 years of MPE service flowed off those university 3000s. In the photo above, from the HP3000 Reunion, he's updating attendees on how networking protocols have changed.

In the mid-1980s he was a pioneer in developing Internet Relay Chat, creating a language that made BITNET Relay possible. Relay was the predecessor to IRC. "Jeff was the main force behind RELAY, the Bitnet message and file transfer program," Gambrell said. "It inspired the creation of IRC."

My partner Abby and I are personally indebted to Kell's work, even though we've never owned or managed a 3000. The 3000-L and its rich chest of information was my assurance, as well as insurance, that the fledgling 3000 NewsWire could grow into the world of the 3000. In the postings from that list, I saw a written, living thread of wisdom and advice from experts on "the L," as its readers came to call the mailing list and newsgroup Kell started. Countless stories of ours began as tips from the L, or connections to people posting there who knew mission-critical techniques. At one point we hired columnists to summarize the best of each month's L discussions in net.digest. In the era where the Internet and the Web rose up, Kell was a beacon for people who needed help at digital speed.

JeffKellHe was a humble and soft-spoken man, with a wry sense of humor, but showed passion while defending the value of technical knowledge -- especially details on a product better-loved by its users than the management at its vendor. Kell would say that all he did was set up another Listserver on a university computer, one devoted to becoming crucial to UTC's success. Chattanooga is one of the best-networked towns of its size in the world. Kell did much more than that for his community, tending to the work that helped the L blossom in the 3000's renaissance.

Kell looked forward to an HP which would value the 3000 as much as the HP 9000. In 1997 he kicked off a meeting with HP to promote a campaign called Proposition 3000: Common hardware across both HP 3000s and HP 9000s, sold from an Open Systems Division, with MPE/iX or HP-UX as an option, both with robust APIs to make ISV porting of applications to MPE/iX "as trivial as any other Unix platform." 

HP should be stressing the strengths of MPE/iX, "and not its weaknesses," he said. "We don't have to be told anymore what the 3000 can't do, because a lot of the things we were told it can't do, it now can. If we take the limitations of the Posix shell and remove them, we have Proposition 3000," Kell said to HP managers. "I would encourage you to vote yes for this investment in the future."

More than 16 years later, when MPE's fate had been left to experts outside of HP's labs, Kell offered one solution on how to keep the server running beyond MPE's Jan 1, 2028 rollover dating gateway.

"Well, by 2027, we may be used to employing mm/dd/yy with a 27 on the end, and you could always go back to 1927. And the programs that only did two-digit years would be all set. Did you convert all of 'em for Y2K? Did you keep the old source?" Kell's listserver is the keeper of all 3000 lore, history, and wisdom, a database that can be searched from a Web interface -- even though he started the resource before commonplace use of what we were calling the World Wide Web.

Some might dismiss that resource as a museum of old tech. Others were using it this week, to connect newer-age tape devices to old-school 3000s. He retired the last of UTC's 3000 at the end of 2013 (in the photo above). His own help to the community members on tech specifics and the state of this year's networking will outlive him, thanks to his work setting this keystone for the community's exchange.

He had a passion for scuba, and could also dive deep into the latest of networking's crises. At the 2011 HP3000 Reunion, he held forth at a luncheon about the nuances that make up a secure network in our era of hack such as 2013's Heartbleed.

About 10 days after the Heartbleed news rocked the Web, Kell posted a summary on its challenges and which ports to watch.

Unless you've had your head in the sand, you've heard about Heartbleed. Every freaking security vendor is milking it for all it's worth. It is pretty nasty, but it's essentially "read-only" without some careful follow-up. 

Most have focused on SSL/HTTPS over 443, but other services are exposed (SMTP services on 25, 465, 867; LDAP on 636; others). You can scan and it might show up the obvious ones, but local services may have been compiled against "static" SSL libraries, and be vulnerable as well.

We've cleaned up most of ours (we think, still scanning); but that just covers the server side. There are also client-side compromises possible.

And this stuff isn't theoretical, it's been proven third-party.

Lots of folks say replace your certificates, change your passwords, etc.  I'd wait until the services you're changing are verified secure.

Most of the IDS/IPS/detections of the exploits are broken in various ways.  STARTTLS works by negotiating a connection, establishing keys, and bouncing to an encrypted transport. IDS/IPS can't pick up heartbleed encrypted. They're after the easy pre-authenticated handshake.

It's a mess for sure. But it’s not yet safe to necessarily declare anything safe just yet.

Even on a day when most people in the US are off work, the tributes to his help and spirit have poured in. "He was smart, soft spoken, and likable," said Gilles Schipper from his support company GSA. "He will be deeply missed. My condolences to his wife Kitty and the entire family."

Ed King, whose 3000 time began in the 1990s, said "Jeff was a great guy, full of wisdom and great stories, and he gave me a chance to flex my wings with some very interesting programming assignments, which kickstarted my career. He will be missed."

Developer Rick Gilligan called him "hard working, brilliant and a great communicator." Alfredo Rego said in a salute that "The members of Jeff’s family, and all of Jeff’s friends and colleagues, know that he made a tremendous difference during his life on this Earth."

Rich Corn, creator of the ESPUL printer software for MPE, said "Jeff was always a joy to talk to. So sharp, but at the same time so humble. Jeff made you feel like friend. A true leader in our profession."

The family's obituary for Kell includes a Tribute Wall on his page on the website of the Wilson Funeral Home in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. 

Personally, I'll miss his questing spirit and marvel in his legacy. What a Master he was.

Here on this evening of Thanksgiving, we're giving thanks for the richness of a world with humble wizards like Jeff. We're taking a few days off to revere our time together. We'll see you with a fresh report on Monday, including analysis of the final fiscal results from Hewlett-Packard as a full entity, unsplit.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:32 PM in History, Homesteading, Migration, Newsmakers | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 19, 2015

TBT: HP rides into the cloud first on 3000s

Open SkiesIn the month of November 17 years ago, Hewlett-Packard drove itself into cloud computing with HP 3000s. It wasn't called cloud computing in 1998. Resolving Y2K was still more than a year away. It was a year with a healthy dose of blue skies for the computer, including the lab manager's plan to put MPE/iX on the company's favored IA-64 chips.

However, HP was positioning the 3000 as a solution for a world that wasn't purchasing as many servers as before. It was a situation much like what HP faces today. New 3000 sales were tough to come by, just like Integrity sales of today. Thanks to HP's efforts, customers were moving off 3000s in favor of Unix and Windows and NT. Today they're all moving away from servers of all kinds, leaving the hardware to offsite management and administration. The Cloud.

The 3000's entry to cloud computing arrived in the form of an acquisition. The 3000 division bought Open Skies, a 38-person software firm which had airlines for clients. Not many major clients for the time. Westjet. Ryan Air. But these were lean airlines that wanted to track miles flown and customers served without developing and maintaining a software application. HP had called the concept Apps on Tap earlier in the year. The 3000's CSY division bought Open Skies to show the way, creating an application that could be tapped.

RoyBreskawskiRoy Breslawski made a shift away from CSY marketing manager to Open Skies marketing manager. Breslawski, like his GM Harry Sterling, took the MPE mission seriously enough to disregard the accepted wisdom about the 3000. (Legacy platform. Fading fast. Jobs there a stepping stone.) Instead, Breslawski set up business with an earnest belief about the product's growth prospects.

The Open Skies deal was sparked by the needs of a much bigger airline, though. British Air was tired of being undercut by smaller operators like Ryan Air and EasyJet, so BA set up Go, a low-end carrier. Go wanted Open Skies to host and manage the HP 3000s handling their reservations.

Those systems came to be owned by HP and configured in a separate datacenter. That commitment led Open Skies to ask HP for help in meeting manpower arrangements, which developed into discussions about HP taking over the growing company.

Open Skies was sold off after Y2K, becoming a part of the Navitaire portfolio of software services offered to transportation clients as large as British Air and as modest at WestJet. Go came to a stop as a BA market strategy, but Open Skies held on for more than a decade, and the software — transitioned for commodity environments into a software service called New Skies — was part of the assets purchased this summer by the Amadeus Group, which started to buy Navitaire from Accenture.

In that era of HP's 3000 stewardship, CSY was a division whose managers were virtually out of the market for new customers for several years. CSY had suffered in HP’s shadows before the company’s Unix fanatics fled in the face of the NT juggernaut. However, the customers’ willingness to keep their minds open about operating environments yielded two surprising years of success for CSY, success that attracted Breslawski’s attention when the division’s marketing manager post came open this summer.

The division’s first marketing manager hand-picked by GM Harry Sterling, Breslawski said when he arrived at CSY in 1997 that he was moving to another durable post – both CSY and HP’s calculator businesses turned 25 years old in that year. Breslawski came to the 3000 from work in HP calculators, and before that, work on the company's first portable PC.

As for Open Skies, it started its HP lifespan being run by Sterling. Open Skies was the company, and its offering to customers was called OpenRes. Sterling said that OpenRes was the first non-airline affiliated system of this type, and added that he expected to be managing the new venture closely in the coming months.

“I’ll be spending a lot of time in Salt Lake City,” he said in 1998. “The product line will really report into the software and services part of HP, because it’s laid out in that kind of business model. [HP vice president and Enterprise Computing Solutions Organization GM] Ann Livermore will effectively be who I work with.”

OpenRes was sold as a product without a price on the HP price list. “It’s a service-based business that’s very individually tailored for every customer,” Breslawski said.

“We’re going for a different business model,” Sterling said. “We’re basically not selling servers — we’re selling transactions. HP will actually host and run the systems. It’s a whole new business model for HP. That’s the exciting part of this. The acquisition was exciting, but also the fact that we’re starting a new business model. That’s something we’ve never done in HP before.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:47 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 13, 2015

Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago

Computerworld on 2001 announcementMy career has not changed significantly, but I no longer believe anything HP tells me. They could say the sky is blue, and I'd seek a second opinion. They lied to our face once, I won't give them a chance to do it again. — Terry Simpkins, TE Connectivity

It was very difficult to reinvent and took several years. HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result — Doug Greenup, Minisoft

I had received the news prior to the public announcement. I was very angry with HP after being told by Hewlett-Packard at HP World that there was a long future for the system. — Paul Edwards, Interex director

We felt like we were supporting legacy products already, because most of our MANMAN customers were off of applications software support anyway, so it didn't change our plans much. — Terry Floyd, The Support Group

When I joined the conference call, in which management announced to CSY staff that they were pulling the plug on MPE and the 3000, I remember the date and the hour. My feeling was one of relief that they were going to stop pretending that the 3000 had a future. It might have had a future, but not with the level that management was investing in R&D at the time. — V.N., HP 3000 labs

I remember heaving a big sigh and realizing that, in the aftermath of the Compaq takeover, HP would not keep two proprietary platforms. Between a 71,000-unit installed base (HP 3000) and a 700,000-unit installed base (VMS), the choice was quite obvious. To this day, VMS still exists. — Christian Lheureux, Appic

I was working for a company called Hewlett-Packard at the time. I don't know what's become of them; I think they still sell ink. Last I knew, they sold personal computers too, but they weren't sure about that. — Walter Murray, California Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation

CruellaThis really scared a lot of people at the company where I was working, but I kept telling them we had third party support, and not to worry. The directors decided to leverage our 350-plus programs with a migration to an HP 9000. We secured a used 9000, only to have them reverse their decision and opt instead for a newer 3000. — Connie Sellitto, Cat Fanciers’ Association

We were well into MPE/iX and the Posix environment, and there appeared to be some real solidarity given its Internet capabilities. The 2001 announcement was a knife in the back of our long-term planning, from which we never fully recovered. — Jeff Kell, founder of the 3000-L mailing list

I was working a long-term consulting contract managing HP 3000s and several datacenters for the US government. The job that pays the bills these days has nothing to do with HP 3000s — and thankfully very little to do with HP at all. — Chris Bartram, founding 3000newswire.com webmaster.

Share your memory of the day below. Or email the Newswire.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 10:33 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration | Permalink | Comments (0)

November 12, 2015

TBT: HP translates brags about fresh e3000

IMG032


On a November afternoon fifteen years ago, users and vendors met in an Amsterdam conference center to celebrate integration. A handful of companies had melded their HP 3000 applications with the Internet. "All of the users I spoke with were already doing some kind of e-something, whether elementary or quite advanced,” said Adager CEO Rene Woc. One showed off how Java had helped create an interface for a company that was selling parts for power looms. Their customers were all over the world.

IMG042The users' presentations were especially notable because they were offered in five languages. Simultaneous translations were paid for by the HP 3000 division, the only time in more than 30 years of conferences I've been able to pick up a wireless headset and hear technical reports translated. Not into everyday C-level language, but into French, Spanish, German, Dutch and English. HP set up two rooms with a total of 10 translators. The vendor was working to encourage 3000 managers to speak the language of the Web. HP collected $365 per attendee to help defray the cost; 90 customers and partners attended from 14 countries.

Users wanted their 3000s to be better connected because they didn't want their systems left behind as IT expansion ramped up. Everyone had escaped Y2K worries by November of 2000. The dot-com boom hadn't gone bust, and in some segments like e-commerce, Web interfaces were bringing genuine innovation for interfaces.

IMG012The surge was less certain for companies which had limited their 3000 communications to data swaps over internal LANs. Some were using an intranet, employing the Web technology without exposing the 3000's data to the outside. Others like Lindauer Dornier used the Enhydra Web application server and Java/iX to send the power loom manufacturer's parts data to its customers across the world.

The HP 3000 at the heart of Dornier's operations was plugged in when Windows NT proved too slow. The Windows product that became Windows Server a few years later got dumped in favor of MPE/iX. The meeting "had a lot of flavor of the old days," said HP's Sally Blackwell. The emphasis was not on sponsorships. It was an exchange of information, with HP's help."

HP 3000 Division Product Marketing Manager Loretta Li-Sevilla made the trek from the HP 3000 headquarters, telling customers that “the 3000 is a rock solid foundation for an Internet future. With the 3000 as your platform of choice, that future is unlimited.” There was another 12 months of future remaining with an unlimited flavor.

The European arm of the HP's 3000 operations always performed with more panache. The extra promotion sprang from a need to compete more head-on with Unix in Europe. Enterprise operations had adopted HP-UX servers sooner than in the US. A 25th Birthday Party for the 3000 unreeled in Stuttgart in 1997, instead of in the US. At the three-day Internet brag meeting for 3000 users, CSY Europe Regional Business Manager Alexandra Wiedenmann said, “We will provide you with the products, technologies to help you move into the e-world. Nothing should stop you from Let’s Go e!”

Going faster than Microsoft: Dornier's Peter Herpich, who’d been managing HP 3000s since 1980, hired an independent consulting group to develop the parts ordering application. He said he learned that Java expertise transfers easily to the e3000, and he didn’t have to look for developers trained in both the 3000 and Java.

His consultants built the application on an NT system, but it performed slowly there. “I said I’m not happy,” he reported. “I said they should bring it to the HP 3000.” HP’s Lars Appel assisted the consultants, and the Java application was ported to the e3000 in six hours.

The company served more than 900 customers across the Web. “For me it was a surprise,” Herpich said. “It’s a success. I have 60 percent of our spare parts orders processed electronically. We have a new communication channel with the customers.”

In 2000 Herpich said he had no faith in Microsoft’s solutions, adding that a problem with a Microsoft system means “you have to install it a-new. I don’t want to use a replacement technology for three years, and then have to reinvest again.” He also noted that, “you don’t need specially trained HP 3000 people to create new applications on that machine. The consultants worked on an order system in Java, and brought it to the HP e3000.”

Enhydra was an open source application server for rapid development and deployment of Java and XML-based apps. The server handled all application operations between browser-based computers and a company’s back-end business applications and databases — in this case, IMAGE/SQL or Allbase and HP 3000 apps written in languages like COBOL.

After his presentation, Herpich joked that he saw the 3000 investment of his company paying off for his staff, too. “I can always tell which of our staff is working with the 3000. They have a tan in the summer, while the other people do not.”

Posted by Ron Seybold at 05:42 PM in History, Homesteading | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 29, 2015

Promises, and a Revolt, from 25 Years Ago

Bride and GroomA quarter-century sounds like a long time. In the computer business it's an age, as in ages ago. In marriage it's a milestone, too. In 1990 I took my wife Abby's hand in marriage, a vow we just renewed in our backyard last month with balloons and acres of cake. In that same fall, HP was making promises for the 3000 about the way it wouldn't sell the server — as well as the equality it figured it could give it with Unix servers.

A front-page story in the HP Chronicle called the Boston Interex meeting of that year when we were married "four days that have and will shake our future." Guy Smith wrote for the paper that I edited

At the heart of most of these worries was the fate of Image, and whether HP might re-bundle it with all 3000s. The Image fervor peaked during the rebirth of the SIG-Image on the first evening of the conference. Image co-creator Fred White suggested that users could "sue HP for a couple of million bucks for possible breach of contract." De-bundling led many at the meeting to believe that the venerated network database may be heading for the software scrapyard.

Computerworld Boston Tea PartyIt was an ugly fight that spilled onto the agenda of the HP Management Roundtable, a battle played out in front of the national tech press assembled for the year's biggest HP show. In an editorial, I promised that fights were going to be a vital part of any relationship — even the one I'd just begun with my bride. The reasons for fighting had to be more than proving you're right, though.

As you read this," I wrote, "I will be starting a new life as a husband to a wonderful woman — someone I believe in and trust with a commitment as strong as any I've seen in the heat of battles between HP and its customers. My bride and I will fight. But we'll do so to solve problems, not to win. After all, we don't want to lose each other in the pursuit of a total victory. The HP-Customer couple should be aware of such a loss, too."

A programmer or development company could create an application or software for the 3000 community using IMAGE as the database, knowing that every 3000 out there would be able to make use of the creation. 3000=IMAGE was a formula being broken by 1990. SIG-IMAGE, a Special Interest Group of users gone dormant at the time, re-formed to organized the complaints and demand remedies.

Smith's report on the battle in the roundtable included White's questions to HP executives about the IMAGE unbundling -- prefaced with a compliment to put one of them off balance

Before bluntly asking the assembled panel whether they lied when saying Image was part of the Fundamental Operating System, or lied when they unbundled it, White offered one compliment. "I like your tie," he told one HP manager. "If I wore one, it would look just like that."

SIG-Image Chairman Steve Cooper said that "for five years SIG-Image has had a prioritized list of enhancements with 20 items, starting with updates of critical database items. To date only one request has been included in TurboImage." At the roundtable, better known as the HP Lynching, HP's David Sanders reacted to a proposal that users would create a a technical task force for Image. "We will move ahead and implement Critical Item Updates," he said.

IMAGE had languished for years before Boston, a seminal strand of the 3000's DNA that the vendor was disregarding. In HP's thinking of 25 years ago, getting MPE and Unix looking and working alike would to resolve flagging sales of a new PA-RISC line of servers. The databases were not distinctions. "Within the limits of the industry standards," said HP's Wim Roelandts, VP of the Computer Systems Group, "MPE and Unix should become identical by a year and a half from now." 

It was a proposal as silly as saying my bride and I would use our razors in the same spots. Her legs are smooth. My cheeks are clean. And MPE and Unix were never going to provide the same openness. That's what led to HP's mistake about separating IMAGE and MPE. No Oracle or Sybase was ever going to work as well on a 3000 as they would on an HP 9000.

Renewal WalkWe've outlasted HP's marriage to MPE, Abby and I, and one special afternoon this fall was full of laughter and tears about the devotion that's survived. In spite of the customers' obvious devotion, by that 1990 show HP felt heat aside from the indian summer swelter of New England. Vendors and customers rose up to lash HP in a public forum, complaining bitterly in front of a host of reporters from national IT weeklies like Computerworld and InformationWeek.

HP lost face at the meeting while its top enterprise management tried to defend the business re-arrangement. IMAGE remained an included part of the 3000. A bonus from this Tea Party was extra investment in the SQL interface for IMAGE. The database eventually went from being called TurboIMAGE to IMAGE/SQL over the next two years.

HP 3000 General Manager Harry Sterling said a new Customer First program flowed from that protest. Referring to the low point of HP-customer relations at the Interex conference in Boston, he said listening changed the future.

“The management team had to really change the way we think about what we were responsible for. There's a cartoon of a tightrope walker who sees a fire climbing up the pedestal, and he's hesitant to go out. That's what it was like for us. In Boston [in 1990], the customers set fire to our pedestal and we had to move.”

“For the CSY engineering community in particular, it was very hard. In our culture, that [customer communication] was somebody else's job. We had compartmentalized the whole value chain, and tossed it over the fence to the next person who was responsible. When our customers said “The whole sales model has changed, we're not happy with what's going on, you're not hearing our needs,” our immediate reaction was, “The field has screwed this up. They've got to fix it. Or marketing has the problem.” We had to change philosophically, and realize we're responsible for all of it, whatever it takes. If there's something wrong in the value delivery system, it's our responsibility to fix it.”

Fights can lead to fixing problems. The problem of having a fuzzy focus on the vendor's business seemed to get fixed with the ultimate fight in 2001, when HP trimmed its enterprise plans of 3000 future. Now there's a new day coming on Monday, when enterprise computing will be restored to its rightful focus at Hewlett-Packard. We'll have a look at the new days of the vendor tomorrow, its last business day before its split.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 09:33 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 22, 2015

Back to the Future: The HP 3000, Then

3000 Back to the Future


Yesterday was "Back to the Future Day" in much of the world's culture, the day on the time-traveling Delorean's clock when Marty McFly landed in 2015. Steve Cooper of Allegro posted the tribute screen capture above on a Facebook news feed. Yes, it's been more than 30 years since the legendary film's story was unveiled. The weekend of July 4th marked the premeire. Here's a few things that we knew that summer about the HP 3000.

Adager CubeThere was a bit of fuss over SQL coming out of the 3000 community. Alfredo Rego used his keynote spot at that spring's SCRUG user conference to call out the creators of the Structured Query Language. After all, IMAGE used structured queries, too. What were keys, anyway — chopped liver? Oracle couldn't see the profit in porting its database to the HP 3000, because as one VP asked me, "You want us to port to a computer that ships with its own database?"

The HP Spectrum Project — the HP Vision Project revamp of the 3000, restarted — was more than two years away from delivering an underpowered Series 930 to launch the 3000's PA-RISC computing. That fundamental tech for MPE/XL, and then MPE/iX, wouldn't start its life on any HP server until 1986, when it would debut on HP-UX. The HP 3000 could boast of two books in 1985: The IMAGE Handbook, and Thoughts and Discourses on HP 3000 Software. Everyone carried the MPE Pocket Guide.

Terminator-IIA 404-MB disk drive, the 7933, was a big honking storage device. It was shipping with a flaw in its head manufacture that was going to push thousands of them into a service recall by the end of the year. (In 1992, a dozen of them were put into total recall in Terminator 2, when they were destroyed in the battle with Cyberdyne Systems security forces.)

HP 3000s connected to terminals and to PCs, although neither of HP's PCs used MS-DOS. The HP 110 was "The Portable Plus" and the HP 150 was "The Touchscreen Computer," and both relied on CP/M. The Portable Plus displayed data on a screen 80 characters wide and a full 24 lines deep. Walker, Richer and Quinn connected 3000s to PCs using its PC2622 software. Later on, the product would be called Reflection.

HP DeskManager connected Hewlett-Packard offices around the world, using what was not yet called electronic mail. The Desk network was believed to be in excess of 30,000 addresses. Long-distance networking was offered only through X.25 protocol. Even in 1985, this was called "the cloud." TCP/IP was just approved for use on the ARPANET. DS/3000 ruled 3000-to-3000 networking. Symbolics had just registered the world's first commercial Internet domain name.

Plotters gave HP 3000s the ability to produce color business graphics. Like all other HP peripherals, they ran best and fastest using HP-IB connections, the bus created for HP's instruments. More than 1,000 copies of HP's TDP/3000 word processor were in use.

HP Support modems blazed along at 2400 baud. That was 2,400 symbols per second, or even fewer bits, with wires required at every step. The Portable PC included a built-in 300 baud modem and was considered a superior office tool. The average modem was 100,000 times slower than today's 802.11ac wireless routers.

The HP 3000 top of the line in 1985, the day that Back to the Future rolled out, was the Series 68. It was a $186,000 computer that could be upgraded to 8 MB of memory, supported up to 400 users, and topped out at just under 10GB of disk storage. Or disc storage, as the literature of the day preferred to call mass storage.

One year into the future, HP took note of the 20,000th HP 3000 shipped. PA-RISC and MPE/XL would soon be entering a run of more than 30 years of service. In 1985, those Series 68 users wanted that run to start even sooner, because their data processing needs were growing. It was called DP, not IT, way back before the future.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:08 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 15, 2015

After 20 years, NewsWire recalls its first Fall

I was hunting for something new last week when I heard an old, familiar message. "I can't believe you guys are still in business," the 3000 systems manager said. We can't believe it either. But these 20 years have rolled along because of beliefs — ours, yours, and even HP's for a time.

10 year anniversary photoThe start of that time was 20 years ago today. Tomorrow we head into our 21st year, but in 1995 our Day One was the middle of October, the month that we printed on the cover of our first issue. This Fall will be the first one since the middle '90s with no printed 3000 NewsWire. We loved printing all of that paper, millions of pages of it. Ten years of it made this rich picture and story. But we said this spring we'd make a transformation to all-digital. We've kept our promise because sponsors have kept our little beacon lit. They've permitted us to continue to show the way forward, as well as look back to find lessons from our past.

Sponsor FolderAlong the way we've found more than 150 companies who invested in our readers. This was always a very personal business; we operate out of a roomy ranch house in a Texas neighborhood. Although there's a very official database of every ad and sponsor payment during these two decades, this hand-written list of who joined us, along with their account number, tells the story of building a business of specialized news, instruction, and gossip. None of it would be possible without the sponsors' dollars: sometimes as advertising, sometimes as patronage. We sold subscriptions, but the sponsors kept us in business.

Yoga and StoriesI'm grateful beyond words for the livelihood and career they've supported. I've even more grateful that my partner Abby Lentz, who started as publisher using her given first name Dottie, proposed this journey that enters its third decade tomorrow. There was a time when the HP 3000 changed its name to the e3000, and I wondered whether the change was like my partner's names. The old one was Dottie, the newer one was Abby. Her yoga name, she told me, and I liked the way she was looking to a new facet of her life. We're looking forward to what remains of lucky lives, teaching and writing, yoga and stories.

The 3000's creators were looking forward too, as we began the NewsWire's life. In fact, HP was a big reason that we're celebrating 20 years today.

One of the milestones of the NewsWire's 1995 was an HP analyst-press conference on the California coast. At the Seascape Resort in Aptos, we were invited to attend management briefings right alongside bona fide publications like Fortune and Computerworld. The NewsWire was not much more than a concept and a business plan, in comparison. But Hewlett-Packard, starting with Michelle Pritchard in the 3000 group's Marcom department, believed we had a good idea.

Abby and I got access, and then in cocktail receptions, got approving nods from computer execs Wim Roelandts, Bernard Guidon, and Olivier Helleboid when we explained what we were doing. We came to Aptos to say what we were doing, not to ask if we should. If we hadn't gotten those nods, we might've gone back to the ranch house and thought hard about going forward. But we had belief, a faith that the HP of 1995 seemed to echo about the prospects for HP 3000 growth and maturation.

About a month later we showed up in Toronto for the Interex '95 conference with a slim, 4-page pilot issue. It had no sponsors or advertising, just belief that page layout, writing, and printing would confirm we were real. We drove about 500 copies of that four-pager from Texas to Canada in a minivan and hoped we'd return with promises. The same kind of promises and support we count upon today.

Issue 1 SponsorsIt's a little fuzzy, my memories of those promises, because Abby was the brave person who smiled and sold our belief to 3000 vendors. She arranged for lists of customers to be loaned to us, so we'd have an audience. We arrived with Adager's promise for back-page sponsorship, and left the conference with HP's order for inside-cover ads. In between, WRQ said they'd back us with a center-spread ad series. There were others from Day One -- this ad list of that October 20 years ago shows that most of them are still in business, some kind of MPE business, two decades later. Abby imagined their beliefs, before they made them real.

Becoming real is an adventure. I like to talk about it using the words from The Velveteen Rabbit, in part because that prose was a part of my wedding vows to the woman that I called Dottie 25 years ago. 

Real isn't how you are made. Real is a thing that happens to you. Sometimes it hurts, but when you are Real you don't mind being hurt. It doesn't happen all at once. You become. Once you are Real, you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand. Once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.

That's lyrical, that belief in Real. The word "always" was part of our first website, too, which we launched before 1995 was over and called Always Online. We thought of always like the 3000s that were working at the time, and like the systems that are still working today. Like the system that's running in the IT shop at that manager's site where he said couldn't believe. Sometimes when people say "I can't believe," it's because they already do. They just want to remember why they believe.

You can read us today because of those sponsors. At first there were a few, while others waited to see how we'd do. Then they swelled up while Y2K took over our futures. We didn't see that big surf coming, just like most of us couldn't see that HP would lose its 3000 belief. That changed us all, but we've adapted and grown — older, of course, and somewhat wiser.

Ron, Michael, Alan at ReunionIn the middle of these two decades we built this blog. Just like in the print issue's earliest days, there were key advertisers before we proved much except our proposal for digital. ScreenJet, Marxmeier, and Robelle just said they'd back our digital work, promises we earned from another summertime meeting of 3000 users, that one in the wake of the Interex '05 meltdown. Sometimes people just want to keep telling stories. That's what the 2011 Reunion made possible.

MB Foster was an early supporter of both print and blog, and today along with Stromasys, Pivital Solutions, and Applied Technologies, they keep the beacon lit. Across both print issues and blog we've enjoyed support from our Austin allies, The Support Group. Abby and I worked together to help them launch their company's newsletter in the year before the NewsWire printed those first four pages.

Newswire StacksAs I said to begin, we can't believe we're still in business this week, either. Abby likes to say that we didn't figure we'd do this beyond five years. I felt differently, but kept that unreasonable hope to myself, except when I wrote editorials and analysis and conjured stories from contributors. Seeing the glass half full got easier once the 3000 got better HP leadership. Everybody knows we love Harry Sterling for the GM stand he made during those Y2K years. Good times, as the new generation of Millennials likes to say.

Before this starts to sound too valedictory, or an exercise in bald sentiment and nostalgia, I'll wrap it up. This fall Abby and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, laughing and crying in a day of stories, wedding garb, champagne, and acres of cakes. Following through is something to believe in, especially when there is something fresh to remind you why you started. Fresh is still floating in this Fall's air. We're so grateful that you've made it possible for us to remain here, telling stories about where you go next.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:09 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

October 08, 2015

TBT: When Spectrum's Debut Missed Its Cue

Detroit Interex LogoFew Interex conferences ever convened in October. When the Detroit meeting of 1986 marked its high point, September was already in the year's rear-view mirror. It was a late meeting in the 3000's calendar. Late turned out to be a theme for the meeting's tech papers, because the Spectrum project for MPE was more than a year behind schedule.

By October 1986, the HP Series 930 was supposed to be churning bits using the new PA-RISC architecture and running MPE/XL. The latter was the successor to MPE V, while the former was the first 3000 to leap past Complex Instruction Set Computing. RISC had already succeeded CISC on the HP 9000 side of the server line. But moving MPE while maintaining application compatibility, as well as acceptable performance, was providing unscheduled downtime for the newest HP 3000s. "Where's our Spectrum?" was the cry of dismay from performance-bound big shops.

Detroit's conference proceedings were dotted with accepted HP papers that couldn't be written or submitted. Guidelines on Migration Solutions for MPE/XL, Organization and Direction for MPE/XL, Migrating to the Series 900s as Variables Affect System Performance, an overall Commercial Spectrum Progress Report — all were listed in the two-volume proceedings' index, but each bore a cover page that said "We regret that this paper was not received for inclusion in these proceedings."

The customers had been looking at tomorrows for much of 1985, since Spectrum was the engineering project which replaced HP's Vision effort in 1984. CISC and its memory constraints were holding back large-scale DP, as computing was called then. But like the first version of MPE and the initial 3000s, the stability and performance of the new generation 3000s was not ready for release. Some of the challenges came from testing's optimistic reports.

3000 pioneers already knew about the scant uptime for the earliest 3000s. The computer which made HP a computer company, instead of just one of the world's greatest instrument and calculator vendors, couldn't remain up for more than 24 days. That flaw was in the design, which overflowed a clock register. At the core of the problem was a gaggle of engineers telling HP that everything would be just fine with the 3000, instead of reporting what was well off schedule of being fixed.

Joel BirnbaumSomething very similar happened at the 3000's next debacle when the server tried to embrace RISC and head toward 32-bit computing. HP responded in both instances with an enforcer. In the 1970s it was Paul Ely, feared by many, according to Michael S. Malone's Bill & Dave: How Hewlett and Packard Built the World's Greatest Company. Bad press prompted a fierce HP response once again with RISC, as the industry's journalists called out the woes of a long-awaited HP product. In 1986 when PA-RISC was a 3000 bust, the muscle was HP's labs chief Joel Birnbaum. The man who left IBM to lead HP toward RISC said to reporters in Detroit, "we expect that these problems will yield to engineering discipline."

Pass-PassHP's lab management must have made little room for the prospect of a late Spectrum HP 3000. Some clue of the problems with testing might have been inside one of the few HP-authored RISC papers published in Detroit. Meeting the Challenge: An Inside Look at the Spectrum Testing Program included a flow chart for tests. The graphic flowed down to a decision diamond labelled Pass. Not Pass/Fail, or even a yes-no marker on the corners of the diamond. The software was caught up in a loop that headed back to testing. The testing paper acknowledged the challenge of making something faster and different that ran old software was a stout task.

The MPE/XL operating system is a new product. It has the unenviable task of behaving precisely like its predecessor, MPE, while running code which has not been recompiled, and supporting a whole new set of capabilities as well. If the code is recompiled, it must deliver vastly increased performance, using techniques radically different than those of its predecessor.

HP-UX didn't labor under those tasks because the Unix marketplace was not a commercial market. Software at Unix sites was built for technical tasks and used in lab settings. These users had not established business revenue requirements based on software stability and performance. HP 3000s had to stay online, extend their power to meet company growth, and run mature applications to protect business investments.

Test TreeThe irony of having a testing report appear at a conference while the migration, commerce, and performance papers — as well as the computer itself — were missing was rich, as well as disappointing. Outside MPE experts, contracted into the MPE labs, eventually gained the ear of top HP lab management. A Destructive Testing unit probed MPE/XL alpha releases for failures and found many. 

It would be another year until MPE/XL 1.0 hit the Manufacturing Release milestone, and even then, the 1.0 version was called a career crossroads for the managers who had to put it into production. 1986 had its computing demands that sound a lot like those of today: lower power, higher speed, higher yields to manufacture chips. A R.I.S.C Tutorial in the proceedings summed up the dilemma HP worked more than a year to overcome. People were bringing old software onto new hardware, not rewriting for a new system.

In Hewlett-Packard's case, simply implementing a new RISC-based computer system would have alienated a large potential customer base. Not only must the new generation of HP RISC-based systems have more power than the current HP 1000, 3000 and 9000 systems, but they must be compatible with these systems as well. The simplest compatibility approach is to require each application to be re-compiled on the new system. This method is common practice in the Unix community.

HP chose to approach compatibility by emulating the HP 3000's instructions in software. The Tutorial explained that "A program will examine each instruction and branch to the appropriate subroutine (dubbed milli-code) for execution." HP and the 3000 users came to call this magic Compatibility Mode. CM gave the new 3000 an instant field of software and apps, even though it made the 3000 late for its cue to take the stage.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 07:48 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)

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.

Posted by Ron Seybold at 08:12 PM in History | Permalink | Comments (0)