August 15, 2016
Poster anniversary lingers beyond sunburns
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.
It 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.
Summed 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."
They 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.
Computerworld 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.
"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.
August 08, 2016
August Throwback: Java and VPlus get cozy
Twenty 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.
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:
After 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:
That 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.
July 15, 2016
An HP chieftain's last dream is Trumped
Bill 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.
July 13, 2016
How HP's OS's Become Virtually Free
The 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.
June 22, 2016
What's MPE got to do with emulators?
Companies 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.
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.
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)
On 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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 08, 2016
Blog's birthday marks 11 digital years
They'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.
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.
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."
May 16, 2016
A Spring When The Web Was New to You
Twenty 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.
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."
May 13, 2016
Creating 3000 Concept-Proving Grounds
Three 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.
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.
The 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."
March 30, 2016
Big G anniversary recalls era of 3000 crunch
This 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.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."
General 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."
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.
Although 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.
January 28, 2016
TBT: A Terminal Commemoration
Thirty 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.
The 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.
HP 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.
January 08, 2016
Calculating Classic Value of 3000s
The 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.
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.
That 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.
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.
Checks 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.
Patches 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.
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.
December 23, 2015
Throwback: The Holiday Welcome Message
In 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."
The 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."
December 18, 2015
Will The Farce always be with us?
It 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.
We 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.
As 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.
December 17, 2015
TBT: When 2006 Meant 2008 to 3000 Owners
Ten 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.
December 03, 2015
TBT: When feeds and speeds led HP's talks
HP 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, holding 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.
This 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.
Even 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?"
November 25, 2015
3000 community keystone Jeff Kell dies
Jeff 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.
Kell 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.
He 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.
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.
November 19, 2015
TBT: HP rides into the cloud first on 3000s
In 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.
Roy 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.”
November 13, 2015
Quotes On A Happening, 5,111 Days Ago
My 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
This 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.
November 12, 2015
TBT: HP translates brags about fresh e3000
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.
The 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.
The 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.”
October 29, 2015
Promises, and a Revolt, from 25 Years Ago
A 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.
It 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.
We'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.
October 22, 2015
Back to the Future: The HP 3000, Then
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.
There 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.
A 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.
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.
The 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.
Along 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.
I'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.
It'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.
In 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.
As 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.
October 08, 2015
TBT: When Spectrum's Debut Missed Its Cue
Few 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.
Something 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."
HP'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.
The 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.
October 01, 2015
Throwback: The 3000 World's Forever Era
In 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.
September 24, 2015
TBT: An End to 3000 Management Verve
Sixteen years ago this month, the HP 3000 community learned it was losing an essential component of the platform: A general manager who'd stuck his neck out for the server's customers. Harry Sterling announced his retirement from Hewlett-Packard and the world of the 3000.
Sterling came into the 3000's wheelhouse from a technical role, moving through product development and into the job of R&D manager for the server. On his watch in the labs, IMAGE gained B-trees for state of the art searches, MPE gained a Posix interface and namespace, and MPE/iX got its first Internet tools and utilities. MPE/iX 4.0, 5.0 and 5.5 were developed in the labs that Sterling managed. When Olivier Helleboid moved up from his GM post in 1996, Sterling was ready to make business distinction for the 3000. He was the first 3000 GM whose roots where wholly in tech.
While Sterling led the division for four years he never lost touch with the customers and their perspective. Even though the overwhelming majority of them worked at small companies, he knew their needs were important to HP. No other leader of HP's management team believed this and acted upon it better than Sterling. Many GMs chose to work for HP, instead serving the vendor's customers. At its worst, that kind of allegiance sparks protests, lost accounts, and untold waste of budget and manpower. Business in computing is hard, but Sterling usually managed to make it look smooth while he kept it personal. He made mistakes, like all of us, but it rarely seemed like the decisions were being made at the customers' expense.
Sterling was one of the best things that ever happened to HP 3000 customers. I can be accused of a clouded assessment because he was a key ally while we established the NewsWire. We never got better access or more cooperation than when he ran the 3000 business. He also green-lit a 25th Birthday Party for the server in Germany in 1997 that made people believe the best was still yet to come. We all needed to hear that while HP made Unix the favored child.
But one proof of his positive impact is the recovery of the platform as a strategic choice for HP. One of the most interesting things that happened in the period he ran the division involved resetting beliefs about computers in the 3000's age group. HP had thought such products were the children that it needed to eat in order to keep growing and improving. After a few weeks talking with Sterling's division managers, technology marketing guru Geoffrey Moore decided his own beliefs about legacy products needed revising."There are a lot of technology companies in particular that never take advantage of a mature market," Sterling said. "Their technology ages and they go back and start over, rather than really understanding how they can leverage that investment into new opportunities. [Moore] has since adjusted his model, and he’s now writing a new book that will be focused on how to invest in mature companies. His theory is that the real opportunities for making money are in the mature markets, not in the emerging markets.”
Sterling's strategy helped pave the way for his decision to support IA-64 on the HP 3000. He committed to lowering profit margins for the division while it ramped up for the new architecture. IA-64 looked important, and Sterling convinced HP it should pay for the transfer. It was the most significant investment plan for the 3000 customer since HP committed to RISC processors for the box in the middle 1980s. In the end, his intention to rework MPE for IA-64 — now known as Integrity, and vital to enterprise survival in HP's product line at the time — got scuttled after he took an early retirement.
Things didn't get more inventive, or even better, after he left the job for good at the end of 1999. The 3000 passed the technical muster of Y2K, and in time the delayed N-Class systems were finally released for sale. In less than two years after he retired, though, his replacement helped HP stop thinking of any future for the server. I think of Sterling in the same way as I do another Harry, US President Truman. That President's strength was his connection to the citizens, and Sterling's bedrock was his closeness to the customers.
Sterling assumed his GM job under the same cloud of doubt that surrounded Truman — some said he was not classic 3000 GM material, coming from the technical side of the division. A classic GM for the 3000 would have been looking for better post inside HP. Those before and after did just that. Sterling stuck to his job in spite of long odds against the system.
Sterling kept his management style authentic and realistic. Just before he left HP, he gave us an interview where he came out to his customers as a gay man, this during an era when business had far less opportunity for a gay executive. One small-minded subscriber canceled his subscription when he read the article. It was not the first notice HP had received about Sterling's life, though. Years earlier, he'd been part of a Reader's Theatre for top HP brass, and the result was Hewlett-Packard extended same-sex benefits to its workforce — the first Fortune 500 company to do so. He retired early to set up a Palm Springs real estate practice, where he continues to sell with a personal touch.
There were other challenges ahead for the 3000 community, places where Sterling's successor had a chance to leave a mark. The N-Class release and Y2K tech notwithstanding, what was left was a blemish rather than a beauty mark. If there was a zenith to the 3000's renaissance in the 1990s, it could be pegged at 1999's HP World conference. Sterling came out wearing a tuxedo to make his State of the Product Line speech, then unspooled a yo-yo. He had knack for knowing when different would be better for the crowd.
September 21, 2015
Throwback: FlashPaper strikes fresh match
Twenty years ago today your community was gaining one of its best database chiefs at HP, a development we illuminated in the first FlashPaper. In September of that year only a handful of 3000 vendors were operating websites, and we were not among those — so we drafted a last-minute news report sheet to deliver the latest developments into envelopes along with the first complete issue of the NewsWire. We were so full of confidence about a wave of news for the 3000 that we'd come to give the FlashPaper a slogan of "News so hot it might ignite."
We'd made a test-run at printing HP 3000 news, but that FlashPaper of September 21 was our genuine debut into breaking stories as fast as print would permit. The flame of change had been kindled in the 3000 division. We started work to change the forum for the computer from glossy magazines to something chasing newsmakers. We've always called October our birthdate because Issue No. 1 needed a date to match print-time waiting. Nine days was the fastest that print could be written and mailed in 1995.
The IMAGE/SQL lab had a hot seat at the time, its third project lead in three months. Tien-Yu Chen took over for Reynold Schweickhardt, who'd taken over for Jim Sartain at the start of the summer. R&D manager Harry Sterling promoted Chen from advanced development projects like the Critical Item Update team. He was a choice who made changes happen like increasing the scalability of IMAGE. We reported that Chen was the kind of leader who, while meeting with database tool vendors at HP, would grab a file system engineer on the spot to help along a discussion. (Just click on the paper above for a full read.)
Choices between Windows NT and Windows 95 were on customers' minds; the latter was still just a month old, while the former would take its DEC operating system roots and become Windows Server — but the Y2K challenge would be in IT's rear-view before NT grew into enterprise-grade Windows.Headcount and job assignments were important to that community of 1995, since leadership was in flux and the 3000 was embarking on a renaissance era in its database developments. Sartain had moved away from the labs to pursue a Master's degree and Schweickhardt was going to Washington DC to help with Congressional campaigns. The '96 elections were 14 months away, though. Chen turned out to be a database chief who'd work on the 3000's heart through the end of the computer's futures at HP.
We reported that a new DBQUIECE command was coming in the 5.5 release, too, a way to support "true online backups so customers can back up system while users are still logged into the database." There was also Etherprint, software that used an HP 9000 workstation to link a 135-page per minute Xerox color printer with a 3000. And what we called an Internet watcher was software to monitor FTP requests for MPE processes, then kill any process with an "unwanted activity of service." Netwatch/3000 never made a big splash in a market much more focused on data exchange over peer to peer networks.
Being able to watch for news at the last moment helped us sharpen our focus and the vision of the community, though. We'd only get so specific on the date of the FlashPaper once more over the 20 years of print: November 14, 2001, the dismal day HP called a halt to its futures for the server.
September 14, 2015
We keep meaning to shut it down, but...
There's always acquisitions and mergers afoot in business, and the events have triggered some HP 3000 migrations. An entity gets acquired by a larger company that doesn't want to integrate MPE. The next thing you know, Windows is getting its call-up into a batting order where the 3000 used to play. (Sorry, baseball season's heating up as it winds down to the playoffs.)
A transaction that was announced this summer continued the journey of the Open Skies application that began in 1998 in the 3000 division of HP. In that fall, CSY General Manager Harry Sterling purchased the application that had helped to drive the 3000 and MPE into the airline business. "Harry, did you have to buy the company?" HP's next-level execs reportedly asked him. He bought it to show how Software as a Service could work on 3000s. HP called it Apps on Tap at the time.
Roll forward to July and see that the Amadeus Group started the purchase of Navitaire from Accenture. Navitaire became the proud owners of a farm of HP 3000s when the company purchased Open Skies early in the previous decade. By 2008, work was underway to move off those 3000s, a farm of more than two dozen of the N-Class servers. The software tracks mileage revenues and reservations and has been used by airlines including Canada's WestJet.
We got a report last week that a final N-Class server still is in operation, but it's destined for a shutdown. If only the overseas airline customers would stop needing historical reports from MPE/iX.A large-for-its-time array is still connected to a 3000 that's escaped the reaper's scythe so far. Mark Ranft, who's chronicled the transition away from MPE at Navitaire, let us know what's keeping a computer built 12 years ago serving some Navitaire customers.
All the customers have been switched over from HP 3000s. We still run an N-Class connected to an XP128 disk array for historical legacy purposes. It could be shut down soon, but we occasionally have a customer ask for some information from it. I guess other countries have unusually long timeframes for keeping detailed records of airline flights.
Navitaire had plenty of airline data business before it purchased Open Skies, but the reservation revenue-tracking software covered a new niche aimed at small carriers. HP only owned OpenSkies for about two years, then sold it to a subsidiary of Accenture. Within 18 months, HP announced its takedown of its 3000 operations. Accenture began developing a replacement called NewSkies, and by 2005 it started to inject it into spots where OpenSkies had served. Before that time, OpenSkies got upgrades from Navitaire, until HP called its halt to MPE/iX futures.
Open Skies, and its progeny New Skies, was always aimed at the low-cost airlines like RyanAir and WestJet. The 3000 had its introduction to airline reservation systems at what was a low-cost airline at the time, Southwest. Of course, Southwest is now the largest US domestic airline in passengers carried, and is paired with overseas partners. At the end of 1993, it bought tiny Morris Air to acquire 14 new Western US destinations, and discovered it'd bought the Morris "online reservation system," back when paper tickets were the absolute standard for air travel. It was like finding change in sofa cushions, including a rare coin.
The New York Times account of the transaction that brought the 3000 into the airline business makes no mention of the server or the software developed in Utah. Legendary CEO Herb Kelleher of Southwest was sharp enough to know low-cost operations would grow the company he founded, however. Morris was shaped like the Southwest of the 1990s, a company that knew a good server when it found one.
Southwest is more focused than Morris on attracting business travelers and is likely to try to attract more by offering more frequent flights. No Southwest routes overlap those of Morris, which will give Southwest a new presence in the Northwest and West, adding 14 cities to its schedule.
Asked about the Morris acquisition, Delta executives appeared sanguine yesterday. "We really don't see that this is changing anything," said Bill Berry, a Delta spokesman. "If we've got to face a competitor, we would rather face a competitor with costs that are much closer to ours."
Delta's reaction prompted a burst of laughter from Mr. Kelleher during a telephone interview yesterday. The cost structures of Southwest and Morris "are virtually the same," he said.
Southwest's adoption of the reservation software made e-tickets so essential that much larger airlines were forced to take up the service. By now, ordering a paper ticket carries a surcharge. Today's Southwest fleet of 600-plus 737s -- built at 3000-user Boeing -- now average six flights per aircraft per day. Delta had to merge with Northwest Airlines to keep up. Southwest turned off its last 3000 in the previous decade, though.
The deeper you go into the Morris-Southwest story, the better it gets. June Morris built her airline out of a travel agency business she ran in the back room of her husband's photo finishing business. Eventually there was a small fleet of chartered planes. Morris was the only female airline leader in the US at the time of the acquisition. The president of Morris Air at the time of the sale was David Needleman, who after leaving Morris went on to found a little operation called JetBlue. And JetBlue used HP 3000s as well, relying on Open Skies software from the start — the App on Tap that HP booked from Day One of JetBlue's operations. JetBlue and Southwest signaled a victory of midrange servers running TurboIMAGE/SQL over mainframes. JetBlue started up with less than a $1 million yearly IT budget.
Open Skies made its money by charging a fee per ticket booked. At the time JetBlue took off, a Computerworld article reported that flight reservations could be made on the Web "and by Touch-Tone telephone."
More than 500 Navitaire employees will go to Amadeus, a company that did 3.4 billion Euros of business last year. Navitaire's sale price was reported at $380 million in a July announcement, a deal that may close as early as next month. In the meantime there's one N-Class 3000 waiting for its retirement date, flying a route with a terminal destination — if one without an ETA.
September 10, 2015
TBT: The End of the HP 3000's Beginnings
HP moved toward its RISC future in small steps. The hardware was first released in 1987's fall. It took another 11 years, but in September 1998 MPE V, the OS that lifted the 3000 into the highest systems count, fell off of HP's support radar. The CISC hardware such as the Series 70 fell away from HP's care, too.
MPE V was the last of the 16-bit operating systems for Hewlett-Packard. DEC had gotten a leg up in the middle '80s by promising that Digital Has It Now, with the now being 32-bit computing. Removing MPE V from the support tree at HP didn't remove the systems from the field. Paul Edwards, the trainer, consultant, and user group director exemplar, used to note that a Series 70 MPE V system was still running in the Dallas area even after HP announced its end-game for the entire line in 2001.
Calling the products its "vintage" software and systems, HP's Customer Support organization announced end-of-support-life dates for all MPE V products running on CISC-based HP 3000s, as well support for what the community called "Classic" HP 3000 computers.
Classic HP 3000s continued to operate in companies around the world after 1998, even though HP had stopped selling them 10 years earlier. A Classic-to-RISC trade-in program was still underway in 1992. HP estimated that it had shipped more than 20,000 Classic 3000s as of 1986. The Series 37, 37XE and Micro 3000 systems left support in 1997, and Series 39 through 70 systems went off support in January, 1998. By September of that year, HP turned out the lights on the last of the Classics -- the LX, RX, GX and XE models of the Micro 3000.HP also pulled support for Compatibility Mode software products that had a Native Mode equivalent under MPE/iX systems. Stalwart products like Edit/V and NS/3000 V had equivalent NM counterparts, for example.
Two longtime HP 3000 developers, both now passed away, suggested that HP donate the use of the MPE/V versions of its compilers as teaching aids and freeware. In particular, Basic and SPL came in for praise from Wirt Atmar of AICS, who noted that "If HP has abandoned Basic, it would be an extraordinary gift to the MPE user community to make it as well as SPL legal freeware. Basic still remains the easiest language to build complex, easy string-manipulating software that must interact with IMAGE databases."
Atmar noted that HP originally expected that the vast majority of the application programs written for the HP 3000 would be written in Basic. Therefore, he said, HP invested heavily in 1973 to put together an extremely well designed language.
Bruce Toback, a developer of HP 3000 software, added that Basic/V "is an incredibly useful API scripting language. If it's no longer of any value to HP, either placing it in the public domain or releasing it with a GPL-type license would be a no-cost way of providing a substantial benefit to the user community."
Chris Bartram, whose company continues to host HP 3000 technical papers, software, and MPE resources, said in 1998 that donating the MPE V versions of Basic and SPL would mesh with HP's then-new policy of relying on shareware for its HP 3000 customers.
"It certainly doesn't hurt anything at this point to make it freeware," he said at the time, "and it fits in well with the wealth of other freeware programs that are becoming available on the platform — almost all without "official" support or significant investments from HP."
Bartram and the next generation of 3000 OS software have survived long after HP missed that chance for source code donation. The source of MPE/iX was put up for licensing for a brief period — but only the old hardware has even been offered as a donation. One HP 3000 Series 70 was for sale in 2011 on eBay, but lately the newer N-Class servers have been seen at nearly the same price.
September 03, 2015
TBT: In the Thick of Proceedings Season
Before you even left your house for a flight to an HP user conference in the Eighties, you had to leave room in your suitcase for the thick books of proceedings. So much room, by the middle of that decade when the 3000 grew fastest, that you might have leave behind the booth swag you snagged from conferences like Interex annual meetings.
30 years ago this week, I was packing for my first national HP user conference. The Interex meeting was scheduled for Washington DC, the first time a HP 3000 users conference would meet in a national capital. We learned things afterward by packing up these fat tomes in our bags for the return trip. It was an era where you advanced your skill set by reading papers, printed in monotype Courier off HP 3000s which were running HP Word, or WordStar off a PC. HP could provide WordStar on its HP-150 Touchscreen PCs. It hadn't earned good notice for the utility of its touchscreen functions, though.
The graphic design for proceedings was spartan at best. At least half of the papers were written by users, and every professional who attended a show went home and hoovered up that wisdom that was shared without regard for reader comfort. The 200 papers from the Interex '87 show required three volumes of more than 700 pages each. The papers were printed in alphabetical order of authors' names, and nary a page number is to be found.
In addition to meeting in DC for the first and only time, 3000 users in September, 1985 could hear a speech from an HP CEO. David Packard was a former CEO and current HP board member when he addressed the multitudes at the conference. While Packard's speech has been lost to the wilds, those proceedings papers remain in closets, online, or fixed in the skill sets of the 3000 managers who have moved on to other platforms. Most printed advice that did not yet have the benefits of HP's LaserJet marked milestones on those hundreds of sheets printed each year.Presenting a paper helped your career, whether you were a rock star of the community or just a hard worker moving up. Eugene Volokh, at age 17, published a 53-page paper in that 1985 proceedings set on The Secrets of System Tables.. Revealed! The paper started with parody of a Norse poem, revised to include 3000 terms.
During an era when the work in computing was called Data Processing, one paper from HP Major Accounts rep Bill Franklin cited a survey showing "in many organizations, less than 1 percent of all management decisions are being made using on-line interactive systems." Batch was big, apparently, but another paper provided methods to alleviate the 3000's "grave failings as a batch job machine."
It was a time when the fastest growing segment for 3000s enabled a practice being called Office Automation. HP rolled out the Series 37 during the year that led to Washington, and the vendor dubbed it The Office Computer. You could use what the industry still called a minicomputer without special cooling or a raised floor for cabling. Setting up a 3000 on a carpet was still a fresh achievement.
"Our office workers had little if any, access to computing," Ellie East of Media General wrote in one paper. Her DP department "established the company-wide use of the HP 150 computer by approximately 150 executives, managers, accountants and secretaries." Those Touchscreen 150s were in the mix to reduce the computing load of the 17 HP 3000s across the company. Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheets made that happen.
Spell-checking from word processing was not as important as vetting concepts and DP practices for the papers. You were more likely to get called out for formatting errors on your printed report. One paper delivered 10 pages of tips on "Writing Intellegent Software." It was an era when "compatability" could appear in a headline that I wrote the next year, a gaffe that didn't trigger even a handful of calls. At least that DP pro in DC could point to tech skills that I could not claim, not from the HP Chronicle editor's chair. Our very first booth, one we'd built ourselves, was a DIY number so heavy that it needed a fork lift to make it onto the expo floor, down in the basement hall of the Washington DC Hilton. The ceilings were not 10 feet high. We were upstarts in that hall, tilting at the Interex publications windmill with an editor who was more newspaper writer than proceedings aficionado.
In that Washington DC September week, there was evidence of volunteering on every proceedings page. Interex '85, billed as The Information Crossroads of the 80s, was hosted by the Baltimore-Washington Regional Users Group. At the meeting's pinnacle where the volunteers took a bow, they all sported red blazers, the ones they'd been wearing all week. The RUG officers told us the coats were an invitation to "ask me" for help about finding which talk to attend, or where an event could be located.
The Interex 85 conference was among the last to be driven by a focused users group. 3000 managers and vendors from the Southeastern Michigan Regional Users Group hosted Interex 86 in Detroit. Users took home another two-volume set of proceedings. By Interex 87, held in Las Vegas in another September, the role of the RUG in national meetings was on the wane. An icon as flashy as a red jacket would not appear on the stage of another meeting. Those tomes of technical paper, gathering the advantage of desktop publishing to reduce their page counts, would survive for another 14 years of conferences.
A sampling of such classic proceedings from the 1970s through the end of the Interex era is online at the OpenMPE website. I've got no idea how those thousands of pages were driven into digital images, but the brute force that must have been required matched the rolled-up sleeve approach to 3000 DP of 1985. Captured in those online pages is advice on software which still runs on 3000s of today, such as IMAGE and its logging capabilities. The first TurboIMAGE Textbook was still four years away from that week in DC, and it also caught a 3000 wave that was powered by paper.
September 02, 2015
The Heritage of Enterprise Consumerism
The heritage of your computer marketplace is driven by many more failures than successes. HP attempted to build a multiple operating system technology (MOST) system in 1993, mostly by re-engineering MPE and Unix software for customers who needed both environments.
MOST failed in alpha tests and taught Hewlett-Packard a lesson: do not promise so much flexibility that you kill performance. MOST was too slow to do the work of a single-OS system of the early '90s. The technology for multiple-OS computing was still five more years away, in Superdome. By the time HP polished Superdome, it lost its taste for expanding its MPE business.
That story has been echoed in the market many times. Virtualization and cloud solves such challenges today. But in 1993, NeXT Computer was killing itself by shipping a version of its OS that actually ran slower than the prior release. NeXT was the brainchild of Steve Jobs, who'd been kicked off Apple's throne by a board that was steered by John Sculley. Recent news has Sculley unveiling a new Android smartphone that won't be sold in the US. Aimed at China and emerging markets, this new Obi is, and so it avoids some competition with Apple.
Sculley, the former CEO of Pepsi, had been brought in to Apple by Jobs. The insanely great wunderkind knew he needed help to reach consumers. The move cost Apple momentum that elevated Microsoft and Windows to the top tier of business computing. Jobs tried to rebound with NeXT. Like MOST, the NeXT was way ahead of its time. Consumer-grade Unix was still 12 years away, lurking in the dreams for Mac OS X.
HP 3000 owners care about this because of their computer's heritage. Another consumer whiz, Dick Hackborn, climbed onto another board, HP's, and turned the LaserJet consumer reseller model onto the rest of HP's business. Direct contact with small to midsize customers became a task HP delegated. A 3000 shop that once knew its OS supplier through an SE or a CE had to learn to use resellers. The 3000 division lost track of the majority of its customers, and when the large sites yearned for a Superdome, nobody was able to keep in touch with customers who didn't need such a beast.
Sculley might do well with the Obi, even after a pratfall at Apple. On the other hand, the results might be Obi-Wan. It takes a failure to learn something, most times. MOST taught HP about speed, benefits, and the need for enough brainpower to enable something better (MPE) to drive something popular (Unix). The 3000's heritage flowed even and steady for awhile after Hackborn bent HP to a consumer beat. The loss of focus sealed the 3000's fate at HP, though.Enterprise and consumer computing were distinct entities when Scully and his pratfall pushed Jobs past another failure, NeXT, and into Apple. Now Scully will be competing with the ghost of Jobs, trying to sell a smartphone against the iPhone. But heritage does not mean that fate is cemented. The 3000 was never going to prosper in what HP was on the vanguard of building: enterprise consumerism. As it turns out, HP was not going to succeed at that either. Hackborn's board because erratic and dysfunctional.
While 3000 users plan their futures, they should look at the heritage of replacement candidates. A Scully smartphone will be as popular as Pepsi in emerging companies. It might be just as empty of enterprise sustenance, unless Sculley has learned the lesson HP has embraced: enterprise and consumer computer businesses should be run differently. In 60 days, Hewlett-Packard and HP will mean different things when the company recognizes the differences and splits.
August 27, 2015
TBT: Hurricane lashes Platt's Interex debut
The annual Interex user conference ended its run in 2005 before Hurricane Katrina chased off the show that tried to replace it in New Orleans that year. Katrina will be much in the news over this weekend as the world remembers the 10th anniversary of that disaster. Interex had often scheduled its conferences for the peak month of hurricane season. The group's luck ran aground when Hurricane Andrew made its landfall in the week that HP planned to celebrate the 3000's 20th anniversary. The storm came ashore near New Orleans, where that party was scheduled.
It was a week when the company's new CEO, Lew Platt, was supposed to make his debut at a keynote in front of 3,500 customers at Interex '92. Platt was only the second man ever to be elected to the top job at HP, and the retiring CEO John Young didn't have an engineer's roots like Platt did. This was an HP insider who was a technologist, proud of his roots, and humble enough to take up a habit of eating his meals in the HP cafeteria.
Young was scheduled to deliver a keynote to the conference, but Hurricane Andrew changed those plans. The storm had just ravaged the Florida coastline with Cat 4 winds the day before Young's keynote was supposed to appear. Young's appearance was transferred to a moment for Platt, just as the leadership of HP was going to pass to Platt by November. But the severity of the storm set even the CEO-designate into flight.
In the plaza in front of the Hilton Riverside Towers, Platt was trying to make his way to a running limo that would get him to the airport before flights were grounded. But one customer after another wanted just a moment of his time. After a handful of delays, his wife Joan insisted on his safety. "Lew, get in here," she shouted from the limo. One of the company's most grassroots leaders had to depart his storm-lashed debut week.
The Series 987 servers were also making their debut that week, the second generation of the PA-RISC chipset for 3000s. HP was pushing the message that MPE/iX was an easy porting destination for Unix applications, pointing out that General Mills had moved a third-party warehouse app from Unix to the 3000. "It had been generally accepted that it was much easier just to buy a new platform for the application," HP's Warren Weston wrote in the HP Chronicle. "However, after further investigation, the decision was made to port to MPE/iX." It might have been the last time the vendor promoted the 3000 over Unix in a public message.The 3000's operating system was getting its first version that could support Berkley Sockets, technology that I reported in the Chronicle "is aimed at the same target audience awaiting Posix functionality on HP 3000s: application developers who already have programs running on Unix-based systems."
MPE/iX 4.0 was "one of the highest-performing commercial operating systems in the industry," said then-GM Rich Sevcik, who'd go on to lead HP's launch of the Itanium chip program. He compared the 3000's value to that of IBM mainframes. "MPE is significantly easier to use and less costly than competitive operating systems such as IBM's MVS."
HP's 987 got the new PA-7100 chips, which made the 9x7s the next-to-fastest tier of 3000s in that summer week. The company was pumping its installed base to get sales numbers up for the 9x7s. The non-RISC Series 68s and Series 70s could be turned into 9x7s for as little as $3,000 on the low end of the 9x7 line. Even trading in the first-model RISC Series 950 for a 9x7 would earn a $50,000 credit.
HP was still hoping to make IBM's midrange customers take heed of the 3000. The company said that in comparing the 3000 to the AS/400, "a mid-level HP system would be 60 percent cheaper than the cost of hardware, software, and support for the comparable IBM system."
August 24, 2015
N-Class 3000 now priced at $3,000
The ultimate class of HP 3000s, the N-Class, entered the 3000 marketplace with servers for sale that started in the mid-five figures. The lineup included a server rated at 440 MHz with a single processor, and that N4000-100-440 model has a unit on the market selling for a bit less than its original price of $210,000. Quite a bit less.
Cypress Technology posted a notice of the server with a price tag of $3,000. That's a markdown of 98 percent over the lifespan of the product.
A great deal of time has passed between those two price points. The N-Class prices were announced in February 2001, only nine months before HP revealed it was canceling its 3000 futures. The servers shipped to a limited number of sites in advance of the HP takedown notice. The N-Class servers were a great value compared to prior-generation Series 900 HP 3000s, but this 100-440 unit was in the middle of a lineup that ran in price from $70,000 to more than a half-million dollars.
Jesse Dougherty of Cypress said the server has a 300GB disk in addition to the traditional so-wee 9GB boot drive. There's 4GB of RAM and an MPE/iX software set, and the latter's got some transferability, according to Dougherty.
The ability to assume a valid MPE/iX license was once a benefit to a 3000 manager, since it conferred supportability from HP of the system. But HP's support carrot has long since withered away. There's residual value in a server that was built 12 years ago, though, and perhaps at least $3,000.Given the right paperwork for the N-Class so this license could be transferred for HP's $432 fee -- and the vendor will take that payment today, more than 13 years after its exit notice -- such a system could pass an auditor's screening and become a valid player in an enterprise environment. Plenty of third party companies are on the radar for support.
Without that paperwork -- HP wants to see a chain of ownership from an original purchaser, or a letter attesting to it -- some auditors might reject such a purchase.
At a cost of $3,000, though, this server is at least a source of spare parts. Parts are becoming more essential by the day for the homesteading HP 3000 user. Those who've moved to the virtualized hardware set sold by Stromasys for their MPE/iX applications are not seeking a server for the value of its parts. The N-Class comes with a 100 Mbit Base-T LAN adapter, too.
August 20, 2015
TBT: 3000-TV debuts along with Newswire
Twenty years ago this week, the annual Interex conference included two fresh elements for HP 3000 customers. The ones who stayed in conference hotels could watch closed-circuit TV programs devoted to the HP 3000. The 3000 News/Wire made its entrance at Interex 95 in the Metro Toronto Conference Center's exhibit hall, too. We'd driven 500 copies of our pilot issue from Texas to Canada in a minivan to circulate on the show floow. HP drove its pro-3000 message onto the televisions in four Interex hotels.
Those TV shows have essentially vanished without a trace, and Interex 1995 marked the only show where the computer got its own airtime on TVs in public. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 PR crew extended me an invitation to appear on one of the broadcasts to introduce the News/Wire, a piece of great fortune for a publication that had only four pages of print to its credit by that August.
Some fellow named Lew Platt was on another TV segment, talking about his job as CEO. The management roundtable featured a gag where HP executives got asked why IBM usually came to customer meetings dressed casually. HP's execs stood up on cue and shed their coats and ties. VP Ann Livermore, the only woman on the panel, did not have to alter her dress.
At the conference, an HP of about $24 billion in annual sales was introducing the HP 3000 Coexistence Solution Strategy, "a selection of products and guidelines that ensure complete integration among HP 3000 Business Servers and other open systems, including Unix-based computers."
We interviewed general manager Olivier Helleboid for a Q&A to appear in the first full issue, and he already had a sound bite ready about the new strategy. "Wearing one size fits all computing garments doesn't suit our customers facing today's changing technology," he said, adding that the scheme would "make the HP 3000 fit neatly into environments where companies use more than one platform."It was a time when the vendor referred to the "Internet HTTP protocol" as freeware, "and this enables the HP 3000 to be used as a World Wide Web server without any additional hardware." The World part of those W's was still in transit. MPE was missing domain name services, and Netscape's web server would never arrive as a solution for the 3000. The one customer using their 3000 for web services was running an company-wide intranet. But an enterprising engineer from outside of HP got the bedrock of porting up and running that summer. C++ was a new tool.
Mark Klein, then working in the ORBiT Software lab, used his own time and resources to bootstrap the Gnu C++ suite for MPE/iX 5.0. This would make possible the porting of inetd and bootp capabilities, "software that is common to Unix-based environments," HP reminded us. Such 3000 advances seemed to be reflections of what HP's Unix already had on offer.
The "HP-UX multiuser systems" came in for special mention in the company's quarterly results press release, "with particular strength in the telecommunications market." Striving to paint the 3000 in as many industry-standard hues as possible, HP touted Oracle's Transparent Gateway for IMAGE/SQL, and connections to the Sybase database were promised for the first half of 1996.
The management roundtable, an event that featured customers asking unscreened questions of HP VPs, appeared as it often did, "a process that serves as a sounding board for some customers, as black comedy for others, and can sometimes provide information about unmet needs in the customer base."
The flashiest bit of dark humor came from a Japanese customer who reported he'd bought 200 HP-UX servers to date. "The problem is, their quality sucks," said his interpreter. HP's Sales and Marketing chief Manuel Diaz jumped in quickly as the ballroom rocked with laughs. "Somehow, it sounded better in Japanese," he said.
That Interex show rose its curtain in the classic, sticky Lake Ontario summer air, while Microsoft unfurled the Windows 95 banner, 300 feet worth literally draped off a tower in Toronto. Win95 was about to ground NewWave, marking the end of HP's unique R&D into GUI.
I watched an aerial daredevil rappel down the CN tower that week, one of a half-dozen stunts Microsoft staged in contrast to the laid-back HP marketing. Printer sales continued to be a hit with HP's consumers while the company hoped to capture IT dollars with its Vectra PC line.
But not even agent-based object-oriented software like NewWave could spark sales like a Windows campaign that used the Rolling Stones' Start Me Up, trumpeting Win95's new Start button. Paying $3 million for the rights to use the song, Microsoft tattooed it into our brains -- enough that I played it in a loop while I batted out the first edition of our FlashPaper late-news insert as we rolled the presses on the full NewsWire — taking the slash out of our name because being wired was clearly essential to delivering news.
HP was encouraging its customers to watch another sort of TV in the month to come. An HP Technology Close-up Broadcast, MPE and Unix Interoperability and Management, was going to air in HP's offices in September. HP told its customers at the show that if they couldn't be in an HP office that day, they could get a recording on VHS afterward, ordering over an 800-number — in the days when toll-free was only available using the 800 area code.
August 13, 2015
TBT: An August Switch of HP Bosses
In an August of 16 summers ago, the first woman to lead a Dow 30 corporation waded into her new job as HP CEO. Carly Fiorina took the job that the HP board handed her after it ushered lifelong HP employee Lew Platt out of the top seat at Hewlett-Packard. At the first press conference announcing the transfer of power, Platt got himself hugged by Fiorina. It was a disarming move that signalled new days for the HP hegemony, and two years later, changes for the future of the HP 3000.
Fiorina made her mission the overhaul of the collegial HP, a company whose directors believed had missed the opportunity of the Internet. Platt was at the helm while Sun Microsystems ran laps around larger vendors like HP, as well as IBM. The 3000 was gaining its first sets of Internet-ready subsystems that summer, but Sun was already dug in as the first choice for a way onto the Web.
Fiorina arrived at her HP job too late to make an appearance at that year's HP World conference in San Francisco. It was an unfortunate circumstance, since the conference represented the largest group of HP customers to gather in one spot for that year, as well as many others. HP was celebrating its 60th anniversary, but it was Year One for the changes that would lead to pursuing growth through acquisitions of ever-increasing size. Within two years, the purchase of Compaq would represent Fiorina's boldest stroke, an acquisition that forced the vendor to select which business lines could be eliminated to prevent overlap.
The Compaq community of VMS users made the cut that the 3000 missed, and some in the MPE community believe that Fiorina knew little to nothing about the division whose futures were considered finished. In time it's become evident that most of the relatively-small businesses in HP built on server and OS technology have little future left at the vendor. One well-known 3000 citizen, the final Interex chairman Denys Beauchemin, reported this summer that VMS is experiencing the same fate as MPE, just a decade and a half later. Its heritage isn't saving it, either.In the midst of a discussion about what the Truck Factor is for the 3000 and MPE, Beauchemin said he remembers MPE and its ecosystem fondly, but "dead is dead."
These days, I am watching the same death spiral with VMS, which HP also recently killed but in a somewhat cruel twist they are prolonging the agony a little bit. Now I migrate VMS/Rdb environments to Linux and Oracle. The VMS ecosystem is larger than the MPE one, but it's also older than when HP killed MPE, if that makes any sense. At the last VMS show, I don't think there was anyone under 55.
In the summer that saw Fiorina's ascent, Ann Livermore set aside her campaign for the CEO job and went to work for the HP Enterprise business afterward. HP was trying to catch up in Internet services including its oldest business platform, offering a solution it called e-services, I noted in an editorial.
Livermore’s team wrote the e-services chorus in lightning speed compared to HP’s classic pace. Now she’s the lightning rod for the company’s continuity, and its spark into the top ranks of Internet businesses. Keeping her at HP after a springtime campaign for HP’s top job will be an interesting challenge for Fiorina — perhaps the place the new CEO can make her quickest contribution.
I don’t mean to minimize Fiorina’s ultimate impact on the 3000 community. Having a fresh perspective on the 3000’s prospects could be a turning point. While outgoing CEO Lew Platt was eyeing HP’s bottom line, he could have been looking up to high-profit businesses like the 3000. His HP Way did not nurture a risk-taking environment. But Platt is more than his oversights. He can take credit for creating an environment that opened the door for the changes of Livermore and Fiorina.
Platt has been keenly aware of a woman’s presence earlier in his life, when his first wife died. In a recent BusinessWeek interview he talked about HP giving him the room to grieve, even afternoons off. “It taught me that things I thought were gender-related were not about gender at all, but about the role you are thrust into in life,” he said.
Platt had made his promises about the future of the HP 3000, starting from the first HP user conference where the NewsWire was present. "HP has worked extremely hard with a product like the HP 3000 to make sure that people who have bought it have a good future," he said in another August, four years before his 1999 retirement. He did envision some kind of transition. "We've put an enormous amount of energy to make sure we can roll those people forward," he said, a message I read as extending the lifespan of MPE.
One year after Fiorina took full hold of the reins of HP's future, she was seen in an Interex user group meeting with a pledge of her own, delivered via video. She made special note of the stumbling start for the system during her remarks broadcast 15 years ago, at HP World 2000.
“HP World has grown out of a single customer commitment, one that has lasted 27 years,” Fiorina said. “In 1972 HP introduced the HP 3000, our first multipurpose enterprise computer, a product that has been praised as one of the computer industry’s more enduring success stories.”
“But it didn’t begin that way,” she added. “In fact by many counts it got off to quite a rocky start. The first few systems were plagued by software glitches. And Dave Packard’s personal commitment to his customers turned the HP 3000 story around dramatically. First he sent teams of engineers to work around the clock until the system worked flawlessly. Second, he made sure that any customer upgrades could be easily integrated into existing 3000s. And thanks to his promise to be flexible and grow with the customer, what we’re now calling the e3000 has experienced almost three decades of success, and continues to thrive with a loyal following.”
Platt died at a young 64 years of age in 2005, a wine lover spending his last years enjoying a director's role at a major vintner. Meanwhile, Fiorina promises to make the coming Republican primary season interesting, daring to unseat others with longer track records.
August 11, 2015
Emulating the 3000's Strong Heartbeat
A full hardware emulation makes the Charon HPA virtualization package a viable choice for keeping MPE applications alive. But what about emulating the essential parts of the 3000's software stack elsewhere? The goal of getting MPE and its riches to operate inside another environment has been enticing, and sometimes elusive. The heart of the system lies in IMAGE, wired thoroughly into the 3000's file system.
HP wanted to be in this business itself, a few decades ago. Allbase was one of two attempts at doing a relational database on MPE. HP Image was the other. Allbase could not get traction in the 3000 base, and HP Image struggled to get out of HP's labs, although both of these products were compatible with the HP-UX environment. They were not faithful enough to the IMAGE structure and design — that 98 percent compatible curse vexed HP Image in particular.
Coming close to emulation's database potential -- where a relational database can behave like IMAGE -- is also in a couple of spots in the 3000's story. "It's fairly easy to use an RDBMS to emulate most of IMAGE," said Allegro's Stan Sieler, who created advances such as b-tree support inside IMAGE. "It's the last few percent of emulation that gets hard to do efficiently." The efficiency factor is what drove down the hopes of HP Image.
One of the few companies to make a good business out of IMAGE emulation is Marxmeier Software AG, which still sells its Eloquence database in HP-UX, Windows and Linux markets. The product has a TurboIMAGE Compatibility extension to accommodate applications that have been migrated from the 3000 to those commodity platforms. It's still the best database choice for any system that needs to move unaltered from MPE to an environment supported by many hardware vendors.
Long ago, Robelle summed up the compatibility — one way of looking at emulation — between Eloquence and IMAGE. "Eloquence supports the same data types as TurboIMAGE, the same record layouts, and the same indexing (plus new options). The transformation needed to convert IMAGE databases to Eloquence is simple and automatic. Either use Suprtool to copy the data, or use Eloquence's DBExport and DBImport utilities. However, the file formats and internal structures of Eloquence are dramatically different from IMAGE. Only the programming interface is the same."
Unlike the Eloquence offering, pitched to a distinct customer base but with benefits to 3000 migrators, HP had to stop thinking about attracting SQL-hungry customers from other platforms with its Allbase and HP Image designs. As it turns out, satisfying the needs of the IMAGE-using ISVs and users was more important. This might appear to be another case of backward compatibility, and investment protection, holding back the broader reach of the HP 3000. Sieler says the compatibility doesn't hold things back, though."I’d argue that “backward compatibility” doesn’t hold back growth," he said. "It enables growth by having a larger pool of software ready to run on your newer models! Remember, the HP 3000 had it easy. The hardware was developed by another HP group, so the hardware development cost was nearly zero. Few other operating systems, outside of Linux, have that kind of advantage!"
For the most part, the PA-RISC based 3000 hardware was developed by the 9000 people. Indeed, it’s 100 percent the same — except for some models where they decided to not deploy MPE. In some cases that was because a slightly different IO driver set might be needed.
In the 935 era, the only difference (other than the name plate and the price being higher for the 3000) was a single EPROM on a disk controller, with essentially one bit different, so MPE could refuse to boot on a 9000. That bit was eventually moved to Stable Storage, so the hardware was then identical other than the nameplate and model number plate.
August 07, 2015
Dress Down Fridays, or any other day at HP
Last week we reported on a culture shift at Hewlett-Packard, relaying a story that the company had a confidential memo in the wild about dress codes. Dress up, it encouraged its Enterprise Group workers. The developers and engineers were a little too comfortable in the presence of clients.
The story became an Internet meme so quickly that HP scrambled to sweep the news away. Alan May (above), the HR director of the complete entity now known as Hewlett-Packard Corporation, even made a dandy video of three minutes full of humor, telling the world that HP workers are grownups and professionals. They decide how to dress themselves.
Running with that latest news, a few veterans of the 3000 community decided the story was just made up by The Register, which uncorked the original report based on a confidential memo they'd acquired. El Reg, as the website likes to call itself, must have been lying or worse.
Not so much, even though that HP video is charming. The Register took note of May's comedy, saying "Fun HP video, but none of this changes anything... except one thing: a webpage in the "HP Technology at Work" section of HP.com, dated August 2013, titled "Being smart about casual" and listing do's and don'ts for workplace attire – such as no short skirts or sandals or ripped jeans, and so on. HP still has a link to the article." HP fixed up that link so it now goes to May's fun video.
These are interesting times for Hewlett-Packard, a company that this week shared its Oct. 31 split-up details with support customers. It's not clear if May will be in the Hewlett-Packard Enterprise, or with HP Inc. come November 1. For the sake of the Enterprise customers who were former 3000 sites, we hope he stays in the HP segment serving business computing. His hat calls attention to the picture of Bill and Dave on the cubicle behind him. The founders managed a company with an obvious dress code. White shirt, tie, or a nice top and skirt.
The founding 3000 engineers knew that you only get one chance to make a first impression -- the fits-and-starts launch of the 3000 notwithstanding. It took awhile, but eventually what ran on the HP 3000 inside HP became the focus of customer visits, the same kind of visits that sparked that dress code advice that HP seems to have put under its corporate carpet.On a swell website called the HP Memory Project, contributor Hank Taylor reported on how the array of systems that drove Hewlett-Packard — and had been migrated to the 3000 — impressed customers on visits. Heart, a system that controlled and monitored every sale and transaction across HP, was a showcase.
As the HP 3000 became a stronger and stronger processor, Cort Van Rensselaer had the vision to see that developing manufacturing systems on this platform would have several advantages to the company. It would give us a showplace for customers to see our computers in action. [The 3000 census at HP circa 1996 is below, in a slide made for customers.]
Allan Imamoto made the leap of faith and with his team worked out a way to process Heart on the HP 3000. All these conversions turned out to be a very good thing for the company. During my years with Heart and Corporate Networking Services HP was expanding from the manufacture and sale of engineering products into the business computer market. John Young, the CEO of HP said, "It was hard work; believe me, just getting customers." We were selling to people we had never sold to and at the highest levels in their corporations where we had seldom made contacts before. John said, "IBM owned every company outside of the lab or the factory floor."
The solution to breaking into new companies turned out to be bringing high level executives to Palo Alto to attend HP management seminars where they were introduced to our actual information systems processes. It seems like I was making a presentation, along with many of my fellow IT workers, weekly. These presentations had the credibility of hearing from someone who had actually done the things the customers wanted to do. Heart, Comsys, Manufacturing and Accounting systems were all very impressive to our visitors.
August 06, 2015
Throwback: The Hottest 3000 Conference
Looking back, Central Florida in August would've been a hot choice no matter which conference was on tap. But in 1988's first week of August, the Interex annual North American show set up to welcome 3000 users who could not believe they'd landed in the jungle heat of a Southern summer. What was hottest was the prospect of the first hardware revolution in 3000 history, the initial Spectrum-class Series 950 servers.
Users, vendors, and HP's experts lined up to speak and find air-conditioned refuge in the first conference since the newest PA-RISC HP 3000s shipped. It was an era when a user group conference brimmed with user papers, written by customers sharing their experience. One paper looked toward migration trends, the kind that would shift a 3000 site to Digital or IBM systems because things were changing too much in the evolution of MPE and its hardware.
Some HP Precision Architecture machines will have been in use for several months. Also, we will have moved closer to the date when the Series 955 (or some other larger machine yet unannounced as of this writing) will be available. Are HP 3000 users moving to other manufacturers' systems? Did any HP users start to leave and change their mind or leave and come back?
Another kind of migration was underway already: the move from MPE V to MPE XL. The 1.0 version of the new OS was all that HP could sell by this Orlando show. Dave Elward of Taurus Software presented a paper about how to succeed in that kind of migration. Everything had changed at the new hardware's fastest level, even though HP had built a little miracle called Compatibility Mode to let existing applications run at a much slower pace.
The technical proceedings of that era are focused on the Classic MPE V version of the OS, in largest part. The OpenMPE website is the archive for the period when a national user conference could be held in a city half the size of today's Omaha. The world of the 3000 seemed larger, though, as Unix was only starting to break through as an IT alternative. "UNIX is a vendor-independent operating system," went the paper "Comparing Unix to Other Systems." Vendor independence would be available with Windows and eventually Linux, but the Unix that would assail HP 3000s in the late '80s had as many variations and dependencies as vendors who sold it.
The first step towards a successful migration is education. MPE XL contains many new things that at first can be overwhelming. What is comforting is that when you begin to use MPE XL, you don't even need to know you're using it. All of the commands you are likely to use perform just the same, and programs moved to MPE XL in compatibility mode just run. Only when you are ready to maximize the benefits of your new machine do you need to have a good understanding of the migration process.
On the lineup for Interex '88 — a conference that soon sported buttons that bragged I Survived Orlando in August — papers covered "Pitfalls of Offloading Applications to PCs" and "How to Train a Terminal User to be an Effective PC User." One tech talk outlined the transfer of dial-up facilities for a raft of HP 150 Touchscreen PCs that were connected to HP 3000s, bragging that 9600-baud service was well worth the investment.
"Each of these 150s call our HP 3000 twice each night: once to upload the day's transactions, then later to download a newly updated customer file," the IT manager reported. "We use HP AdvanceLink as our communication software." In another paper, the merits of that HP terminal emulator were debated versus WRQ's Reflection software.
The Interex user group selected a venue like Orlando because of an active Regional Users Group in the state. FLORUG provided volunteers, like the other conferences of the era, but there was nothing to be done about the weather. User conferences were scheduled to hit vacation months, but Orlando in August features 95 percent humidity, nighttime lows that don't fall out of the mid 70s, and enough rain to convince anyone it's prime hurricane season.
Once the sun went down, users found ways to keep cool while they enjoyed warm technical exchanges. The MPE legend Eugene Volokh presented two papers at the conference, and at the tender age of 20, held court for an evening with 22 of us at a local restaurant. Volokh's paper detailed programming for the nascent MPE XL, and he had a confidence that belied his years. It was time when FedEx was still Federal Express and papers were printed on fixed-width fonts using the then-novel LaserJet.
Thanks especially to Gavin Scott for letting me test out all the examples on the computer in the two hours between the time I finished writing it and the time I had to Federal Express it up to the Bay Area RUG. Finally, any errors in this paper are not the fault of the author, but were rather caused by cosmic rays hitting the disc drives and modifying the data.
August 04, 2015
Large Disk MPE/iX patch is still notable
A report on a new patch from 2005 is still able to bring good news to HP 3000s that are trying to use HP hardware to stay online today, one decade later. The Large Disk patch for MPE/iX 7.5 continues to be available from Hewlett-Packard. It expands the usable area of a 3000 disk up to 1TB, and the patch is necessary to utilize and 146-GB and 300-GB devices with an HP badge on them.
When we shared the original news about this advance, the patch was in beta test status. Large Disk made it out of the beta wilderness, thanks to testing from customers of that era. We suspected as much when we said, "of all the patches HP is hoping you will test this year, Large Disk looks like it has its eyes fixed firmly on the 3000's post-2006 future." At the time, we all believed HP would be exiting the 3000 biz at the end of '06.
The news might not be fresh for anybody who applied this patch, but the absence of it will keep 3000s limited to much smaller disks, devices much older. It bears a re-broadcast to your community, if only because we've tracked down a current link to the fine technical paper written by Jim Hawkins of HP. The paper was once hosted on the 3000 group's Jazz server, whose links have all gone dark. Many of those Jazz papers are now on the Client Systems mirror of Jazz. Speedware (Fresche Legacy) also has these tech papers.
In our initial report, we said the patch's scope was limited to 7.5 and "the work is no small feat, literally and figuratively. Without it, HP 3000s can only boot up drives of 300 GB or smaller. The work of Hawkins and cohorts at the HP labs will let users attach drives up to 1TB under the MPE/iX operating system."
In the HP paper on the enhancement, Hawkins pointed out it'd been a long time since any boundaries got moved for disk on the HP 3000. The Large Disk team moved the limits a long way out, after that long hiatus.
Hawkins' detailed article notes that 3000 sites who want to use HP's 146 GB and 300 GB Disk modules ought to consider installing these patches. Customers who might have MPE Groups or Accounts which use more than 100,000,000 sectors — that's bigger than about 24 GB — also find the patches useful.
The last major initiative to address disks size was done in MPE XL 4.0 for support of disks larger than 4 GB. These changes were done to address an approximately ten times (10x) increase in disk from 404-670 MB to 4.0 GB disks. In 2005 with MPE/iX 7.5, we were confronted with nearly a hundred times (100x) size change (4.0 GB to more than 300 GB) over what had been possible in MPE XL 4.0.
In 2005 we were concerned about whether a patch that ended its HP lifespan in beta test would ever see the light of day. In the language of that era, Jan. 1, 2007 was supposed to be the end of HP's 3000 business.
The answer to the question "What's to become of HP's engineering in 2007?" seems to lie in the hands of the customers. HP won't backport this patch without enough interest to get Large Disk out of beta limbo. If these patches remain in beta through 2006, we have to wonder what will become of these well-crafted bytes on January 1, 2007.
It would be sad to think such exacting work would be locked away on some DVD disk in an archive, simply because the testing rules are locked in the box of MPE 4.0-era thinking: only HP-supported 3000 customers can apply to test.
Good will and common sense prevailed to keep patches like this in the toolbelt for 3000 managers. All patches were made available, without needing any support contract, after HP closed out its official support for MPE/iX. A diligent independent support company will be able to point a manager at the right HP process to get these patches.
July 30, 2015
TBT: HP Image goes dead. Long live IMAGE
It was 1988, and Adager co-creator Adager Alfredo Rego had already skied for Guatemala in the Winter Olympics. Months later, with the Summer Olympics at hand, Hewlett-Packard killed off development of a new database for the HP 3000. The project was supposed to give the server a spot on industry-wide benchmark charts, HP believed. But HP Image was only 98 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE, and that's 2 percent short of being usable. HP Image abdicated the throne that HP intended to a TurboIMAGE rewritten for the brand-new Spectrum-class 3000s.
The move matters today because it marks a turning point in the march toward industry standards for the 3000. The server has been legendary for preserving its customers' investments like app development. A from the ground up SQL database might have helped put the 3000 into a more homogenous tier during an Open Systems era. Of course, HP would've had to create a database that worked for existing customer apps. HP Image was not that database.
HP's step-back from HP Image in the summer of 1988 came after more than two years of development, lab work that hit the wall after test users tried to make their applications and data fit with the product. After dropping that baton, HP raced to put the HP SQL of Allbase/SQL into making 3000 and 9000 apps compatible.
In an HP Chronicle article I wrote back then, I quoted developer Gavin Scott while he was at American Data Industries. By that summer, HP had managed to move TurboIMAGE onto MPE XL 1.1. "Pulling the Turbo database into the Allbase concept appears to have reaped some benefit for users," I wrote. "In Scott's view, it's faster and still compatible, a rare combination."
It works flawlessly, and it is quite fast. Native Mode TurboIMAGE works exactly the way old TurboIMAGE did, even to the extent that it still aligns all of the data on half-word boundaries. You have to take that into account when you're writing Native Mode programs to access Native Mode TurboIMAGE; it will be slightly less efficient, because you have to tell your program to use the Classic 3000 packing method when you go to access the database.
That summer marked the point that HP had to give up on creating an IMAGE replacement for the brand-new MPE XL. HP eventually supplied a native SQL interface for IMAGE, thereby taking that product into its IMAGE/SQL days. But HP Image never would have been proposed if the vendor wasn't thinking about attracting SQL-hungry customers from other platforms with a new database scheme.That era's TPC benchmarks, built around tests using Oracle and other SQL databases, were being used by IBM and DEC to win new enterprise customers. HP could only counter with the HP 9000 and HP-UX, and it needed another entry in that benchmark derby. TurboIMAGE was too boutique to qualify for a TPC test, the suites that were created to pit hardware vendors against each other. What would be the point of making a TPC test that required a non-SQL IMAGE? Only HP's IMAGE-ready systems could be compared there.
Instead, HP eventually had to pay close attention to retaining IMAGE ISVs and users. Scott commented this week on how that turning point came to pass in the late '80s.
Just as MPE suffered because management (really mostly the technical influencers and decision makers, not upper management) decided that Open Systems (which meant Unix) were the way of the future, I think the HP database lab had some PhD types who were convinced that SQL and relational was the answer to everything, without understanding the issues MPE faced with compatibility.
They tried to build one relational core engine that had both an SQL and an Image API, but for a long list of reasons this could not be made 100 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE, so you just could not run an existing 3000 application on top of it without major changes -- which was of course a non-starter for customers wanting to move from MPE/V to MPE/XL.
HP had already received a better strategy from independent vendors, advice HP chose to ignore. Deep in the heart of IMAGE lie routines and modules written in SPL, the foundational language for MPE and the 3000. SPL was going to need a Native Mode version to move these bedrock elements like IMAGE to the new generation of 3000s powered by RISC chips. But HP's language labs said an SPL II was impossible, because SPL wasn't defined well enough. So trying to leverage the Allbase transaction processor, HP galloped into building HP Image, using Modcal, its modified version of Pascal that already drove many MPE XL routines and subsystems.
As it turned out, it was easier to create a Native Mode SPL than to make a new SQL database that was 100 percent compatible with TurboIMAGE. Steve Cooper of Allegro, the company that partnered with Denkart and SRN to create the second generation of SPL with SPLash!, said 98 percent compatibility never succeeds.
"Just like something can never be very unique -- it's just unique -- software can't ever be very compatible. It's compatible, or it isn't." DBGET calls in TurboIMAGE worked faster than DBGET ever would in HP Image. The number of items is reported in TurboIMAGE's DBGET automatically. HP Image had to run through a DBGET chainhead from stem to stern once again to get that number, "and that's a lot more IOs," Cooper said. Scott noted that native TurboIMAGE was a direct result of that independent language work on SPL.
The ultimate solution was to basically give up on HP Image completely and simply port TurboIMAGE from MPE/V to MPE/XL, which actually turned out to be relatively easy (after they stole the ideas surrounding the architecture of the SPLash! compiler to make their own Native Mode SPL II compiler (what TurboImage was written in.) HP's language guys spent several years saying a Native Mode SPL compiler was not practica -- but of course SRN, Denkart and Allegro succeeded with SPLash! thus making them look stupid).
Scott said TurboIMAGE was too simple to need SQL's prospective advantages. It was just a fast networked database that had a common API which thousands of apps were using.
HP Image and Allbase/SQL were big and bulky and complex, and thus a lot slower than TurboImage once it got to Native Mode. Today the world runs primarily on SQL/relational databases, up until you get to Big Data distributed no-SQL databases used in huge clusters. But in those days TurboIMAGE had the big advantage of simplicity, and the biggest advantage of having an API that all existing HP 3000 applications were already written to.
I'm not sure about "turning point" for hte database labs. I think they just continued on doing their Allbase stuff, they just didn'thave to think about Image anymore. It was intrepid programmers at CSY that got TurboImage working (with help from the compiler guys) and TurboImage remained simply one other MPE subsystem, not really part of any "database lab" which wouldn't care about a crusty old proprietary non-relational database.
July 23, 2015
Throwback: When IA-64's Arrival Got a Pass
During a summer of 15 years ago, the reach of HP's final processor foundation became obvious. Rather than take over the computing world, the project that started as Tahoe and eventually became IA-64 was labeled as an incremental improvement. Hewlett-Packard said this was so while it started talking about IA-64's lifespan and impact. It would be a gradual change.
This story is instructive both to today's migration planning as well as sustaining homesteading of the HP 3000. Processor power doesn't matter as much as a vendor claims. The pass that HP gave IA-64 in 2000, labeling the technology as years away from the datacenter, proved that chips wouldn't make a difference much more. When it comes to chip futures, the only ones that make a difference come from the timelines of Intel. HP partnered with the vendor, but it wouldn't get a marketable advantage out of the alliance.
In July of 2000, not a single IA-64 system had shipped, even though Hewlett-Packard annointed IA-64 as the successor to the PA-RISC chips that powered servers like the HP 3000. PA-RISC performance remains the leading edge of Hewlett-Packard's MPE hardware. But 15 years ago, making the leap to IA-64 processing looked essential to keeping MPE/iX competitive.
In 2000, though, the technology based on Explicitly Parallel Instruction Computing was just being dubbed Itanium. HP's Integrity brand of servers hadn't been introduced, and HP was supposed to be farming out Itanium to niche markets. The vendor's Unix servers, being sold by the same resellers who offered 3000s, ran on the same PA-RISC chips. And those chips were in no danger of being lapped by IA-64.
Up at the CNET website, an interview with HP's Duane Zitzner included a comment from HP's marketing for IA-64. In 2000, IA-64 computers were "a development environment," said Dirk Down. "You're not going to put this stuff near your datacenter for several years."
In the Newswire, we did the translation for a customer base that seemed certain that leaving IA-64 off the MPE roadmap was a bad fork in the road. Zitzner said PA-RISC would still outsell IA-64 for another five years.
His comments explain why few people in the HP 3000 division seem to think of IA-64 as nothing more than a future. In one interview after another, lab experts and general managers praise the new architecture, but point out that it has little to do with meeting customer demands for performance. Now we seem to know why: the stuff won't be ready for datacenter-level performance for years.
While one analyst thought these delays might be a problem, we think they're a blessing in disguise. There's nothing so broken in today's PA-RISC that it must be replaced. And if PA-RISC's successor is still on the drawing board, that lets the 3000 lab focus. Considering how tough it is to staff development labs, nobody's engineering effort needs the distraction of having to build more than one version of an operating system at a time.
IA-64 looks like it's going to have about a 10-year history of being a future at HP, considering that it was first announced in 1994. (Of course, back then, HP was calling it Tahoe, and then Merced, and so on.) Since HP has four more generations of processors in the wings for the PA-RISC line after the PA-8500 rolls out next spring, it looks like IA-64 might have more impact on PowerPoint slides than in any HP 3000 for the next five years.
Like HP, we were just guessing on when IA-64 computing would be ready to assert itself in the datacenters. We couldn't see a future where HP would lose faith in the 3000 customer and the MPE ecosystem — not any more than HP could see that IA-64 would become more of a boutique for computing instead of the superstore the vendor imagined five years earlier.
Only two generations of PA-RISC were ever produced that pulled ahead of the top 3000 processors. The 8800 and 8900 would both work in what HP was still calling the HP 9000. The 8800 arrived in 2004's 9000s, mostly being the driver for Superdome. The 8900 showed up in 2005's HP servers.
IA-64, when it was called the Merced project, was supposed to arrive by the end of the 20th century and become the replacement for x86 computing. Instead, HP's partner Intel doubled down on the x86 to make Xeon, an extension to IA-32 created when IA-64 took longer than expected. Intel didn't give IA-64 a pass. It passed it by.
July 20, 2015
The Weekend a User Group Went Lights-out
Ten years ago this week, the Interex user group went dark in both a digital and literal way. The organization that was launched 30 years earlier to serve HP 3000 customers took down its website, shuttered its servers, and shut out the lights to lock up its Sunnyvale, Calif. offices. A bankruptcy went into its opening days, one that would take more than two years to make its way into Federal Court. But the immediate impact was the loss of the tent-pole gathering for the 3000 community, that year's annual HP World conference.
Millions of dollars in hotel guarantees, prepaid advertising, and booth exhibitor rents went unpaid or unreturned. It was more than the loss of an event that had a 28-year history of joining experts with customers. The Interex blackout turned off a notable light that might've led to a brighter future for a 3000 community still looking for answers and contact with vendors and expertise.
Looking back from a decade later, signs were already evident for the sudden demise of a multi-million dollar organization with 100,000 members of some pedigree. Tens of thousands of those members were names in a database and not much more, places where the Interex tabloid HP World could be mailed to generate advertising revenues. A core group of users, devoted to volunteering and rich with tribal, contributed knowledge about HP's servers, was far smaller.
Interex was all-in on support and cooperation with the Hewlett-Packard of 2005, but only up to a point on a crucial user group mission. The group was glad to re-label its annual conference after the vendor, as well as that monthly tabloid. HP held the rights to both of those names once the group made that transition. There was an HP liaison to the group's board for decades. The key managers in the 3000 division made their first-person 2002 articles explaining HP's 3000 exit available to the Interex publications. Winston Prather wrote "it was my decision" on pages published by Interex.
But in 2004, HP sowed the seeds of change that Interex watered with a no-collaboration decision. User groups from the Digital VMS community agreed to cooperation with HP on a new user conference, one to be funded by HP. Interex's directors polled the member base and chose to follow an independent route. The Interex board would stick to its plans to exclusively produce the next HP World. Advocacy was at stake, they said, and Interex's leaders believed the group would need its own annual meeting to keep asking HP to do better.
HP began to sell exhibitor space for an HP Technology Forum against the Interex HP World booths. Just before the HP World San Francisco Moscone Center wanted its final payment — and a couple of weeks after exhibitors' payments were in hand — the tune the 3000 world heard was Boom-boom, out go the lights.The user group struggled to maintain a financial balance in the years following the Y2K ramp-up, according to one of its directors, an era when attendance at the group's annual shows fell steadily. Membership figures for the group, inflated to six figures in press releases during 2004, included a very broad definition of members. Hotels were reserved for two years in advance, with payments made by the group and still outstanding for millions of dollars.
One conference sponsor, Acucorp, was told by an Interex ad rep that the staff was led to the door. A user community labored mightily to recover contributed white papers, articles, and software from a company that was selling conference memberships right up to July 17.
Ten years ago on this very date, HP was already at work gathering up the orphaned attendees who held prepaid tickets and registrations as well as exhibitors with no show to attend. HP offered a complimentary, comparable registration to the Technology Forum for paid, registered attendees of HP World 2005. HP also offered discounted exhibition space at its Forum to "non-HP competitors" exhibiting at or sponsoring HP World 2005. If you were IBM, or EMC, and bought a booth at the Interex show, you had no recourse but to write off the loss.
The shutdown was not orchestrated with the cleanest of messages. Interex.org, a website archived hundreds of times by the Internet Wayback Machine since 1996, posted a report that was the equivalent of a busy signal.
It is with great sadness, that after 31 years, we have found it financially necessary to close the doors at Interex. Unfortunately our publications, newsletters, services and conference (HPWorld 2005) will be terminated immediately. We are grateful to the 100,000 members and volunteers of Interex for their contributions, advocacy and support. We dearly wish that we could have continued supporting your needs but it was unavoidable.
Within a week, planning from the 3000 user community was underway to gather together any customers who were going to the HP World venue of San Francisco anyway -- since they were holding those nonrefundable tickets, or had already paid for hotel rooms.
Companies go broke every day, victims of poor management, bad luck, or unavoidable catastrophe. Few organizations can avoid closing, given enough time. But for a founding constituency that based its careers on a server that rarely died, the sudden death of the group that'd been alive as long as the 3000 was striking, sad — and a mark of upcoming struggles for any group built to serve a single vendor's customer base. Even a decade earlier, according to former Interex chair Jane Copeland, a proposal to wrap up the group's mission was offered in an ever-growing heterogenous computing world.
“When I left, I said they ought to have a dissolution plan,” said Copeland, owner of API International. “The former Executive Director of Interex Chuck Piercey and I tried to get the board to do it — because we didn’t see the purpose of a vendor-specific group in an open systems market.”
A change in HP’s CEO post sealed the user group’s fate, she added. The arrival of Carly Fiorina shifted the vendor’s focus away from midrange computer users such as HP 3000 and HP 9000 customers.
“I think HP is probably the cause of this more than anything,” Copeland said. “As soon as [CEO] Lew Platt left HP, that was the end of Interex. Carly Fiorina wasn’t interested in a user group. She just wasn’t user-oriented. Before Fiorina, HP had one of the most loyal customer bases in the industry. She did more to kill the HP brand than anyone. She killed it in such a way that the user group’s demise was guaranteed as soon as her reorganization was in place. She didn’t want midrange systems. All she was interested in was PCs.”
Another HP 3000 community member saw HP's declining interest in the server as a signal the user group was living on borrowed time. Olav Kappert, whose IOMIT International firm has served 3000 customers for nearly 30 years, said HP looked eager to stop spending on 3000-related user group events.
"HP would rather not spend another dime on something that has no future with them,” he said. “It will first be SIG-IMAGE, then other HP 3000 SIGs will follow. Somewhere in-between, maybe even Interex will disappear."
July 16, 2015
Bringing the 3000's Languages Fourth
Documenting the history and roots of IMAGE has squirted out a stream of debate on the 3000 newsgroup. Terry O'Brien's project to make a TurboIMAGE Wikipedia page includes a reference to Fourth Generation Languages. His sentence below that noted 4GLs -- taken as fact by most of the 3000 community -- came in for a lively debate.
Several Fourth Generation Language products (Powerhouse, Transact, Speedware, Protos) became available from third party vendors.
While that seems innocent enough, retired 3000 manager Tom Lang has told the newsgroup there's no such thing as a Fourth Generation of any computer language. "My problem with so-called Fourth Generation Languages is the use of the term 'Language' attached to a commercial product," he wrote. The discussion has become a 59-message thread already, threatening to be the longest discussion on the newsgroup this year.
Although the question doesn't seem to merit debate, it's been like catnip to some very veteran developers who know MPE and the 3000. The 4GL term was probably cooked up by vendors' product managers and marketing experts. But such languages' value did exceed third generations like COBOL. The term has everything to do with advancing developer productivity, and the use of generations was an easy way to explain that benefit.
In fact, Cognos -- the biggest vendor of 4GLs in the 3000 world -- renamed its Powerhouse group the Advanced Development Tools unit, using ADT instead of 4GL. This was largely because of the extra value of a dictionary associated with Powerhouse. The dictionary was offered up as a distinction of a 4GL by Birket Foster. Then Stan Sieler, who's written a few compilers including SPLash!, a refreshed version of the 3000's SPL, weighed in with some essentials.One way to measure a language is to see if it's got a BNF (Backus Normal Form), one of two main notation techniques for context-free grammars. According to Wikipedia -- that resource again -- a BNF "is often used to describe the syntax of languages used in computing, such as programming languages." Sieler said that the refreshed SPLash! had a BNF for awhile. Then it didn't. And really, languages don't need one, he added.
The list of the 3000's 4GLs is not a long one. HP dubbed Allbase as a 4GL at the same time that name signified a 3000 database alternative. It was a tool to develop more rapidly, HP said. Transact appears on some 4GL lists for MPE, but it's more often called a 3.5 GL, as is Protos. Not quite complete in their distinctions, although both have dictionaries. These languages all promised speed of development. They rose up in an era when object-oriented computing, with reusable elements, was mostly experimental.
Foster explained what made a 4GL an advanced tool.
The dictionary made the difference in these languages, allowing default formatting of fields, and enforcing rules on the data entry screens. I am a sure that a good Powerhouse or Speedware programmer can out-code a cut and paste COBOL programmer by about 10 to one. It also means that a junior team member is able to code business rules accurately, since the default edits/values come directly from the dictionary, ensuring consistency.
Sieler outlined what he believes makes up a language.
We all know what a 4GL is, to the extent that there’s a ’cloud’ / ’fuzzy shape’ labelled “4GL” in our minds that we can say “yes or no” for a given product, program, language, 4GL, package, or tarball. And we know that Speedware, etc., fit into that cloud.
Does a language have to have a published grammar? (Much less one published by an international standards organization?) Hell no! It’s better if it does, but that’s not only not necessary, but the grammar is missing and/or incomplete and/or inaccurate for many (probably most) computer languages, as well as almost all human languages (possibly excluding some post-priori languages). I speak as a compiler author of many decades (since about 1973).
Our SPLash! language (similar to HP’s SPL/V) had a BNF — at the start. (Indeed, we think we had the only accurate BNF for SPL/V.) But, as we added things to the language, they may or may not have been reflected in the BNF. We tried to update the manual, but may not have always been successful … if we got the change notice updated, I was happy.
Adding the word "product" behind 4GL seems to set things in perspective. O'Brien offered his summary of the 3000's rapid languages.
Speedware, Powerhouse, and Protos all had components (Powerhouse Quick, Speedware Reactor) that had a proprietary language syntax that offered Assignment, IO, and Conditional Logic. As such, they meet the minimum requirements to be referenced as a computer language. TurboIMAGE has a syntax for specifying the database schema, but does not have any component that meet the IO, Assignment, Conditional Logic, so it does not meet the minimum requirements.
Speedware and Powerhouse have had similar histories, both offered as ADT products. But the companies that control them have diverged in their missions. PowerHouse is now owned by Unicom Systems. Speedware's focus is now on legacy modernization services and tools, although its own 4GL is still a supported product.
There's an even more audacious tier of languages, one that the HP 3000 never saw. Fifth-generation languages, according to Wikipedia, "make the computer solve a given problem without the programmer. This way, the programmer only needs to worry about what problems need to be solved and what conditions need to be met, without worrying about how to implement a routine or algorithm to solve them." Prolog is one example of this fifth generation. But even Wikipedia's editors are wary of bringing forth a fifth generation.
July 13, 2015
Celebrating a 3000 Celebrity's (im)migration
Eugene Volokh is among the best examples of HP 3000 celebrity. The co-creator of MPEX (along with his father Vladimir) entered America in the 1970s, a Jewish immigrant who left Russia to arrive with his family as a boy of 7, destined for a notable place on America's teeming shores.
Those teeming shores are associated with another American Jew, Anna Lazurus, whose poem including that phrase adorns a wall of the Statue of Liberty. More than 125 years of immigrants have passed by that monument, people who have created some of the best of the US, a fact celebrated in the announcement of this year's Great Immigrants award from the Carnegie Corporation. Eugene is among the 38 Pride of America honorees appearing in a full-page New York Times ad (below, in the top-right corner) from over the Independence Day weekend.
Those named this year include Saturday Night Live's creator Lorne Michaels, Nobel laureate Thomas Sudhof, and Pulitzer Prize novelist Geraldine Brooks, along with Eugene -- who's listed as a professor, legal scholar, and blogger. All are naturalized citizens.
Eugene's first notable achievement came through his work in the fields of MPE, though, computer science that's escaped the notice of the Carnegie awards board. Given that the success of Vesoft (through MPEX and Security/3000) made all else that followed possible, a 3000 user might say that work in MPE brought the rest of the legal, scholarly, and blogging (The Volokh Conspiracy) achievements within his grasp.An entry in the Great Immigrants website sums up what's made him an honoree:
A law professor at the UCLA School of Law, Eugene Volokh is cofounder of the blog, The Volokh Conspiracy, which runs on the Washington Post’s website (which is independent of the newspaper). Before joining UCLA, where he teaches a myriad of subjects, including free speech law and religious freedom law, Volokh clerked for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor on the U.S. Supreme Court. Volokh was born in Kiev, Ukraine, when it was still part of the Soviet Union, and immigrated to the United States at age seven.
It's not difficult to find Eugene in the firmament of the American culture, with articles in the Post, the New York Times op-ed page, and interviews on TV networks and National Public Radio. But each time a 3000 user starts up MPEX, they light up the roots of somebody who migrated long ago, in an era when the 3000 itself was a migration destination, a refuge from the wretched existence of mainframes. We pass on our congratulations.