A Patchwork Future on the Rise
Watch for migration's undertow

Deep Enough to Hold a Mansion

Sometimes it takes Google to plumb the vast deeps of HP 3000 heritage. I subscribe to the Google Alerts feature, one that lets you submit a phrase to find matches of news on the Web, or just Web pages. This part of Google has been in beta for months, and my results for the 3000 make it easy to see why. I submitted "HP 3000" back in January, a phrase that has turned up lots of Web pages about engine horsepower and even HP's printer line of the same name. Only a couple of Google's e-mailed news links have ever connected me to HP3000-related "news." (I recently added an alert for "HP3000" — the space in the product's name was added in the 1990s and calls up a whole other set of pages.)

But I got a relevant alert today, even though it linked to more history than news. Mystery Mansion, Adventure — these were games the 3000's deepest resource of programmers used to unwind, though you might think being away from the keyboard would produce more of a respite. Not news to a 3000 veteran, Adventureland's report on Mansion might have been news to Google's Web-bot that trawls the Internet. Those veterans usually wax nostalgic about the days when minicomputers hosted text-only adventure games. But that heritage pays off to any 3000 user — many of these veterans are still working, all while the stability and maturity of their collective efforts performs every day for customers. How long those veterans will be working, and for whom, are the questions among customers who use older code and systems.

That's a lot of heritage still on the playing field for a computer which really is only losing its vendor's support option next year. Yes, there are shortcomings in the 3000, but what computer doesn't have them? How many of them have the ability to continue to run programs with 30-year-old syntax inside? That's an important part of the 3000's value: Being able to make resources last longer.

We ran up against that need for deep knowledge ourselves on the NewsWire team this week. Over the weekend the MPE/iX server that hosted our main Web site wouldn't restart after a controlled shutdown. Our Webmaster Chris Bartram got a workaround running within 24 hours, but fixing the 3000's problems took a couple of extra days, and some deep knowledge of Stage/iX, the 3000 patching software HP first released in 1995. John Burke did a great tutorial on the basics of Patch/iX and Stage/iX a few years back.

Chris had to search on his own in the 3000's community for an answer to get that 918 to reboot. Lucky for us, the veteran who helped was still connected to the community; I haven't found out yet if he ever took a break playing Mansion. Chris thinks the fellow is among a half-dozen in the world who know Stage/iX that deep, though it's hard to say. Knowing it is one thing. Being connected is even more important.

Community, through interactive sources like this blog and mailing lists, is the key to keeping the waters of 3000 knowledge deep. Make a few minutes to share what you know today.