HP to patch 6.5 for the last time
Listen Up: The Sounds of MPE Opening a Lab

It's not over until it's over

In the wake of last week's OpenMPE meeting at HP — where some significant activity was announced to less than 100 people in attendance and online — the gravediggers of the 3000 community have taken up their spades on the 3000 newsgroup and mailing list. Never a bashful bunch, the dispirited developers, vendors and customers are proclaiming the 3000 already dead, HP riddled with liars and dupes, and OpenMPE, in one message rife with vitriol, "on a fool's errand."

There's several things that look incorrect to me about these messages, along with a serious case of disrespect. To start, HP has not decided there will be no sharing of MPE/iX source code. In a tiresome version of the telephone game, one customer after another keeps repeating this error, simply because HP has not decided fast enough for whoever is repeating the innaccuracy. HP says it will decide on the future licensing fate of the 3000's operating system in the fourth calendar quarter of this year. Last year, HP reported it would make this decision in 2005's second half. HP is still on schedule — and they haven't said "No source" yet.

Then there's this proclaimation that the HP 3000 is already dead. This view usually comes from a community member who's already moved on, dissolved their work with the 3000 and MPE, and would like you to know they made the right choice. The 3000 is dead to these people, and they probably have made the right choice. For them. It's up to everyone to decide for themselves when their 3000's lifespan is over. Having somebody else decide this for the community is pretty much the raw deal the 3000 customers got from HP's top management in 2001. It's a little sad to see community members echoing HP's "we know what's best for you" attitude.

There's nothing wrong with reasonable hope, bolstered by a contingency plan. Just because HP is taking all the time it wants to make a source code decision doesn't mean the decision is negative. No, what feels wrong is the disrespect and dismissal being slathered onto hard-working and well-meaning volunteers in OpenMPE. No, this group will not turn back HP's decision of 2001, but it has already nudged HP into more 3000 functionality for the future than Interex did during its final four years of $6-7 million per year of operations. OpenMPE is a group with only about $1,000 in the bank, run by people donating their time and effort and telephone lines and reasonable hope. They mean to help HP put MPE away correctly, if you're in the migration camp, so any problems that surface can be resolved. In spite of the gravedigging that has tried to bury them for several years, they continue to attract volunteers and engage HP in discussion of your system's future. Even if you're migrating, you still have to plan for the remaining future of your HP 3000, be it months or years.

You'd think at least their efforts would earn OpenMPE some simple respect.

The gravedigging isn't being read by a lot of people, but it's misinformed and pessimistic to a fault. The trouble with what could be called, at best, an ultra-realistic outlook is how heavy it makes every day's workload. And the gravediggers mission seems to be the quick dissolution of a community that is still working, every day, until one company or another finally switches off its 3000s. We're keeping close track of who's doing this switching off, and it's nothing close to a majority of customers yet, not even four years after the announcement.

Death comes to everything, eventually, even those new horizons the gravediggers have moved on toward. If we can stick to the facts of life — that HP has now assigned an outside HP engineer to review its MPE/iX build process, to see if someone outside HP could build a version of MPE; that the source code decision is simply one of many post-2006 verdicts, and not a significant one for the many customers who will migrate in the next three to five years; that the support community's business is growing daily, fueled by companies who are not close to migration this year, or even next — we should have plenty to discuss.

When the 3000 is over depends on your budget and resources and resolve. Digging an early grave seems like a lot of energy that might be better spent living each day as if it were our last.