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The Anniversary That Won't Die

NovemberissuesOnly once in the history of The 3000 NewsWire has a specific date appeared on our pages. The day rattled through your HP 3000 community six years ago on this very day, when HP announced its exit from three decades of the HP 3000 business.

Four years ago, HP 3000 customers and friends around the globe held a World Wide Wake for the system, gathering to raise a glass in toasts and revive the memories around more than 30 years of success using this computer.

Three days from today, 50 or so of the community's most curious and connected members will network in San Francisco over a weekend. The fellow sparking the e3000 Community Meet, 2007? That would be ScreenJet's Alan Yeo, who also inaugurated the idea of a wake for your system on that 2003 day when HP stopped selling the 3000. (There's Yeo helping at a conference, showing a way to migrate COBOL apps.)

Yeohelps On this day in 2001, the badge of "homesteader" was born on our pages. We had to call the majority of the community something, and "non-migrator" just didn't feel right. Neither did the decision to cut off a good product line that wasn't growing as fast as the HP CEO wanted. But we've all moved on from that day, haven't we? You're learning what's next, or gathering your independent resources to homestead awhile — through 2010 and beyond, by all reckoning.

Just today out on the 3000 Internet newsgroup, a hardy soul offered a bit of gallows humor about returning to the 3000 community. "Welcome to the bread lines," he said, as a 3000 veteran announced his return to the newsgroup's membership.

We don't want to get too religious here. But if the life of the 3000 customer in 2007 takes place in a breadline, it might be one forming behind the "loaves and fishes for all" kind of line. The ecosystem looked shocked to get its early obituary in 2001 from HP. Today it looks like a long line of companies ready to help you go or stay. This was my fervent hope in that dark week of 2001 — that you all would rally and keep your own counsel about the right time to move along to new horizons. It's much harder to break up a community than to take a product off a price list.

I've told my story before about hearing the HP exit news a few days early during an HP briefing. I was on vacation in Europe with my son Nick, about as far out of position as a newsman can get when a story breaks. A trans-Atlantic phone interview delivered the patter about HP's shutdown. I got back to the office to see a host of "Have you heard this" e-mails sitting on my Mac.

Newsbox (Being a Mac owner of more than 14 years at the time, I was used to hearing the world report an obituary about beloved computers. Even with results that HP will announce this week, Apple has eclipsed Hewlett-Packard in market value. You never know.)

I didn't have to wonder what I would write after hearing two hours of talk from marketing manager Christine Martino and general manager Winston Prather. HP had not thought enough about the practices and faith of its 3000 base. It would take much longer than five years to move mission critical programs to the Next Great Thing. I suspected that there would be plenty of debate on what exactly the Next Great Thing would turn out to be, aside from how to get there.

HP proposed its Unix. HP bought Compaq, and then Windows really took off as a migration destination. Now the world is turning toward open source solutions, and Web-based systems. Who can say what the options will be by 2010 for a migration destination?

Six years ago, HP predicted an ecosystem would rise up to aid the customer in migration. Responding to my report of this statement, Wirt Atmar, a scientist and as ardent an advocate as the 3000 ever had, replied with his view of who'd be left in your community, doing business, through 2006:

As a card-carrying, board-certified evolutionary ecologist, let me say for the record that the part of the “ecosystem” that will spring to life and look at the death of the HP 3000 as an opportunity are technically called “carrion-feeders.”

That’s not to say that they’re not a necessary part of the ecosystem. It’s just that most people rarely aspire to the role.

ExtrafrontBut just as in many a calamity, there's been the chance to do great help throughout this period, along with the stubborn head scratching we've seen. Not much carrion, though. Mostly help from those in the know who remain in your community, ideas offered and products and companies built up. There's been the fun in spreading the reports on this endgame, one which has gone into double overtime now, two extensions' worth of support from HP — support that has ceased to be a migration motivator, or even a majority choice for the community members who remain.

But on this day — and this weekend if you're in the Bay Area — raise a glass and toast the uncertain nature of the future. Tell a story to somebody about the days when HP boasted of 70,000 HP 3000s running worldwide, headed full tilt toward RISC hardware which both IBM and Digital had discarded. Now HP owns Digital, and IBM builds its own RISC processors.

You just never can tell who will live, who will die, why, or when. It was a rainy, cold night in Europe when my partner Abby shared what seemed like dark news about our community. HP seemed certain a storm of change was already massing. But keep your head up, looking around, and remember that having a community makes it possible, like Rogers and Hammerstein wrote, that You'll Never Walk Alone:

When you walk through a storm
hold your head up high
And don't be afraid of the dark.
At the end of a storm is a golden sky

And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho' your dreams be tossed and blown.

Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart
And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.
Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart

And you'll never walk alone,
You'll never, ever walk alone.