After we suggested some Christmas wishes for the HP 3000 last week, we got word of how tough it might be to deliver on one of them: expansion to 32GB of RAM on MPE/iX systems. While the HP 3000's OS was built to handle 64-bit computing, it didn't become a full 64-bit system. That's what the work was going to accomplish when HP moved the OS to the Itanium architecture and Integrity. A move that never got engineered, of course.
Discussion among community members has included some comment from both an HP expert as well as a third party engineering guru. Sad to say, the phrase "you could just tell them to migrate" came up after the candid talk about what the 3000 won't be re-engineered to do — at least on HP's watch.
A reply of "migrate" when the community customers ask for more from their 3000s, especially when the reply comes from a long-tenured expert, seems to show how much feelings can affect choices. Even technical choices. There is a way to extend the 3000's memory from 8GB to 32. But HP explains that it can't justify doing this kind of work any longer. Adding "migrate" after the explanation isn't a way to sell this decision, however.
There are people who have known MPE/iX just as long as HP's lab experts, and deeper in some places. I remember the book Beyond RISC. Copyright 1988, it says in my worn-at-the-edges copy. Third party experts wrote that book. HP bought thousands. That's being of one mind and one heart. Now the sides feel differently about MPE.
What's the difference? These two sides, inside HP and out in the expert community seem like a couple of steady beaus to me. They have both wooed and wrestled with that MPE gal, while she has gained weight (years) and lost her tone (customers, demanding updates) and shown more grey (elderly versions of Ethernet, SCSI, all the tendrils of open source). Yes, they've both had a relationship with her, still do. But the outside experts still love her. HP's experts can take her out, buy her dinner, even give a thoughtful gift that shows they know her. But the message seems to say that they're not in love anymore.
"I don't know what you see in MPE," HP seems to write, when the 3000 experts drift beyond good technical theory. "Why not just leave her at home to watch old movies? She's happy enough there. And there's younger people you could take out. They even know music written after 1992!"
"They do, those new ones," I hear the expert saying. "But MPE knows more song lyrics than those new women will ever learn. Remember when lyrics mattered to make a song a classic? Poetry, that stuff. Plus, I still see her beauty. It was striking when she was younger. Fellas swooned over her, even the big guys who pass her by now."
"You could do better."
"Maybe so. But what about my commitment to her. What's that worth?"
"Lock yourself in with her, if you want," I seem to hear from inside HP. "I just wish people would stop hitting her Web site. I gotta maintain that place, you know. It doesn't feel like anybody appreciates that work that I do — or what I've done for years, really."
"You could do more, I know. She deserves it."
"If my parents would let me, I could," HP seems to say. "But they tell me that I should be looking for a younger partner, one who can give them more grandchildren, not a load of medical bills and health issues. Shin splints, geez. Next it'll be something else. It always is with the older ones."
I admit it — there's more emotion and subtext in this commentary than I can report using facts. But feelings are not facts. They just lead to thoughts, and those can lead to actions. I'm not reporting from inside the community expert's heart, or from inside the HP experts' still working on MPE/iX — but you know, it's the heart that matters when people are advised, en masse, to "migrate away from that relationship, won't you?"
Or maybe this OS is just a tool that's worn out. But I don't think so, not for community members who still rely on MPE. I wish for two things under my reporter-writer's holiday tree tomorrow. Continued candor like those messages, and ample ardor for all. It's a pleasure to have the writing here show what I believe you feel.
Enjoy your loved ones during the holiday break — whoever they are, and whatever they have been or can become.