HP converts MPE/iX to social net app
Checking out the Contributed Software Library

Inventing a new home for Invent3k

Inside of HP's 3000 labs — a place that amounts to cubicles, a meeting space with a speakerphone and a portion of a computer room — sits a community resource. HP has a public access server called Invent3k, a 3000 which anyone can use. The server was set up in 2001 to encourage community development of software for the 3000. HP stocked this system — a Series 989 at the time — with HP subsystem development software such as a COBOL compiler and more.

IBM appeared to follow the HP move a few weeks after Invent3K went online, opening up a public server for Linux developers and users to access over the Internet. History would show that Invent3k went online less than six months before HP announced the vendor would leave the 3000 market. Leave sometime later in the future, as it turns out.

Now the future is Invent3k is, well, up for grabs. HP has told the community members that it will pass along the server's data — and we don't know if that includes these subsystem software — at the end of HP's 3000 operations. Bill Cadier, who's still working inside the 3000 labs, looks to be the current manager of Invent3k. But like HP's definition of when its 3000 works cease, the move date for Invent3k is unannounced, too.

This HP 3000 is a resource which OpenMPE would like to host right away, or as soon as possible. The idea of an independent, virtually non-profit advocacy group which stewards such a server seems like a good plan. Nobody, not even HP, wants to see Invent3k go offline for good. It's the home of code like txt2pdf, which as its name suggests, takes a text stream on the HP 3000 and converts it to a PDF file.

Invent3k is now a Series 979-400 HP 3000, according to one of its users, OpenMPE director Matt Perdue. To say that Perdue has fire to spark HP's changes to its 3000 business would be an understatement. In a letter published elsewhere, he's just advised the R&D Lab manager to let loose of the MPE/iX source and step out of the way.

Regardless of whether Ross McDonald takes heed of Perdue's directive, the OpenMPE director is keeping close track of what HP is doing, or not doing, for the community. That includes the state of Invent3k, which has gone offline unexpectedly from time to time.

With the outages and unspecified future of Invent3k, Perdue urged 3000 programmers who've used the server to make their own backups of their code and projects on the 979's drives.

Another engineer who counts HP service in his resume, Lars Appel, also believes OpenMPE is the best place for Invent3k. After all, Hewlett-Packard is dropping its sustained engineering — patch building and fixes to MPE/iX — in 40 weeks.

Invent3k's service can be more easily duplicated now than 10 years ago, when HP was breaking ground with a public server. This concept was crucial to MPE/iX joining the technology of the Internet and open source. Mark Klein, the former head of Orbit Software's labs and a former OpenMPE director, bootstrapped the whole Samba-Apache-BIND-Internet offerings with his GNU C++ compiler project — hosted on Invent3k.