It's an old sweatshirt, but the HP giveaway is more than just a guy's worn-down garment to me, not just a bit of cloth burnished to a perfect feel. Somehow the blue all-cotton shirt had just the right heft, not too heavy to wear here in Texas, or too thin to survive 18 years of no-fuss washing. The shirt is blue, royal blue in the hue that HP wore in 1990, not blended with Compaq red. The shirt bears the color of a company that still rode unique, proprietary technology as an advantage, racing to give customers a reason to keep Hewlett-Packard wrapped around their companies.
I pull on my sweatshirt this morning because I have left open the window behind this flat-screen monitor in my study. The new season of fall, brief and delicious, crept into Texas yesterday and brought cool evening air through the state. I wear one of my best sweatshirts from HP because I will interview 3000 People at Hewlett-Packard in a few hours. I want to remember the heart of their intentions, so I have pulled on a editor's gift to wear over my own heart.
At the risk of becoming too maudlin, this season feels like the advent of an ending. Not the finale of the HP 3000. No, the 3000 and its users are following their own calendars to play out a future of transition. But what remains in the legends of the fall is a closing chapter in a story of innovation, neglect and renaissance, and finally the procession through a recession, arriving at the day HP ceases to create for a system it created. HP now has a business manager and some engineers, a lab director and cloud of support workers which know the HP 3000. Few of them use their stellar knowledge full time. The vendor has told customers they will lose their 3000 lab at HP in 75 days. There's no changing that, not any more than there's a chance the "CIMinar by the Bay" and sailboat picture on my sweatshirt will last forever. But another 18 years? Only with loving care, the kind of attention to detail which 3000 customers carry as a credo over their hearts.
Whenever I wear this shirt and work on 3000 news, I recall what Charlie from HP Press Relations told me on a stranded tour boat in the San Francisco Bay. "We look toward the day when we are not in the hardware business anymore," he said. Services, along with software, was HP's target we discussed on that junket. The concept sounded radical that night, but not now in a world of computing that has been rendered, rewoven and colored anew with every passing season. Change is apace, and computers are now piece-work instead of masterpieces. When I look beyond my heart on the sleeve of this shirt, I see aging hardware and aging masters of the 3000 arts — but all still useful and vital, years beyond HP's expectation. Still, old compared to most everything else.
I cling to my sweatshirt like I cling to the typical guy's mid-life dream: mature can be attractive, maybe even sexy, but surely loveable. Maybe gray can be the new royal blue.
Gray can be something new because we communicate so much more easily. We live in a world of factcheck.org and Politico, where we are connected with reality and spin at the click of a mouse, where we share our lives in front of flat screens in offices and living rooms, watching and learning and teaching. The lessons of HP's 3000 labs will not ever be lost, not with today's technology tools. Data, information, knowledge and then wisdom outlasts people, politics and policies.
In the United States we are learning to respect elders, we hope. At least I hope so at my age. Because even through anyone on the windward side of 50 can "screw up," as John McCain joked at his own expense last night on David Letterman's Late Night show we can also Show Up, over and again, practicing the disciplines born from decades of training. Even with that chance to choose an elder candidate over a younger one, we in the US face a choice that seems to beg more than one solution to a single challenge. Youth and age can serve together, just as Barack Obama serves alongside his competitor — where I hope that the elders can repeat maverick acts and the youths bring new ideas and ideals.
And so the HP 3000 will start its own Legends of the Fall this week, following the first in the last series of policy announcements around HP's end-game. It's appropriate to be talking today with Jennie Hou, Craig Fairchild, Jeff Bandle and others inside HP's 3000 redoubt, coincident with the advent of baseball's Fall Classic, the World Series. As last night's classic game between Boston and Tampa Bay proved, nothing is ended until the last at-bat, with many an outcome earned more on desire and discipline than any dead-certain advantage in early innings. We love comebacks of all kinds, the victory snatched from those jaws of failure.
13 years ago this month, my wife and partner Abby started The 3000 NewsWire with me, a cranky and curious reporter with a passion for critique and analysis. Abby brought the crucial spark to an ember that much of the world considered as long cold and dead. In time we found your energy to lift up our steps, proof of a renaissance we had predicted with few assurances. Obvious ones, anyway. Just as Cal Ripken was setting an everyday playing record of legendary length, Abby and I began to revere and record a remarkable team of experts, and a group of creations of people who came to play good every day. She came with her best stuff, as pitchers say, like the subscriber card at the left that uses the words of Willie Mays. She is the only reason our dream, now in a new life here on your screen, became a reality, instead of just a good idea too scary to risk. Life is a chance to leave no regrets, because you took every risk you could — maybe like the risk many have claimed you take by using your HP 3000 beyond the end of this season, this decade, and perhaps another 18 years.
No matter how you count them, there are many days ahead to finish that migration of yours, or retain the world-class value of your computers. But since we are connected as never before, you can count on your community, brandishing its colors of wisdom like the leaves on trees during this fall. Stand tall but together like trees in a forest. Take a risk, to leave behind no regrets. Whenever our end arrives, it is certain we won't say, "I wish I did not take so many risks." Even when we fall, it gives us the chance to rise up wiser.