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November 17, 2008

Moving Remembrances, Moving On


ScreenJet commissioned editorial cartoons in 2003 about HP's migration push

The HP 3000 community is moving onward this week, the latest one to follow the annual Nov. 14 celebration of HP's exit announcement about its e3000 business. But the news that changed the community's world first broke on November 5, 2001, when the vendor community talked openly about the rumors it heard during October of that year. ScreenJet's Alan Yeo shared his story of what receiving the news felt like.

I heard on Monday the 5th of November 2001. Interesting date, since in the UK it's Guy Fawkes Night, "Gunpowder Treason and Plot" as the rhyme goes. It is the day we English celebrate the attempt to blow up our Parliament. To be honest I'm never sure if historically the people celebrated "the attempt," or that it failed.

I started ploughing through email that day when I opened one from Wirt Atmar [of AICS Research]. It was an "open" letter to [HP's e3000 General Manager] Winston Prather (so I'm sure he won't mind me quoting an extract).

Dear Winston,

I have heard on Friday and Saturday through the grapevine the same basic story a sufficient number of times now that I believe it to be true:

“HP will announce on November 14 that the HP 3000 line is dead. Last sales of the system will announced to be November 2003, with support through November 2007, with some migration assistance to HP-UX being offered.” I can say that I am deeply shocked, saddened, and angry, but I’m not surprised.

Yeo answered in a reply on that Monday, "We have until the 14th to prepare for the Tidal Wave that will hit us from customers. And I know of several customer sites where just this hint will be all it takes to undermine people that have fought long and hard to keep their HP 3000s." He added this:

Representing a relatively small organisation, one of the questions that potential customers always ask is “How do I know you will stay in business to support us?” My answer is “You don’t, but as a small company we need to keep your business, and unlike large organisations we are very unlikely to arbitrarily drop a product because something else looks more promising.” I believe very good vendor support is one of the reasons that the HP 3000 has survived so long and has developed such a reputation for robustness. Little did I suspect that this would happen with HP itself.

So where to from here?

The 3000 community reported on its reactions to and directions from that day, as well as how members are moving on. Some have moved away from the computer, but only recently. Andreas Schmidt, CSC Computer Technology Specialist reports

Yesterday we switched off the last three HP 3000 servers we ran in Europe for DuPont: a 997-800, two K-Series 9x9s. Two containers of documentation went away as well... and an eye-full of tears with this stuff. We had a small lunch together with the few remaining people who know MPE (including one guy from HP).

Others are still using the 3000 while moving. And a significant number of customers are moving away from HP as a result of the vendor's exit. That away-from-HP transition usually starts with a new support source from the third-party market. Connie Sellitto, Programmer/Analyst at The US Cat Fanciers’ Association, reports

Hard to believe it’s been seven years!  I was basically right where I am now — at the Cat Fanciers’ Association, still coding COBOL programs for use on our HP 3000 A400. We have just switched hardware support from HP to a third party vendor — feels like I’m cutting the umbilical cord!

Al Nizzardini reported from his current job, as Director of Technical Services at Amtek, that Nov. 14 found him in the Windows camp, but still managing a 3000.

I was at a Windows boot camp. Like many others I knew this day was coming. A buddy on mine, also a "3000 guy" called and told me of the news flash. It was like I lost a family member. It became my version of "The Day The Earth Stood Still."

John Hurt of Baseball Express remembers only skepticism that HP would ever leave the market completely. He has also heard from a support supplier about US Defense Department 3000s which seem unlikely to migrate. The DOD still has vintage disk drives in these systems.

I can't remember what I was doing last week much less seven years ago, but if I could, I probably thought to myself... Yeeeeaaah, riiiight.

The Department of Defense has bunches of still-running 3000s, and as long as they do, HP will keep an eye on them. My hardware guy with Datagate tells me about having to go someplace in Georgia to service and preventative maintain a DOD 3000 that still has Coyote drives.

But whether HP moves away or not, customers report they've gone, just now, in the next two years, or some time ago.

Add Trinity Health to the list of former HP 3000 sites. We are decommissioning our three HP 3000s this month.

It's a bittersweet time as a large portion of my career revolved around the good ‘ol HP. Made a good living off of it and met a lot of pretty cool people. The last couple of years have seen my HP 3000 involvement dwindle as I made my way back into the 'wonderful world of Windoze' and client server applications. Nothing I've ever worked on was as rock-solid as our HP 3000s. I’ll definitely miss them -- Pat Shugart

I had to leave HP 3000 work February, 2008. Primary Health in Idaho is still running AMISYS on the HP 3000. The new CIO refers to it as the old dinosaur. It still does the bulk of their business, with no replacement in sight.

I am now doing Microsoft applications now.  I have learned a new phrase, “Best Practice.” It means the Microsoft way. The bulk of our work is done on a HP Unix box -- Kent Wallace, Business Intelligence Developer, Healthcare Management Administrators Inc.

Some community members report they expect to leave their skills behind, but they've been working on the system steadily since 2001. A classic reply came from Joe Dolliver, who had his own consulting practice at the time.

I remember exactly where I was standing. I was just outside the Amisys headquarters talking to my former employee friends about a potential deal I was getting in Virginia Beach when my phone rang. I got a message from my longtime friend Frank Kelly, who had an inside track to the news that was about to be delivered by HP. Amisys was just three days from its client conference in Bethesda MD for its user base. There were going to be many Amisys clients in the area in three days and I had to just sit and not tell anyone. It was hard for me then to see what the future was going to hold, since I had made the bold jump from full-time Amisys employee to my own business in 2000.

I knew my business was going to be a short-lived business.I kept thinking in the back of my mind that I had heard rumors of the HP 3000’s demise before and we just let it pass because we all knew that this system was not going quietly and business would still be good for many years to come.

I am still working on HP 3000 systems running QSS software, but times have changed. We will be migrating sometime in 2009-10, and my prediction of living on the HP 3000 through my retirement is just not going to happen.

John Burke, our technical editor at the NewsWire at the time, saw his plans to survive on his 3000 skills dashed, as well as his faith in that year's 3000 leadership at HP.

I remember exactly what I was doing. Wirt spilled the beans early — I don’t think HP ever forgave him — while I was working on my business plan for life as an independent consultant. I will probably never get over my bitterness toward the HP executives who lied to us about the future of the HP 3000 at HP World (or was it still called Interex in August of that year?). Another thing I will always remember is the hubris of those same executives who were certain everyone would just move on over to HP-UX .

I was very fortunate. I had another career path I could follow. Many were not as lucky.

Some independent vendors, however, are still on the job, like John Stephens of Take Care of IT.

I had to dig out my Franklin Day planner entry for what seems to be a normal Wednesday for those times. I was temporarily not a consultant, as one of my clients had made me an offer I couldn’t refuse to be their IT Director. So my day planner notes for that day are things like “Do Hugh’s review”, “Fix end-date in QUKGNBH”, and a reminder to clean the DDS tape drive on the HP 3000, a 927LX, if I remember right. Six months later and the company would be gobbled up, and a year (and one “successful” SAP conversion) later, I was released back to permanent consultancy.

But no mention of HP’s bombshell announcement in my notes. I do recall the event though, and remember thinking something like, “Wow, I guess someday soon I really am going to have to find a career.”

Seven years later, I’m still waiting on that career, still muddling about in more or less the same way as I have for 26 years now. Meanwhile, I’m making a living, and not finding too much to complain about.

11:39 AM in History, Homesteading, Migration, News Outta HP, User Reports | Permalink

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