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A generation grows proud of its grey

HP offers museum pieces

As part of its exit from the 3000 community, Hewlett-Packard pledged to give the Computer History Museum a chunk of the 3000's heritage, from frozen code to hardware that can still heat up a room.

MPE/iX software will become part of HP's donation to the museum in Mountain View, Calif. sometime next year, according to HP's latest update on its end-game decisions about the platform. Museum docent Stan Sieler reports that there are already HP 3000s of varying vintages stashed away in the museum archives, although none are on display for the hundreds of thousands of visitors.

HP intends, but hasn't made a full commitment, to make a donation to the museum "to help preserve the history of the HP 3000 and MPE/iX," said Mike Paivien. The contractor has been brought back to his old HP division to help sort out the final decisions about what HP will leave behind for the community. MPE/iX source code is among the vendor's donations, apparently in a format far different from the one which requires an application for third-party support companies.

"There will be hardware and some level of documentation across the HP 3000 lifespan," Paivinen added. "As with most donations, it's things that are old. We're not necessarily going to try to create a complete view of everything. But we're looking at everythign that we have on hand."

HP still owns HP 3000 systems that are churning out data processing for the company, and the servers are likely to be performing even while the vendor decides what to send off to the museum. But the definition of museum materials can be artistic are well as legendary, and at the least the key components of a legacy.

At this summer's meeting at the History Museum of 3000 software pioneers, one founder of this legacy pointed out what makes the 3000 a distinctive stop on a tour of computing history. "The history of computing is not the history of invention for the 3000," said Doug Meacham, the founder of the Interex user group. "It's the history of people coming together, like at the Denver user group meeting in 1978."

Community made the difference in setting the 3000's place in history, he said. The Denver meeting, less than two years after HP made IMAGE a fundamental part of the HP 3000 systems, featured talks from Adager and Robelle founders on breakthroughs in 3000 data management. The 3000 had three things going for it at first that gave the minicomputer a way to win a place in batch-ridden computer departments. It had IMAGE included, something no other supplier could even imagine. Meacham said "HP knew nothing about software" other than IMAGE, "so there were a lot of openings for third parties."

And the computer had a user group dedicated to it in Interex, one that worked alongside HP to help mature the 3000 into a business workhorse powerful enough to last more than three decades.