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Circuit City connects to 3000s to the end

Few companies are weathering a demise as public as Circuit City's. The consumer electronics retail outlet is closing its doors this spring, doors which have seen millions of people pass through looking for closeout deals. Also on the shutdown list are four HP 3000s which have run at the retailer since the 1980s, operating in-house applications.

The apps continue to operate, perhaps right up to the end of the company's computing. Bill Cooksey, who once worked with the 3000s and now has duties elsewhere in the firm's IT ops, said "the 3000s play a key role in transaction logging for our stores, and other sales functions, so as long as log records are generated we'll need to keep them up. Once they're down, nothing will replace them because everything will be shut down in time."

These systems are going offline the same way many computers go dark: the company folds its tent. The bankruptcy of Circuit City will accomplish what the company tried to do at least four times in the past: put another computer in place of the 3000s which was just as reliable.

Connie Boyer of the company said

They had tried at least four times, maybe more, to replace the sales logging function that is on one of the 3000s but never succeeded. It’s just too darn reliable!

I developed the first point of sale system for Circuit City on an HP 3000 Series III. We had a good 350 terminals hooked up to that baby! I wrote the order entry application that all the cashiers used in the stores. It was written in SPL. We started with a POS shell that Nick Demos wrote for W. Bell and Co., but the cashier app was written from scratch.

Boyer added that the 3000s will be needed until the May 1 closing of the stores. The systems may work to the very end of Circuit City operations and accounting shutdowns, she said.

I’m sure all the computers, including the 3000s, will be sold to satisfy creditors. They said it will take two years to close the accounting books. So it could be they will keep the 3000s around until they close the books, since every sales ticket goes through a 3000. In addition, service repair goes through the other big 3000 so they may keep it around as well, until all the accounting books have been closed for repair orders.