3000 resources held by HP's IP division
Memorial fund honors 3000 pioneer

Enterprising IMAGE ideals arrived from outside

One month ago today community pioneer Wirt Atmar passed away, but his contributions to the 3000 user continue to keep the system sustainable in a world far different than the era when HP 3000 was created. The server did not include a database for its first four years of life, but when HP added IMAGE to the bundle, the computer took off for new heights HP had never scaled in the industry.

IMAGE beefed up to become TurboIMAGE as the 3000 shifted to the RISC architecture, but it took efforts led by Wirt to give this included database the technology to keep it included in IT models. Built as a networked database, IMAGE gained SQL. Jim Sartain led HP's liasion with the 3000 community in this period of change, and he reports that IMAGE/SQL started as an HP design, but the vendor wanted to segregate this enhancement from the user population by making it an add-on.

Wirt was a major influence in making IMAGE/SQL capabilities available to customers. HP had architected the solution and planned to offer it as an expensive product upgrade. The need to justify a capital purchase, plus the initial low installed base of users (which would have meant there were few tools or training solutions), and the lack of focus from HP sales on selling software would have almost certainly doomed the Image/SQL product to a short lifespan.

The SQL extensions for IMAGE ultimately gave the 3000 users a way to connect mission-critical HP 3000 data with databases and desktop tools on other platforms. Without SQL the database couldn't participate in ODBC connectivity or the Java links that succeeded ODBC: middleware that made 3000 data a mainstream player. IMAGE has propelled the 3000 through decades of waters because the database is included in every system. SQL needed to be as ubiquitous as IMAGE.

Sartain, who kept moving up from HP to Intuit, and now to Senior Director, Software Quality Engineering for Adobe, told us that a middle ground between free and for-purchase had to be found. It was the 3000's users, organized as a Special Interest Group (SIG), who devised the IMAGE enhancement plan, one that Wirt promoted with zeal.

The addition of SQL started in San Diego at an Interex user conference in 1991, Sartain says, beginning with a concept from Ken Sletten, a user group volunteer, federal employee working for the US Navy and a key player in the 3000 community:

In the same San Diego Interex conference where I met Wirt I got a great idea from Ken Sletten. Ken explained it was very difficult to get approval for any capital software purchases from the U.S. Navy. On the other hand, software maintenance contracts were approved nearly automatically.  Ken made the initial suggestion of giving away Image/SQL. We discussed this problem in a small SIGIMAGE executive committee meeting that Wirt was part of and came up with the idea to offer a no-charge upgrade in return for an increase in the IMAGE software maintenance fees from $0 to something more substantial.

Wirt tirelessly championed this idea with the user community.  The result was the HP decision to go forward with this. This was a complete win-win for everyone involved. Customers received the software that enabled them to transform their HP 3000 applications. HP received a revenue stream to support and enhance the product. Because the IIMAGE/SQL solution was now generally available a vibrant ecosystem of people who knew how to use it, tools, training, and applications sprang up around it. It is hard to overestimate the part Wirt played in causing this outcome to occur. After that my team and I frequently consulted with Wirt on our development priorities, and our architecture and design decisions.
The praise Wirt (and others) shared about the work my team and I helped my team to become one of the mostly highly motivated and productive in the Enterprise Systems Group (per two consecutive Group GMs). We had no attrition and we had strong people joining our team. The partnership we had with Wirt and SIGIMAGE was part of our great productivity and esprit de corps. Our collaboration with Wirt and some others allowed us to know precisely what customers needed from us. We saved lots of effort by not doing any feature work that was not of the upmost importance. One other outcome: the team received three software quality awards from HP’s CSY [3000 division] — Three releases in a row! The teamwork with SIGIMAGE and Wirt was part of all of this magic.