Working in the 3000 community to tell stories gets to be a richer job every year. People I've known since I was a young reporter sometimes pass on relics from the 3000's past. Last month I got such a gift from Steve Hammond, a 3000 veteran who's moved on with his employer to other systems but pursues history as his avocation. A modest white envelope that he gave me contained a piece of history: HP's first Communicator.
The document was HP's first shot into an open sky of communications to HP 3000 users of 1975. June of that year might have been the first summer that HP wanted to share updates about the HP 3000, since the computer had passed through the end of '74 and gotten into summer of '75 with consistent reports of reliability. Issue 1 of the Computer Systems Communicator included a section on the HP 2000 systems as well as the HP 9600 Measurement and Control systems. HP considered the three computers a complete solution to data processing needs of the middle '70s.
Only one of these computer systems has survived into this century, and HP identifies some of the credit for the 3000's longevity in this Communicator's contents: user groups, the first Communicator's theme. A HP 3000 user group was introduced with a board of directors and a mandate for meetings: "The meetings, open to all group members, afford an excellent forum for the exchange new techniques and ideas."
This Communicator also advised 3000 users about "Steps to Produce a Core Dump Tape" as well as an update to a bedrock program still used by every HP 3000 database today, FCOPY.
At 32 loose-leaf pages, the June 15, 1975 Communicator is a fledgling document. There was a good reason that the new HP 3000 Users Group met four times over 1974-75. 3000 technology was quick to change on this new HP business computer, and printed advice couldn't cover what a good talk could in person. Through 1975, two meetings were held in Palo Alto and one each in Chicago and Miami.
HP was also happy to report success for a customer who'd completed an HP 3000 internals course in this issue. "ESL in Sunnyvale, California is involved with various government agencies who as customers demand highly sophisticated applications, some of which are photographic image processing and display and land usage plottage." ESL was writing its own IO drivers and "saw a need for greater understanding of the internal activities of MPE." HP included a contact if customers wanted similar training.
To this day the Communicator continues to hold the internal advice from HP's labs to its more ardent 3000 homesteaders. HP is still making these documents available to the world from its docs.hp.com Web pages. The history there goes back more than 21 summers ago, to the Communicator issue that HP first sent out in 1988 with its groundbreaking PA-RISC MPE/XL 1.0 systems.
The final Communicator, issued one summer ago for MPE/iX 7.5 PowerPatch 5, features a pair of technical articles on IO options that might still be new to 3000 owners. Jim Hawkins, one of the last members of HP's 3000 labs, wrote pieces on High Availability FailOver/iX for FiberChannel Disk Arrays and Limited Support for Ultrium Tape on MPE/iX. A listing of beta test patches, and MPE support details for those arrays aren't available on an HP Web site any longer. (The 3000 community has several experts who can guide customers through installing the high-end arrays; Craig Lalley of EchoTech is the first who comes to mind.) Client Systems has posted a selection of HP labs whitepapers on its rehosted Jazz Web site.