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Locating the eldest running 3000

[Editor's Note: A few weeks back I started a search for the oldest HP 3000 still running in production mode in your community. We're still on the lookout for the winner of this contest. Don't be shy; share your story. As for Gilles' report below, HP built its last computer capable of running MPE/VE in 1989.]

By Gilles Schipper
Homesteading Editor

I got a call a few months ago from an HP 3000 user somewhere in the Los Angeles area, who had gotten my name from our good friends at Allegro, who were no longer supporting MPE/VE machines.

This customer had a major problem with their main application - some distribution software running on a Micro3000XE, with MPE OS version Platform 3P (I believe).

After first ascertaining a serious disk space shortage issue, I finally was able to circumvent that problem by performing a “recover lost disc space” exercise which I had almost completely forgotten about. (The real trick was how to get to that option with the “streamlined” menu choices that were available only on the Micro3000 hardware family. It could not be approached via the too-obvious “COOLSTART” choice, which offered no further human intervention to choose “recover lost disc space.” Rather, one had to choose the “boot from disc” option and then proceed from there.)

After then determining the problem was unrelated to lack of disc space, it was like peeling an onion, and each layer removed exposed another layer.

Spending over five hours (via VPN into customer’s PC, from which I ran Reflection over a serial ATP connection), I was finally able to fix the problem.

During that five-plus hours, I revisited many older versions of software (think pre-TurboImage IMAGE, KSAM, etc.) which seemed to resurrect brain cells I thought had long died -- not to mention going back to pre MPE/iX and pre MPE/XL days of the venerable MPE OS.

I was actually quite surprised and amazed that there still existed actual production HP 3000s that utilized “classic” HP3000 “mini-computers,” as they were then called.

I thought that my home/office with a 918, a 928 and various HP-UX boxes ranging from an F20 and G30 to an Itanium-based RX2602 could be mistaken for an  HP “mini-computer” museum -- until I experienced that adventure into the past with this California user.