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'84 computing recalls conventions of 3000s

Editor's note: In late summer of 1984 I started my career covering the HP 3000 marketplace. To help commemorate those 25 years, I asked more than a score of community members from that era to recall what their 3000 careers looked like back then. This is the second part of their reports.

Welcome2Anaheim Jason Goertz, HP support engineer, Orbit Software developer, Chronicle columnist, consultant and HP engineer - I remember Vesoft's Eugene Volokh speaking at the Interex conference in Anaheim, a newly minted UCLA graduate at age 16. I remember going to a talk about the latest COBOL standard. I also remember going to Eugene's talk and realizing that he could barely drive but had graduated with a degree. I left HP in May and started my job at Generra Sportswear as Manager of IS. Around that time the Response Centers were going into operation. As I was leaving HP, there was talk of this, and people started to go down to California to work a shift there, and the regional PICS phone support centers like the one we had in Bellevue, Washington were being shut down.

    The Series 64/68 was out at this time, as we had one when I went to Generra in 1984. I remember a problem that we were having at this time. The microcode was loaded at boot time (unlike any other machine up to that point) into fast memory. There was a class problem with the machine that every so often, at a totally random interval, the microcode memory would glitch and bring down the system. They finally figured out that it was some sort of background cosmic radiation that interacted with the molecules of the memory, and caused effectively a parity error. HP never solved the problem, as by that time they were working on PA-RISC (which of course had no microcode) and that attrition would solve the problem.

Jeanette and Ken Nutsford, consultants and developers, software resellers, Interex SIG chair volunteers - 1984 was a year of continued great fortune in working with the HP 3000 and enjoying the comradeship of so many wonderful HP 3000 users and HP 3000 staff. We were running a Timesharing Bureau in Auckland, New Zealand on an HP 3000 Series 33 (configured as a desk) with a number of charities as clients. We had written a software package for Fundraising and Direct Mail Marketing for Charities, using COBOL and IMAGE, and were the total DP staff for a number of charities.

    In February we flew to the US to attend the Anaheim HP 3000 Users Conference. This was the fourth Interex conference we had attended, with the first being in 1980. We especially remember that this was the last time we saw [SuperGroup founder] David Brown before he disappeared. He used to run a toll-free call center using HP3000s in Ogden, Utah.

Ken Sletten, SIG-IMAGE chair, developer for US Navy, OpenMPE director - I ordered one of the first HP 3000s at what is now the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Keyport. It was a Series 42 and we thought we were really getting a powerful machine, because we ordered it with 2 MB of memory (he says sitting at his MSI laptop with 2,000 times more memory), and two of the old 404MB Model 7933 ''washing machine'' disc drives (he says as he contemplates the tiny 500GB Seagate FreeAgent Pro external drive for my laptop, and the mirrored 1TB drives in my new quad-core desktop that I just had custom-built for me).

     In 1984 the consolidated data systems team that I worked on for 23 years took delivery of a Series 58. That was the 3000 that was not a ''desktop'' machine, but rather literally an entire desk in itself. It was ordered with four of the then-brand-new 571MB Model 7937 discs. Since four of these didn't take up much more cubic volume than one of the old 404MB 7933s, we thought this was a big step forward.

     The above was the start of a LONG run for HP e3000s at Keyport. We ran a string of HP 3000 model computers continuously from 1982 all the way up through the early part of 2005, when our production shop data system was successfully ''migrated'' (i.e. completely re-written) off our last PA-RISC box, using C# on MS SQL Server. The 3000 gave us just a couple years short of a quarter century of service.

Mark Klein, independent developer and consultant to HP, manager of the Orbit Software lab team, OpenMPE director - I'd already started consulting full time by 1984 and I know I started writing DBCHANGE for HP around that time. I spent most of 1984 consulting to the database lab and think that was about the time that DBRECOV introduced rollback and start/stop recovery. I had a hand in both those projects based on my work for Abacus Systems doing their database recovery system called Recovery/3000.

    Vision had been canceled by then and the PA-RISC work was under way as I started working on portions of the initial TurboIMAGE CM wrapper (I think it was called something like Onion Skin at the time) around then. I do remember all the excitement in the labs in those days and looked forward to going down there to be part of it. Besides, HP still served donuts and coffee on the house each morning.

Rene Woc, co-founder (with Alfredo Rego) and CEO of Adager - It certainly was a busy and exciting year. Lots of user conferences all over the world, in addition to all the user group meetings in the US. The Anaheim keynote in February was, of course, a great beginning for the year. Alfredo gave talks in many user groups; among them were New York, Cupertino, Vancouver, Ottawa, Exeter, Paris, Innsbruck, and Johannesburg. Also, by 1984, Adager was already an HP-supported product, listed in the Corporate Price List. News of the cancellation of Vision was soon overtaken by the news of the Spectrum Project.

Dave Wilde, HP's 3000 lab manager, e3000 business manager - Having worked with the HP 3000 (and other systems) doing data entry at a department store in Chicago during my high school years in the late '70s, and having used HP calculators and some HP workstations and VLSI design software (PIGLET) at the University of Illinois, I was thrilled to have just graduated and joined HP in June, 1984. I was working at the HP Santa Clara Division on a new IC test system HP was developing. That system was later cancelled, and in 1986 I moved over to HP's ITG group to work on the databases for HP's soon-to-be released first PA-RISC systems (then called Spectrum internally). Those were indeed exciting times in Cupertino, and it was then that I was re-introduced to the HP 3000 that I had worked on during my high school years.

Terry Floyd, ASK Software account rep, independent 3000 application developer, founder of the Support Group inc MANMAN consultancy - In 1984 I felt like HP was doing great as Big Brother, the middle of the glory years. I was working for ASK in Houston and we sold a lot of HP 3000s that year. Compaq was our big account and they were demanding a lot more from MANMAN than any of our other customers. My son David and I won the egg toss at the Compaq annual picnic that year. The only Interex Conference I ever missed, since my 3000 start in 1978, was in Anaheim that year. Life was good.

Shawn Gordon, 3000 software developer, NewsWire columnist - I was 21 at the that time, just graduated from a computer trade school and got my first job on a Series 44 for four months as a temp for a woman who went on maternity leave working for the city of Santa Fe Springs. I was just doing operations and data entry and then started BASIC coding on another Series 44 for an electronics component manufacturer, but also had to do operations. It was a one-man shop. Just before the temp job I worked for Pleion in marketing and they had a Series 44 and we were one of the first Speedware clients. That's also where I first played Adventure on the HP 3000.

Bob Green, Robelle founder - In 1984 The IMAGE/3000 Handbook was published, written by myself, David Greer, Robert Green, Alfredo Rego, Fred White, and Dennis Heidner. Marguirete Russell edited another project that I was working on , so I asked her to take on the Handbook as editor. Turns out it was quite a handful for her, but we got it done in about nine months. Then I turned order fulfillment over to her, since Robelle was busy. While she wasn't really that great at selling books, the book sold itself, and since the price was $50 each and we paid for the printing, she had a nice extra income for the next few years