Drive to free MPE wraps with read-only code
FTP may fail both migrators, homesteaders

Newest year evokes freshest tender mercies

NewsWire Editorial

    After reporting migration plans for eight years, we are preparing to migrate my mom Ginny. She lived in Las Vegas for the last two decades, but at 84 her health demands closer connection with our family. Next month she makes a transition to Toledo, the town where she grew up and now returns to regain health -- and reclaim constant contact with loved ones.

    It's going to require extra spending and careful revision of her life's details to return mom to her home town. My brother and sister and I have talked about it for years, perhaps using the same kind of language your community used to address migration off your HP 3000s. “It will need to happen eventually. But it's still working for now,” we'd say about her independent lifestyle. She was happy to rule the roost of her life. Mom hit age 80 with enough spark to dance all the way through the Beatles' They Say It's Your Birthday, onstage at an Irish pub where we arranged a birthday bash.

    But four years later, her gait is ruled by a walker and her laundry is no longer a manageable chore. The retreat in her ability has been swift over the past six months, sudden as a seized-up drive or a user group going bust over a weekend. When people straddle their ninth decade of life, every morning feels like a gift. Though the end of life summons deep grief from us, it doesn't spark as much surprise.

    That same kind of acceptance and understanding swept over your community eight years ago. The months after HP's plan for the death of its 3000 business brought out hindsight about the vigor of the vendor's resolve to sell the computer. In human terms, a system just on the verge of its fourth decade of life looked like an octogenarian to some. To others, the economic support from HP and investment from independent developers “was working for now.”

   But now is the final February your community concerns itself with HP's 3000 affairs. Like the 71-year-old company that it is, the decline of the Hewlett-Packard that cultivated its own miracles and wonder grew more evident with each quarter. The operating environment that has been the bedrock for 3000 success, MPE and IMAGE, will gain a second life in 41 weeks. MPE/iX is making a transition back to its birthplace for some quiet and happy years among its creators.

  Of course, I'm not talking about Hewlett-Packard, which still owns the rights to improve MPE/iX, seemingly forever on a timetable of never. The retreat for this heartbeat of the 3000 is into the hands of computer experts in their 50s and 60s, the people who pushed along the growth of a great invention: engineers, developers and dedicated customers. Most of the HP creative team behind MPE has long since left the buildings in Cupertino. It will all be gone before long, although a few independent-thinking engineers like Cathlene Mc Rae will remain online, until they take their own retirements.

    The independents of support companies and software firms and hardware doctors will look after that heartbeat more closely soon enough, just like my brother and sister in Toledo will attend to mom's needs in their visits to a nursing home. The average age at one such facility is 82. The average age of 3000 advocates and caretakers is probably 30 years less. We all age every day, those who give birth as well the offspring they create and grow.

    HP has grown away from its roots while it has grown up its customers' independence. Today it's easier than ever to sever ties with technology from your vendor -- once you have made a transition away from the proprietary miracles like MPE, like OpenVMS, yes, even like HP-UX. Big system vendors see little motive to nurture such unique products. Maybe the 3000's end at HP will teach the vendor some lessons about hospice.

    Mom will be better off back home. She'll have daily visits from my siblings and her grandkids, gentler accommodations than the desert digs she scratched out in Vegas, transportation from folks she helped create, instead of taxis. Her mail is delivered indoors. Social activity is just down the railing-assisted hallway.

    And when there is another health challenge, people with the heartfelt affection of family will help nurse mom through it, no matter how somber it may turn out to be. Maybe MPE will gain the same kind of ground, a safer spot than a product which is no longer patched or packaged, lingering in limbo until HP turns off its accounts that receive support checks from you.

    Homesteading customers in your community - counting the interim ones, many more than HP and its partners believe - might have received a better hospice from HP for its 3000 life than restricted source code licensing. The high road of protecting your investment could have trumped those legal blinders which limit now limit MPE source to reference-only use. Nobody knows how long the terms of that transfer will matter to customers. Nobody has illusions about Ginny beating the reaper like she beat that tambourine to the Beatles four years ago. Whatever is left can be as healthy as possible, with her safety more certain now that care is nearby and constant.

    My family is making a migration to more peace of mind about mom. Your family of community is arranging the same safety. That kind of peace, ready for a future of undetermined years, is what support companies and non-profits like OpenMPE aim to deliver. And if there's more dancing with the tambourine left in your community, you can count on your family to usher it onstage. HP might see an end of life at the end of this year. It is likely to be surprised at the vision of the Interim Era, where tender healthcare comes straight from your devoted hearts.