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February 04, 2010

On Safari for the Elusive CSL Utilities

For more than two years, the 3000 community has hunted for the contributed software it donated to Interex. The user group went belly-up in a puff of smoke during 2005, taking with it decades of history, training materials and the Contributed Software Library. The CSL started as Swap Tapes, collections of reel-to-reel and DAT tapes that Interex members brought to conferences. Contributed programs were on the tapes and everybody who brought a Swap Tape got one back with everybody's programs. Think of it as a open source program for the 1970s.

Three decades later, the practice of sharing includes some still-useful software. Or it would be useful if anybody could download it and load it up. The project is getting closer to appearing in the sights of the 3000 users. At least a few things about ownership of the programs are clear. They belong to everybody, with the exception of a few programs. These are genuinely free resources, and they might be freed up this year, at long last.

The best prospect for getting the CSL programs -- things like DISKSPC, which condenses/lost disk-space, or RDOWNTIME, which records and reports information about 'hard' down-time -- may be OpenMPE's server in waiting. Another community resource, 3k Associates, has also volunteered to host these open source tools. As a first step before the CSL is released, you can review a catalog of what's available today to see if any of it interests you. This catalog is hosted at another OpenMPE board member's 3000.

The CATALOG program is separated from the actual contributions for now, but CATALOG is the only piece of the picture that's visible at this time. Tracy Johnson is hosting CATALOG at the IP address 198.212.189.111. (Telnet or VT in. Log in as HELLO USER.CSLXL; there's no password required.) "I only supply the Catalog, not the programs," Johnson said.

The catalog program came with the old CSL library tape. With it you could search by keyword and the CSL library summary for each entry.  If you were running it with the tape loaded, there was an option to install a CSL entry with the catalog number.

A quick check with a Telnet session revealed this menu for CATALOG

1 Main Topics of Interest
2 View/Print Files
3 UnSQUISH Files
4 View/Print the CSL/MPE Guide
5 Enter CSL/MPE INDEX System
6 Report on Different CSL/MPE Releases
7 List Installed CSL/MPE Programs
8 Get Some Help

CATALOG, of course, obviously looks like something written for minicomputer of the 1980s. Chris Bartram of 3k Associates said as much while he was volunteering to make the software downloadable in a 21st Century method.

Bartram's site, which has been a community resource since the 1990s, hosts a raft of 3000 tools, white papers and more has offered to make these programs available. He would love to be able to share the CSL from his public access 3k.com site.

"I talked with Chuck and others about hosting a copy of the CSL at 3k.com -- and the offer still stands if the legalities are ever resolved. We already have a large directory of public domain software hosted (or pointed to) on the site."

"The catalog front end was a cool interface for a 1990s minicomputer terminal, but if I can get hold of the actual contributions, I think I’d just put up standard Web links to it and let the search engines index it -- since that’s how everyone finds things these days anyway. And when my FIOS link is working, there’s plenty of bandwidth to handle any downloads that the ever-shrinking 3000 world would throw at it."

When we checked last month, OpenMPE volunteer Matt Perdue had a DVD of the CSL programs from former Interex board director Paul Edwards. Perdue said he will put these programs onto the invent3k.openmpe.org server whenever it goes online. The group wanted input on how to present the programs.

Volunteers like Perdue and Bartram have carried the contributed ball a long time. During the first few years after the Interex demise, volunteer Chuck Shimada had these tools and shared them by request. He gave us this take on ownership of the contributed tools.

"If anyone wants to take the last CSL tapes and make the contributions from the tapes public, there is not a thing anyone can to do stop them," he said in 2007. "However, Boeing Aircraft's agreement with Interex limits their contributions to Interex members only. So, I personally would not make any of the Boeing stuff available without a new agreement from Boeing."

It's an exercise for the reader -- and perhaps OpenMPE and 3k Associates -- to determine who is still a member of a user group that has been defunct since 2005.

Except for those Boeing programs, it looks like the rest of the legalities have been swept away. The CSL did not even appear on the list of assets disposed of by the US bankruptcy attorneys during the Interex meltdown.

12:57 PM in History, Homesteading, Web Resources | Permalink

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Comments

Me and my friends contributed several utilities for MPE V, many of them running in Privileged Mode. Me and Lennart Gidlund developed DECOMP and SLDECOMP, for example, which were much better than HP's DECOMP. That's what we thought, anyway... :) And my friend Mats Halvarsson developed LIBUTIL, in which you could make libraries and store many MPE files in one, much like PkZip and WinZip for PC. Alas, there seem to be no record of these programs (and all the rest that we contributed) on the Internet... They seem to be wiped from history... Sad... It would be nice to see the documentation that we wrote for each of these programs again... It would be a blast from the past...

Posted by: Per Jonsson | Mar 12, 2010 3:25:58 PM

Hey Per, thanks for updating us. Did these utilities made it to MPE/iX, too? The CSL utilities have really disappeared, in effect, as OpenMPE's services are still unavailable. Group was going to host CSL programs. Not online yet.

Posted by: Ron Seybold | Mar 14, 2010 6:30:11 PM

Hey Ron, I don't know if they made it to MPE/iX. I have never seen MPE/iX, I only ran MPE III, IV and V. Started on an HP3000 Series III in 1979, and then moved on to the HP-IB systems, Series 30, 39 and 40. Since many of our utilities used Privileged Mode and called undocumented intrinsics like ATTACHIO and EXCHANGEDB, maybe they were hard to migrate to MPE/iX, I don't know... We put the System Tables manual to good use... :) Oh, I miss SPL... We also made a mail system that used an IMAGE/3000 database... I remember the joy we felt when we managed to supress the "END OF PROGRAM" text... When you logged in, and had unread mail, then the utility printed "You have mail" on the screen, and then the colon prompt appeared directly below it. Ah, mercy... :)

Posted by: Per Jonsson | Mar 16, 2010 4:30:07 PM

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