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Redmond reader exaggerates 3000 greatly

The world of Windows is wide, but some of its pros have narrow views. A recent column in Redmond, the "independent voice of the Microsoft IT community," aired a view of the HP 3000 that praised the system while distorting its condition.

Like Mark Twain's famous reply to an errant obituary, Redmond's rumors of a total 3000 demise were greatly exaggerated.

Editor Doug Barney invited readers to nominate their favorite dead companies in the magazine's March issue. Digital, now pumping out the successful ProLiant business servers as alternatives to the HP 3000, led Barney's list. (Commodore was No. 2.) Not satisfied with sticking to facts, Barney then invited readers to nominate their favorite dead product, or as he quipped, "products that have gone the way of the dodo." You just know where this one is heading, and it's not in the direction of independent thinking.

ONE READER named Roger somehow put the 3000 into a tomb at the same time he noted the system is still doing business computing for enterprises.

If I had to choose my favorite dead product, I would vote for the HP 3000. We had one at our office when I started in 1985. We went through five different versions over 20 years and the original software written would still run. The product line is dead now, but there are still people using it.

Analysis like this often flows from a relative perspective today. Compared to the overwhelming torrent of development and experimentation in the Redmond community, the 3000 might seem dead. However, the other products among the readers' lists point to a far less exaggerated state of demise: the Wang VS100, Commodore VIC-20, 8-track tapes, WordPerfect, Kaypro 2x, Radio Shack TRS-80.

Barney says he's been writing about computers since I have, 1984. "If my career were a car, I'd be an antique. I guess that makes me nostalgic, and so, from time to time, I miss our fallen vendor brothers. A lot of Redmond readers feel the same way. You might love these new days of netbooks, iPads, social networks and electronic everything, but you also admire the pioneers."

While it's hard to control the opinions of readers, 25 years of journalism experience might help excise such misinformation. When a vendor is still selling source code licenses for $15,000 to third parties (my estimate), it's a little early to be running news of that product "going the way of the dodo." A little more red-lining at Redmond would help readers sort the living from the dead. At least they got one thing right: the 3000 remains a pioneer.