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Shared knowledge: Adager frees 3000 riches

When the HP 3000 was in its market heyday (circa mid-'80s), a phrase rose up that's been plastered up worldwide while being misquoted. "Information wants to be free," ran part of a speech by Whole Earth Catalog founder Stewart Brand. What Brand was really saying addressed the cost of gathering information. From an article in the Guardian newspaper, Cory Doctorow explains, a note that also tags the true value of 3000 shared information.

"Information wants to be free" is half of Stewart Brand's famous aphorism, first uttered at the Hackers Conference in Marin County, California (where else?), in 1984: "On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other."

The cost of getting out HP 3000 information has remained low because of community resources. Last week we noted the technical expertise on the Allegro Consultants Web site. Another sponsor of that cost is Adager. These creators of IMAGE tools were among the very first to make technical papers available to the community online. (Before that, during the above-mentioned heyday, they printed and mailed tech papers to everyone who requested the information.)

The cost of dispersing the information is one aspect of the 3000 community's resource. But the other element is the knowledge itself. There are papers online at the Adager site, such as IMAGE/SQL Database Foundations, that teach fundamentals about the 3000's database you simply cannot access anywhere else today. Certainly not with the ease of a click on one of Adager's links. This knowledge isn't arcane, either -- especially if you need to teach an IT architect the nature of IMAGE/SQL with that paper, and so distinguish it from a relational database. Adager is the keeper of the IMAGE treasure. By extension, that's the heart of the 3000's riches.

Doctrow's article explains the "information wants to be free" summary in 21st Century terms.

The more IT you have, the more IT generates value, and the more information becomes the centre of your world. But the more IT (and IT expertise) you have, the easier it is for information to spread and escape any proprietary barrier.

The freedom of information ideal tracks the availability of content. But someone must generate the content, before they even address the work of cataloging and distributing the knowledge. When the knowledge is as specialized and vital as database techniques on a mission-critical server HP won't support by January, it's hard to put a price on its market value. But free doesn't describe the information's value -- just its cost to your community.

As examples of what's online at the Adager site:

Dynamic Dataset Expansion (PDF or HTML) explained by IMAGE creator Fred White
Details on specifying DDX Expansion (PDF or HTML)
The Path to Improved IMAGE Detail Dataset Performance (PDF)

There's another level to the resource available at the Adager site. White papers written by VEsoft's creator Eugene Volokh are online. A few examples include 3000 advice about What to do when your program aborts, as well as Security myths. There's also Burn before reading - HP3000 security and you.

VEsoft doesn't host these tech resources on its Web site, even though the company remains a solid tool provider to the 3000 community. Freeing up these allied white papers for community use is another way to serve the community with a shared resource.