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Apple developers aim with 3000 experience

Today's announcement of a new operating environment for Apple mobile products recalls the days of HP's MPE/iX rollouts. Some of the same developers who studied those HP 3000 OS releases are poring over the internals of iOS 4, Apple's new name for its latest mobile environment that was once called iPhone OS.

Michael Casteel retired from the active 3000 community more than a decade ago, but he still remembers his time developing the scheduling app Maestro from Unison to serve enterprises using HP's mission-critical  server.

"I miss the trenches now and then, and the folks, too," he said. "Some of the best times I ever had were tracking down obscure bugs in Maestro after everybody else had given up. I do like good puzzles.

"That’s probably part of why I keep hacking on computers. No more 3000s, though I miss them a bit, too. They were a lot of fun, for a lot of years. From the Series II to the 9xx’s. Now, it’s programming and a little web site maintenance using my MacBook."

Casteel is the author of Klondike, the best Solitaire program ever built for the Mac -- through three generations of OS -- now sold for the iPhone and iPad. Casteel is attending this week's WorldWide Developers' Conference for Apple developers. He's not the only programmer with MPE in his blood camped out in the Bay Area this week.

Others who are working toward a release on iOS 4 include Neal Kazmi, the lead developer for Minisoft and its connectivity software. Kazmi is creating an iPad version of Javelin for release this summer. Today the developers at the WWDC received a Gold Master release of the new OS. The move reminds us of the early releases of MPE/iX shared with 3000 developers, often using the organization of the SIG-SOFTVEND special interest group chaired by MB Foster's Birket Foster.

The HP 3000, born in the early 1970s, is scheduled to getting its first iPad app this summer.

The distance between the two solutions’ release is close to 40 years, but 3000 managers and developers are thinking ahead to a time when staying attached to a keyboard, wired to a backplane or even a PC, will seem antique. And even though the 3000 is looked upon like a relic by some IT architects, users and software gurus want to bring Apple’s latest mobile marvel in step with their systems.

Kazmi is working on an iPad Javelin, software that combines HP700/92 terminal connections, as well as Digital VT320, IBM 5250 and IBM 3270 connectivity in a single client. “For the HP 3000 it will support Secure Telnet and NS/VT network connectivity,” said Minisoft’s CEO Doug Greenup. “It will be an app that can be downloaded from the App Store, and probably sold for $9.95.” Greenup said the software will be available in July.

Other developers aiming at iOS 4 -- ones who can claim enterprise experience with 3000 -- include Bruce Hobbs and Michael Watson, long-time engineers and programmers serving the COBOL and 3000 scheduler communities. The two said they “took a two-day iPhone development course back in November,” Hobbs reported. “I’ve also been attempting, with limited success, to lure a couple of other HP 3000 COBOL developers into a joint effort. Not sure yet exactly what we’ll put together, but I’m still hoping to have something in the App Store before WWDC.”

Apple is reaping the benefits of quantum leap power in a company-first in-house CPU for the iPhone and the iPad. HP once coordinated the hardware advances with software innovation for the 3000. The practice is still active for HP's Integrity Unix servers. New products are expected at this month's HP Technology Forum, introduced by Dave Donatelli, executive vice president and general manager of HP Enterprise Servers Storage and Networking.

Meanwhile, the 3000's hardware is frozen in the year 2003 and its OS hasn't had any enhancement since 2008. It's not the perspective that draws 20,000 developers to the biggest meeting space in San Fransico. But the size of the community is not as crucial as the depth of the 3000 knowledge base. Apple's community benefits from the experience of programmers like Kazmi, Casteel, Hobbs and Watson. They bring decades more development skills, an asset the 3000 community continues to rely upon.