First Flashes of 15 Years Ago
September 21, 2010
I cranked up the Rolling Stones' song Start It Up in my CD player 15 years ago today and wrote the 3000 NewsWire's very first FlashPaper. It was an era where CD drives weren't standard equipment in either PCs or my Mac, but the Stones song was everywhere that month on TVs, as Microsoft rolled out Windows 95 and its new Start button. Bill Gates' company hired a stuntman to rappel down the side of the CN Tower in Toronto as a kickoff stunt, a moment which attendees of the HP Interex show had watched just a month earlier.
The FlashPaper was our way of making a monthly newsletter feel more like a weekly. We wrote each one just before the NewsWire went into the postal bins. It was our effort at printing news more current than the monthly 3000 magazines which have all died since that day in September.
I wanted the FlashPaper to sound as sassy as Mick Jagger and hoped the theme music might help. I wrote about how HP had changed its mind, once again, about who should lead its IMAGE database labs. Then R&D manager Harry Sterling would pick Tien-You Chen out of what I called a "well-stocked technical pool." Chen held the position for more than a decade, even outlasting HP's manufacturing of 3000 hardware. Those middle '90s were an era of re-starting crucial 3000 technologies such as IMAGE.
I was eager to send this first news salvo into the information fray. Too eager, in fact, because that issue of the Flash was the only one ever to bear a specific date: Sept. 21, 1995. Once our printer finished our main issue, 10 days later, we could finally start up our FlashPaper tradition. Print led our news flow so long ago.
Fifteen years ago I reported the "new 5.5 MPE/iX release" would make 3000 databases better with a way to suspend users during online backups. HP was working with third parties like Orbit Software to help companies with large user counts keep 3000s online. Hewlett-Packard's 3000 division understood that large customers would renew support and upgrade their servers, so long as the uptime could be preserved. Orbit's still selling online backup, but HP ceases shipping 3000 subsystems this year.
Continuous service from the server was the 3000 hallmark. Within a year, we were calling the first version of our web site Always Online. We were still innocent about the Web's uptime, hoping for 3000 standards.
Windows NT was on the project charts for IT managers during that first Flash of writing. WRQ, now also disappeared (into Attachmate), was including WinNT versions of its Reflection terminal emulator along with a Win95 version. NT, developed by a former Digital engineer who designed a Windows which aspired to enterprise abilities, was one of HP's two alternatives in an era of 3000 co-existence. HP had missed the march of Windows into the IT shops by focusing on its own Unix. After 15 years HP's enterprise customers have trained their focus away from HP-UX, judging by HP's sales reports. Windows doesn't need New Technology to make its way into 3000 shops, and even Linux is stealing Unix business by now.
The first Flash of 15 years ago also carried reports of two programs that didn't survive the decade: Enterprint, for connecting 3000s to Xerox high-speed color printers via a Unix workstation network gateway; and Netwatch/3000, which promised a security watchdog over FTP and telnet access to HP 3000s. We advised our readers to contact the makers of Netwatch via fax -- still essential then -- as well as email. It was an era when most of the readership was not yet online with email. But our breaking news report followed the desire to link with color printers -- we printed the Flash on bright orange paper to stand out while we started up.
Thanks for keeping your eyes trained on the latest news about a server that's outlasted an era with few PC CDs, little email and faxing that was essential. We couldn't have started it up unless we believed savvy IT managers would have lasting interest in a computer that was already more than 20 years old.