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Boosting 3000 Effectiveness with Experience

Building Beyond Our 15-Year Foundation

It's our 15th birthday today, the first day of the first month ever printed under the flag of The 3000 NewsWire. We're celebrating far from our offices but close to the birthplace of our newsletter: The coast of California, where we first told Hewlett-Packard about a fanatic's plan to launch a newsletter around one of the oldest business computers in the HP stables. My 20th wedding anniversary with Abby Lentz, the NewsWire's co-founder, has led us to a fortnight in the Sierras and along seacoasts to celebrate.

After a decade and a half, we can still feel the surge of that beachhead. The NewsWire's debut happened over August (Interex '95), September (our first FlashPaper) and October's initial first issue. But it really took its first bow in Aptos, a coastal town where HP was holding a press event at a resort called Seascape. HP was a company as different from today's mega-corp as an eagle and an otter might appear beside each other. I came to Seascape to report on HP's Opening the Enterprise conference, where HP execs from the Computer Systems Organization talked up how the 3000 would integrate with Unix.

But we had news to deliver as well as gather on that weekend. We broached the idea with our press relations contact Michele Pritchard before we arrived, then pulled aside the 3000's general manager Olivier Helleboid to ask what he'd think of a 3000-specific publication. At that time, few paragraphs appeared in print about the 3000 any longer. There was no online press.

Olivier saw the potential to collaborate with a little startup that must have seemed to flash more moxie than show business sense. We even got an approving nod from the head of the business server unit, Wim Roelandts, who'd worked in the 3000 business at HP himself years earlier.

But armed with those nods and smiles, along with content from HP's Pritchard and the chatter of the 3000-L, we still had to produce a complete newsletter filled with articles and advertising. A simple pilot edition traveled to Interex '95 -- well received by some sponsors and our contacts of more than a decade in the community. HP was making a case for including the 3000 in IT strategies, a mission we were delighted to aid because we knew so many companies relying on the server.

But I remember Chris Sieger, a board member of Interex, wondering what in the world we could find to publish in the next issue -- beyond a 4-page pilot that talked up HP's new Bangalore, India labs and the Gnu C++ toolset just ported to the 3000. I smiled at his question on the Interex bus back to the conference hotel. We'd heard plenty to publish at the conference. There was just the writing, editing, design, printing, database and mailing to accomplish. Not much for two people. Oh, and the thousands of 3000 suppliers and customers who'd fill our pages. We had to believe we'd receive that much, if we were to keep smiling in the face of skeptics.

The NewsWire's pages, both printed and those we flung onto the fledgling World Wide Web, had to prove the concept of a 3000-only publication. We promoted the platform by highlighting the changes to its solutions. HP was already calling the HP 3000 a "legacy" system during 1995, even while people in the 3000 division worked to bring the platform up to date.

In October of 1995, HP was just starting to embrace the idea of serving small customers with the 3000's fastest technology. We called the Series 9x9 servers Kittyhawks in our Page One article, using HP's code name. (Click on the image above to read that front page.) System configurations were a major part of a 3000 customer's duty in that day, so we reported HP was finally adding an 8-user MPE/iX license to the entry model of the 9x9 line. HP said you could get the latest generation 3000 at under $50,000, we reported with an asterisk,"before disks, console and networking cards are added." Most customers needed to add one or more of these elements, but HP was still trying to improve the image of the 3000's value.

Another kind of image was important in that first issue, the 3000 database of the same name. We launched our first at-deadline issue of the FlashPaper with a report on the new leader of the IMAGE/SQL lab, Tien-You Chen. The vendor community was pleased with the move, since it looked like the database group was getting a leader devoted to results rather than policy.

Chen has a can-do style. In a meeting with several partners over TurboStore integration, someone in the meeting suggested that “an HP file system engineer would really help us here.” Chen excused himself, got up and came back with the engineer.

Of course, much of what seemed novel and important 14 years ago has aged into history. We looked over the first issue's story lineup to see that top HP executives (like CEO Lew Platt) were still praising the platform in public, when pressed. HP could show a wrinkled side of its image to the 3000 faithful, too: 3000 division executives made a show of taking off their jackets en masse at an Interex conference roundtable. Although roundtables and HP executive comments on the 3000 have evaporated, our first issue carried news that resonates in today's community. A powerful object-oriented compiler was being launched, C++, "which promised better products sooner" for the 3000. It remains a key tool to keep the 3000's future smooth, no matter how long you've decided to remain on the computer's path.

HP once operated a repository for the 3000 version of GNU C++ source, hosted on the Invent3k public development server. But when HP closed down Invent3k, the compiler had to find a public home. OpenMPE will include the compiler on its resource, opening this month.

This open source tool will be needed to keep the more modern ports to the 3000 up to date in years to come. It's so essential, said our columnist John Burke, that

Without Mark Klein’s initial porting of and continued attention to the GNU C++ compiler and utilities on the HP 3000, there would be no Apache/iX, syslog/iX, sendmail/iX, bind/iX, etc. from Mark Bixby, and no Samba/iX from Lars Appel. And the HP 3000 would still be trying to hang on for dear life, rather than being a player in the new e-commerce arena.

And our first issue covered a new HP initiative to spark integration in the manufacturing sector, carried out by six North American partners.

The integrators will offer customers one of three strategies to assist them in examining their information infrastructure, with the goal of implementing Customer Oriented Manufacturing Management (COMMS systems):
    1. To retain systems while expanding use of software features and increasing processing power using strategies such as COMMS;
    2. To supplement systems such as MRP II with more comprehensive software on current computer platforms or additional environments; or
    3. To migrate manufacturing systems to newer “Choices Approved” software solutions such as Ross Systems' Renaissance CS or  Spectrum's PointMan.

So even while the first NewsWire was hitting the mailboxes of October, 1995, this newsletter was acknowledging that migration was one choice in moving ahead. Something else hasn't changed since that month. One of those six partners remains vital in the 3000 community: the Support Group, inc.

Like a lot of your world, tSGi is concerned with continuity. Today the company's president David Floyd, son of the founder Terry Floyd, celebrates his birthday while tSGi leads customers into both homestead and migration futures. We're happy to share a birthday with him, while we work toward "many happy returns of the day." Thank you for reading us for 15 years, and for the support of our partners and sponsors continuing into another generation, starting with today.