If you're wondering who Vladimir is and what he's done for HP 3000 customers, the founder of VEsoft would be glad to educate your IT pros. Mr. Volokh's been on the road visiting his customer sites in Texas since Nov. 1, one of numerous two-week trips he makes in modest rental cars across the US. A very limited number of 3000 solution vendors still do this sort of personal contact. It's especially notable considering the size of VEsoft's 3000-only customer base.
"We have 1,700 customers today," he told us as at lunch in San Marcos, just after a consulting visit at a manufacturer in the city. And so the debate and estimates about the size of the 3000 market just got a fresh, first-hand data point. (We'd like to point out that if one vendor can count 1,700 companies, the total number of users has got to be a lot bigger than 2,000 firms worldwide.) Volokh, whose company has sold MPE/iX extension software for 30 years, says the majority of his customers do business on 3000s in North America alone.
As for his news that he's spreading, this 72-year-old dean of 3000 vendor firms was most effusive about his sons. The most famous is Eugene, another 3000 icon known best by this first name only. By now this 42-year-old has become a professor at the UCLA School of Law and often-quoted expert in the media about First Amendment matters. The most senior 3000 IT pros remember Eugene as a precocious, brilliant developer who with his father founded VEsoft (the first two letters stand for their name), cutting a wide swath by extending the 3000's OS with MPEX.
Vladimir still consults at a reasonable rate to teach security and management (also using his Security/3000) as well as lessons on MPE/iX built-in features. He doesn't see much use of any of these products' manuals, however. His honesty in evaluating the 3000 market spills over to its future. "Luckily for us, if it's dying, it is dying very slowly," he told my partner Abby and I over grape leaves and pita at the Cedars Greek restaurant. "But when they laugh at this, I tell customers, 'We are all dying very slowly.' "
He reported updates on the new life in his realm, the growth of three grandsons, one by his son Sasha (also a law professor, at Emory University) and two from Eugene. The eldest grandson is 7 years old, or just five years younger than when Eugene worked as an intern over the holidays at the Hewlett-Packard 3000 divison in 1980. (Photo and text above, including Allegro's Stan Sieler peering just over Eugene's shoulder at HP's labs.) Vladimir brought this copy of HP's January 1981 The News newsletter to prove it. It may seem like ancient history, but almost 30 years later, Eugene still consults on MPEX development matters when he's not teaching law or writing papers, or editing the third edition of his First Amendment law textbook.
With 1,700 customers mostly in the US, has Vladimir been contacted by the creators of Zelus, the 2011 HP 3000 emulator product? No, he reports. He believes the timing of that product -- delayed by HP's legal manueuvers, in part -- means it will make little difference in that rate of decline.
"The customers who are left, they don't make up a market where [Zelus] could be sold in hundreds of copies," he said. "You need thousands of users for that, and one in 10 might be interested." Eight years ago in an interview with the NewsWire, he reminded us, "I said that emulation might work. And Allegro [Consultants] might do it." The HP delays and legal issues kept Allegro from participating, he believes.
But Vladmir also has faith in the ability of 3000 work to keep its users vital. One customer he visited had marked down the remaining weeks to retirement, 59 by his count. "He was like marking off days and month in a prison cell," Vladimir said. "I tell them, 'If you retire, you become an old man. If you don't retire, you are an old pro.' "