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Legacy line means servers sing low notes

Orchestra Last week the Cleveland Orchestra offered its mothballed HP 3000 to the community. This non-profit group had been using 3000s since the 1980s, so its Series 987 probably still seemed relatively new, even in the back-end of the '90s when the N-Class 3000s were on the horizon. The system manager David Vivino only wanted a good home for the beast, which is why he posted his note with the subject line "HELLO HP3000.PLEASE/TAKEME."

The Orchestra has gone on to a newer movement for its patrons, making the transformation from the PACT/iX application to Windows-based Tessitura. PACT/iX, at its peak in those late 90s, was used by 38 symphonies, operas, ballets and arts organizations starting with the Dallas Opera in 1983, a user base that included ballets and symphonies in San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, New York, Phoenix and Baltimore, as well as the Cleveland organization.

"Most all of the performing arts people have transitioned to Tessitura, a SQL based product that combines ticketing, fundraising, and marketing into one common database," Vivino said. "We moved there in 2006. PACT was in place since the '80s, I believe. Yes, we made code changes ourselves, but never really needed to adjust the core system."

An Ohio-based services company gave this 987 a new home, perhaps as a parts repository. Sustaining a 3000 until it's the right time to transition can mean buying backup systems. But sticking with a legacy can mean the hardware is nearly free. This is the second 987 that has been sold for a song. But hardware is only note to juggle to sustain a legacy.

An earlier blow to the PACT user base helped to kick some servers off their chairs. PACT/iX was created by Gary Biggs' Performing Technologies and eventually sold to Joe Geiser, whose name and writing can be found in our NewsWire editions of the 1990s. PACT never got the enhancements that some arts companies had funded, so eventually software support and enhancement fell to shops like Vivino's. Coupled with HP's exit from the 3000 market -- at first set for 2006 -- these dance, music and performing arts dropped their 3000s like a duet partner who couldn't hit the high notes anymore.

From one company's decision to transition, however, flows another's resource to sustain their 3000s. A Series 987 weighs several hundred pounds, so nobody was going to pay to ship a server that was not being built by Y2K. But it was perfect for a pickup truck transfer, so Sherlock Services snagged a server that cost at least $120,000, logging a new record discount. Back in 2006 a Series 987 sold for $255 on auction out of a Texas school district.

We calculated the 987's "legacy discount" back then at 99.8 percent. A customer would've paid $138,320 for a a 987RX in October 1993, a box which included a whopping 64MB of memory, a 100-user MPE/iX license and a full 1GB of disk. Even at the usual 10-20 percent discount of the '90s, this was easily a $120,000 system when sold new.

There are businesses still running such 9x7 servers with HP's support long gone, thanks to independent firms like Sherlock. But every one of them needs a plan and purchasing to sustain 3000s, if they're not ready to transition. Sustain, or transition: neither of these are free. It's comforting to know that the 3000 community is deep enough, and connected enough, that this 17-year-old system still can find a home -- so close by that the new owners can arrange a transition by truck.