Why Your Life's Work Deserves Praise
Emulator stays on target, adds networking

Emulation key to any platform's survival

About halfway through the recent HP3000 Reunion, Roger Sinasohn came to me to describe his users group. It has been devoted to Atari game consoles and was once large enough to dominate a meeting space at Fort Mason, down at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sinasohn, a 3000 veteran, now meets in users' homes, but these users are still devoted. In this element, as well as another, the Atari user is a kindred spirit with HP 3000 managers. Emulators have been essential in extending the Atari experience, such as Stella, which runs on top of Windows, Mac and Linux.

Given enough time, all computer environments arrive at emulator futures. Sometimes the operating systems themselves emulate older functions. One of the miracles of the Apple renaissance was the introduction of OS X software, which somehow managed to run Motorola 68000 software atop the Unix core of the new OS. The HP 3000 had its own such miracle in 1987, when the CISC Classic MPE V applications were executed in Emulated Mode on the new PA-RISC hardware.

The rap on emulator choices from the past was performance. That's gone away by now, because moving an environment to a quick-growing OS like Ubuntu Linux -- the foundation for the CHARON HP 3000 emulator -- gives MPE an accelerating train of processor improvements to leap onto. Itanium won't leap like the Intel Xeon chips will. A $600 gaming machine already runs the fledgling CHARON as fast as an A400 HP 3000. That's in field beta test. Stromasys promises a 4x performance improvement in less than four months.

HP 3000 hardware and MPE experts believe in CHARON's emulation future. This year there were a lot more of them than could fit in any single home when the first HP 3000 Reunion took place. It's even possible that the Reunion could grow in size. After all, MPE is running businesses, not eradicating aliens like Atari did.

Terry Floyd, founder of the Support Group manufacturing and 3000 support firm, posted glowing comments about the future of CHARON in the CAMUS.org report of earlier this week.

It was amazing to learn that within a year, MANMAN (and everything else that runs on MPE/iX 7.5) will be running on Intel/AMD 64-bit machines. MPE Virtualization: what a home run! Dr. Robert Boers, who came all the way from Switzerland to give his speech, showed MPE/iX running on a small Linux PC costing about $600 and it is expected to run many times faster than on an HP 3000 A-Class machine. They also had it running on Craig Lalley’s laptop in the same room; he’s been consulting on this project, but now it’s open to any developer with a good reason to download it.

It was non-obvious to me that MPE would boot up in 2 or 3 minutes, mainly because all the memory, IO, and disc checking had been done by the underlying OS (Ubuntu Linux in this case), but also because of the PDC rewrite they must have done. No more watching all the dots and 1s, 2s, and 3s etc. going by on the console for 10 or 20 minutes (or longer on large-memory HP 3000 machines).

Later, in a more technical briefing at the Reunion's hotel, Floyd noted that all the right answers flowed from Boers.

It was like Christmas and Boers was Santa Claus (there is a slight resemblance). MPE booted on both the laptop and the little Stromasys server Dr. Boers carried under his arm on his flight from Europe. Fun was had; DEBUG was run; Glance worked in Block Mode! Stan Sieler asked if it crashed in all known ways -- and pointed out that if it didn’t, it wasn’t right yet.