By Ron Seybold
Scary and sad things can happen deep in the night. I learned that in Switzerland and again in Texas, both sets of news that arrived deep in the fall of seasons 10 years apart. But for each bad report, there’s the prospect of better news for a season to come.
The first scary news arrived on a pay phone in a rail station. It was in a November night beyond 9 Central European Time, back in the days when Daylight Savings ended by October. I’d already thrilled to getting the news that the Yankees lost a World Series in a Game 7. That’s the kind of news that can cut both ways, but it would take me another decade to learn that lesson.
The news on that Swiss night was that HP wasn’t going to build any more HP 3000s in 24 months, that they believed everybody ought to get off the platform. That Unix was the best solution, or Windows, anything but what you knew, built your business around, slathered all over your future, your training and career. It was damp and cold on that railway platform hearing that news. My boy Nick and I were on our way uptown to Lausanne and dinner. The report from my partner Abby Lentz sapped my appetite. I did my best to explain to my son things were changing for my business, but it would be okay. Sometimes there are things you just have to say and wait for them to become true.
At no time that night did I ever believe there would be another decade of work on the HP 3000 for my family. Ten more years seemed impossible on that night, in that month, anytime over the next few years. It seemed as impossible as being unable to get one last called strike in a World Series, twice, 10 years later. That happened far into a dark and cold night, too. Past midnight in a cold, damp ballpark in St. Louis.
But for every leading home run that my Texas Rangers could hit in an epic Game 6, their opponents the home team Cardinals could avoid that last strike my guys needed to win their first Series, ever. Not even the extra innings “Roy Hobbs homer” from straight-edge hero Josh Hamilton, swung out over a sports hernia that required surgery, could power the Rangers into the champagne and champions’ ball caps. So in 11 innings, they — or sometimes we 40-year-fans of baseball, we say “we” — lost that chance to win.
But just like the HP 3000 community, those Rangers have not lost all chance ever to stay in the game.
Except in Texas in mid-November while I wrote, as the clock and calendar ticked over into November 14, it’s 70 degrees and the windows are wide open, even at 2 AM. Things are not what they used to be in our world. Summer brought 5 inches of rain here. Up north the blizzards were followed by floods. Sometimes doing this job means working until it’s already mid-morning in Europe. Like all of the 3000 veterans and experts who told me moving, fabulous November 14 stories, I’m just putting one verb in front of one noun, like they’ve put one consulting gig in front of one temporary contract. We’re all trying to stay active while we’re in the batter’s box, waiting on whatever pitch we will see next.
People still care about the HP 3000, even if they’ve left it behind for something mandated by management or dictated by datacenter needs. Phrases like “the machine I hold so dear” and “it’s still right at my side” are what flow from tales of how you’ve grown over the years. They’ve been hard years, in some places for some people, and they’ve also gotten people involved with new passions and lessons. Experts of 30 years of MPE say they’ve learned new tech like Ruby on Rails or open source security, and found it fun. My partner Abby, still dreaming up NewsWire concepts as publisher, gave birth to a yoga practice that’s produced two DVDs. Me, I learned to write and teach fiction, the drama of journalism grown richer, written to move the soul without excuses and no rebuttals. I always wanted to do that, and HP spurred me dig in and learn. The world I knew was changing, like yours. I had to add another dimension to my writing game.
It’s a lot like what those Rangers of mine face during these darker and cold off-season months. Josh’s hernia will heal, the young team will rest up after 178 games and come back with a new dimension: being just one last strike away from winning the last game of the season. And when spring arrives and weather warms to the desert we’ve come to expect in Texas, there will be a fresh chance to win. Like the new season for the 3000, building upon its community and its deep IT experience, and now with a new dimension of virtualized hardware and source code licensed to top support shops and developers.
When you’re only one strike away, you’re close, as close as I am to finishing that first novel of mine. Whether it’s playing with words, or balls and strikes, or the magic of computers built out of just bits on a disk, the next season, story or release brings more hope. After 16 years of playing on this newsletter’s field of dreams our sponsors and readers helped us build, Abby and I can be glad this stove remains hot, while we get another swing at our joyful pastimes. We’ll see you here in print again in February, when it will be time to start to play ball, buy an ebook of mine, and boot up a fresher future.