HP relents, aims Unix sites at x86 futures
3000 team awaits one last strike, next year

Making it Easier, One Decade Later

Print-ExclusiveThe tools of my trade have come a long way in a decade of work, just as yours have in computing. Actually, there's an intersection there between us, since the tools of computing have changed the way I can tell stories. Journalism is sometimes called literature in a hurry, and there's nothing like the rush of big news to put a scribbler in a rush.

That's what was happening in November, 2001, when I got my rock-your-world report from my partner Abby about our newsletter and the HP 3000 and the future of both. We knew HP's future in the 3000 that night, when it was likely to wind down and how serious they were about ending it. We also knew there was another side of the story to tell about the community that the vendor was leaving. HP was already at work telling their tales about migration and a declining ecosystem. We had to get busy to catch up.

It all seems so antique now. The long ride on the train with an open notebook on the Eurostar table, writing out question after question. Getting a hotel with a good phone system booked in London, for HP had promised a con-call to brief me less than a week before they'd tell customers. Shopping for a portable cassette tape recorder, plus an acoustic mic pickup, to make recorded notes for such a crucial story.

Then afterward, at 8 PM Euro time, when it was just lunch in California, I trek off to the EasyNet Internet Cafe. A spot that any tourist or pilgrim could use the Internet to write stories I would email to Abby, via AOL, so she could set them in print for our newsletter. We'd held the presses, yup, and it all depended on how fast I could get quotes out of that tape recorder and its cheap earphone, writing up the news I'd heard, and then another piece on what I thought it meant.

I got lucky that night. There was a problem with the Cafe's billing, so everybody's Internet time was free. It was one less thing to think about, so I could let the muse lead me to call the non-migrators "homesteaders." When you create something that's swell and durable, you must thank the gods for good fortune that rewards the practice your craft.

You've probably felt that kind of luck in creating something during your careers -- that insight that turned out to be right and make the whole program run without any error on the compile, or the magic of making connections between two things the makers never intended to work together. You try to remember how it felt, because you want to believe in the luck for the next time you're batting at the keys in cafe where it's about to snow outside and you're not dressed for it.

Skip ahead 10 years, and you don't worry about which COBOL to use or whether that's the right SCSI cable and terminator. Or if you've got time on the Internet or the hours to skim through tape for one quote. As I tapped out a blog story about the great Steve Jobs, how he admired Hewlett and Packard, and stop that HP PC snickering, he said very near his own demise. They built a company with a legacy, and he wants that for Apple.

I'm right in the middle of this, when HP calls a pop press conference with its new CEO. Decides that PCs are still its game. I listen right along with every other business writer, get a story posted online along with the Merc in San Jose and the Journal. Just luck along with tools that make stories leap through time, another kind of Easy Net. Thanks for the work you've done over the last 10 years in your industry. It's making it easy.