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Celebrate net printing's anniversary: use it

Seven years ago this week HP's 3000 lab engineers announced that networked printing was ready for beta testing. This was one of the last enhancements first demanded by a wide swath of the 3000 community, then delivered by HP. The venerable Systems Improvement Ballot of 2004 ranked networked printing No. 1 among users' needs.

MPEMXU1A is the patch that enables networked printing, pushed into General Release in Fall, 2005. HP had given the community a OS-level substitute for good third party software from RAC Consulting. It might have been the last time that an independent software tool got nudged away by HP development.

The HP 3000 has the ability to send jobs to non-HP printers over a standard network as a result of the enhancement. The RAC third party package ties printers to 3000 with fewer blind spots than the MPEMXU1A patch. HP's offering won't let Windows-hosted printers participate in the 3000 network printing enhancement. There's a Windows-only, server-based net printing driver by now, of course. The HP Universal Print Driver Series for Windows embraces Windows Server 2008 and 2003.

Networked printing for MPE/iX had the last classic life that we can recall for a 3000 enhancement. The engineering was ready to test less than a year after the request. This software moved out of beta test by November, a relatively brief 5-month jaunt to general release. If you're homesteading on 3000s, and you don't need PCL sequences at the beginning and end of a spool file, you should use it. Commemorate the era when the system's creator was at least building best-effort improvements.

MPE/iX 6.5 was still being patched when networked printing rolled out. That's a release still in steady use at some homesteading shops. Plenty of later patches were only created and tested for the 7.0 and 7.5 PowerPatch kits.

Deep inside the Internet somewhere is a white paper that HP's Jeff Vance wrote, a guide he called "Communicator-like" after the classic HP technical documents. HP's pulled off its Jazz repository of tech papers where NWPrinting.html once was available. Our open source software expert Brian Edminster tracked down that gem at the Client Systems website -- the company was one of two which licensed HP's tech papers. But you could check in with your independent support provider, to see if they've got it.

Networked printing was never as comprehensive as indie solutions for the 3000, but at least it was delivered on the OS level via patches. The vendor warned that adding new printers was going to be an uneven process.

HP will support this enhancement on a “best-effort” basis, meaning we will attempt to duplicate and resolve specific spooler problems -- but we cannot guarantee that all ASCII based printers are supported by this enhancement.

While that might sound like a show-stopper seven years later, you'd be surprised how many printers of that era are still attached at homesteading 3000 sites.

Where do you get the patch? That's where HP's still doing its work. The MPE/iX patches were given special dispensation from the pay-for-patches edict of 2010. They're still free by calling HP. The printer and MPE might seem like old technology. But HP's still using telephones to deliver them, so there's that throwback.