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Staying in Orbit of 3000's Spoken Stories

Editorial-IconI've been lucky to see enough 3000 transitions that I can record many of those stories. I turned 55 this spring and have spent half my life writing about the HP 3000. It's been one of the greatest pleasures to continue to be able to take telephone calls. You're a community that still enjoying speaking its stories.

Phones were all we had while I grew up with your issues, all tied to a single vendor, while the 3000 market sported a thick catalog of third-party software. Today the stories might come from cell phones, or via Skype, but the calls still transmit a warmth that reminds me of why I do this work. The people, the stories, and finally, the history to be written. I won't be calling it a history, but there's a biography of the HP 3000 coming late this year. Your stories are most welcome, looking back at what launched the 3000.

It's said that life must be lived forward but understood backward. Living into the afterlife makes such understanding crucial -- and sometimes darkly comic, too. The Cloud is just a newer, deeper incarnation of timesharing, Application Service Providers, even Infrastructure as a Service. You're skeptical about its security. You should be, without the belt and suspenders practices that made your generation of IT management legendary. A hair-raising story of six years of email, erased by a hacker from Google's Gmail cloud, will have you resetting passwords and doing more backups. Especially for the cloud.

But you've always been told you could do with less metal boxes, fans, spinning platters and files inside your company's buildings. Given enough time it might turn out to be true. The technology of virtualized computers will also require a migration of sorts -- the testing of MPE software against a host not built by HP. But it will be simpler than Y2K, much simpler than migrating to a new OS or apps. But 2012 is a learning year for this emulator, education to the community and maybe with some lessons on what price will reduce time to close sales.

A member of the Colonial Congress said that time is at once the most valuable and perishable of all possessions. A phone call is made up of precious little but time. Nothing there to be mislaid, broken or tarnished. At least once a week this spring, during the fledgling months after my novel had sailed into the world, I've gotten a call from one of the eldest members of your community. He was an early reader of the novel who corrected small typos, plus called to talk about correcting MPE calendars, the rate at which we are all dying, even details of languages used in stories or on computers. After each call, I hang up my phone with a sense of remaining connected to the past -- and a little more hopeful about this system's afterlife.

One great story I heard this spring involves drawing circles, the shapes which represent what we know inside, then what we don't know outside. The wider anyone's circle inside grows, the longer the path around it, a track that can show what we don't know. If that circle of knowledge is small, we're less aware of what we don't know. The tiniest circle is a point -- so those who know nothing think there's nothing more to learn.

Instead of a small archival MPE system, you could consider your 3000 as an expanding point of reference. If it turns out to be a point of reverence, too, that can help ensure that your circle keeps expanding.