COBOL You Know, vs. COBOL You Don't
HP insists emulator transfers be immediate

3000's cells seem simpler to retrained vets

PrisonWalter Murray was a veteran of 10 years' service in HP's language labs when he left the company in 2003. HP's writing was on the wall about all things MPE including the server's languages. Murray took an IT post at the California state prison system. But last month he left the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for another state agency job. The new work has led Murray into a genuine legacy cellblock: IBM's mainframes, the System Z and MVS.

Murray is a veteran of the 3000 from 1975 onward, but his newest job is in the world of systems which are even more established. "I'm spending a lot of time learning how to do all the things that were so easy in MPE," he said this week. In 25 years at HP,he worked on 3000 graphics software, the HP Toolset manufacturing development suite, 3000 millicode, HP COBOL and the C compiler and libraries at HP’s language labs. During the era when Hewlett-Packard was developing and improving compilers for the 3000, Murray was doing the engineering.

Murray signed on to enter a different, more complex world of data processing with IBM legacy iron. In the meantime, the 3000 platform is still working in what some might call cells at 33 prisons. About 40 HP 3000s still run at the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, which includes one A Class at each of the 33 state prisons, an N-Class at the central office, and a handful of test machines.

Another veteran of the 3000 checked in with us to report he's set a flight path for some of the newest computing, after the same length of journey in MPE. Paul Edwards has bought an iPad 3, a tool for heading back into the skies as a pilot at age 71. That iPad, Edwards' first Apple tool, is in his cockpit because it runs an application he needs. Even the BYOD marketplace follows the same attaction as the 3000s do -- it's the software.

It's been four decades since the veteran Edwards filed a flight plan or had to know the way into and out of US air territory. "Forty years later, it's a lot different air space," he said.

Edwards is retraining on the iPad as a user, but he's employing an app that tracks flight plans, airspace maps, fixed base operation providers and more. He's familiar with those elements as a pilot, and the iPad delivers newer technology than the paper-based maps and flight log books from his younger flying days.

He said it's a lot like that for 3000 users who may be training on newer technology: proven concepts like DP management and development, enabled on more prevalent technology. He went on to note a handful of clients in his IT community in Dallas who are making that move, including Club Technology (club billing) and MilesTek (electronics connectivity products).

"They're winding down and converting their stuff to Windows," he said of those companies, places where Edwards has helped with tools like Speedware and Suprtool. In particular, Club Technology was a great advocate for the 3000 technology while the systems were replacing computers the size and scale of those where Murray now works.

While legacy systems seem shackled compared to a 3000, both then and even now, it was the software delivered under MPE that made the difference, Murray said. "The most impressive thing about the 3000 was the bang for the buck, especially in terms of the compilers and IMAGE. We wrote our first online system in COBOL using KSAM, which was brand new, and DEL." He was proving that legacy technology of the mid-'70s had to give way to interactive 3000s. 

The first 3000 on which I programmed was a CX machine located at the HP Fullerton Sales Office, connecting via a 300 baud modem with an acoustic coupler. With that technology, my partner and I ran a number of benchmarks, demonstrated the feasibility of converting our existing applications (mostly COBOL) from a Honeywell system, and started exploring the world of online transaction processing.
Everything older can appear to be chained. But there are those 40-some 3000s still keeping the California prison system running for now. Some shackles, like Murray's new MVS job, have stability to call upon, too.