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Sparks powers down 3000, opens Windows

The president of the Connect user group and a veteran of 28 years on the HP 3000, Steve Davidek has announced that his employer, the City of Sparks, Nev., has taken its last HP 3000 application offline.

It is with extreme sadness that I inform you that the City of Sparks, Nevada has powered off our last HP 3000. The last payroll has been processed, the last report has been printed and all relevant data has been archived. This HP 3000 (a 969KS-220) went online September 22, 1996. Its last day of use was July 6, 2012. Powered down October 10, 2012.   

In all these years we only lost one power supply and one system board (lost when that power supply failed). Our first HP 3000 was installed in September 1980, a Series III. I'll miss this reliable and trustworthy system. My 28 years managing our HP3000s have been the best.

Sdavidek_grayThe cut-away from the 3000 began amid cutbacks at the city. Just before Sparks started cutting things it signed for a new financial system to get off the HP 3000. "Not that we wanted to, but we had to move forward," Davidek said nearly two years ago. He had been managing HP 3000s which were supposed to be offline in 2010, but homesteading has a way of occupying more of the future than companies expect.

For all of the devotion and experience Davidek admits for the 3000, it’s time for his shop — where he started as an operator and now manages a staff that handles hundreds of PCs and several dozen Windows servers — to move into the world of Windows.

Davidek has embraced change with a sense of humor about setbacks, and in our 2010 interview with him, he chuckled repeatedly while telling stories of revisions of management plans

We were supposed to be off the 3000 five years ago. We did another upgrade to our financials, Bi-Tech, something we’ve been running for 18 years. We realized after we got going that the system couldn’t handle the city’s finances.

Back then, the finance department decided they wanted a new system that didn’t involve IT. But what they picked out couldn’t handle the job of General Ledger. We ended up going back to the 3000 after being off it for a year with GL. It was still running payroll.

As HP was slowly ramping down, we realized that we needed a more modern system. Plus, finances are really important to the city. Bi-Tech quit developing on us 10 years ago. They were like others; if HP wasn't going to support the 3000, they weren’t going to move forward. 

The city's system to handle its courts was once running on a 3000, an in-house app launched in the late ‘70s. That 3000 was turned off in 2010. That year the city was accessing a 3000 "almost daily, just for history. They’ll do that until we’re off the 3000s totally, about 18 months from now," Davidek said.

I watched us go from terminals to where we are today. It’s moving forward, and you’ve got to keep moving forward. You can’t block modern technology just because it might be hard to manage. That’s always been my thing: what’s the next step that can make our jobs easier?

But even while the migration plans were at full throttle, Davidek was full of praise for the architecture and ability of the 3000s.

Let me tell you — you just can’t beat the way the HP 3000 runs. You can do so much more with the MPE operating system. It’s so much more robust than people ever realized.

But you can’t just keep looking at that. The city manager wants to use his iPad, connected to our network. We can’t just tell him no. We’ve got to look at the future, these handheld devices. You have to be able to look at your data from that level and at the desktop, laptops or whatever the next great thing is out there, but look at it securely.

The 2010 plan was to leave the 3000 connected for historic lookups, but the hardware hasn't been very cool about that idea. "We thought the 3000 would just be sitting here for history until we didn't legally have to keep the data around," he said. "We were hoping to do that, but the box itself is making this difficult as it keeps overheating." The 3000 data has now been copied to an SQL database and inquiries have been written to access the data.