Programming Note: Holiday at Hand
Coding, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll

Experience a future of corrections, together

On the front page of our latest printed issue, now arriving, we've reported on a snarl that sprang up when Stromasys tried to give away HP 3000s over the Web. Not the actual hardware instances of the 3000, of course. These were the 2-user freeware emulators you will be able to download and install onto commodity computers.

The emulator itself is getting strong reviews for its capability. We'll have a report in full from the first production site soon, once our paper subscribers enjoy it first. However, a file full of HP's add-on subsystem software got slipped into the first zipped package, a mistake that didn't seem to meet Stromasys standards to introduce this virtual 3000's licensing strategy.

The calamity was held in check by the Internet. In the days before the Web, when we had only paper and land line phones and a fax machine, plus the delivery of the mails, this might have been a lengthy crisis. To start, thousands of customers would have had the incorrect bundle, not just the handful who downloaded that too-bundled Stromasys package over 24 hours, before it was withdrawn.

The postal mailboxes would have been full of DAT tapes, or even 9-track reels: the small ones which indie software vendors shipped out. You'd be expected to destroy those tapes and wait on the postman to deliver something a vendor had to re-manufacture, both in the coding sense as well as the writing of bits onto mylar sense. It might have taken weeks.

But now that it's nearly 2013, this kind of snarl becomes a bump in the road. A better version of the emulator freeware is being coded. And it may even be downloadable before our paper issue arrives in all mailboxes. We finished this issue's writing on a Wednesday. Less than seven days later, we were in print. The Personal Freeware version of the emulator will enjoy a uniform delivery schedule, a soon to South Asia as to South Dakota.

Mistakes are a part of creating and learning, but the correction time has been reduced because we're so much better connected.

The curve of connection keeps bending us together. During our last US election the thrum of Twitter was only starting to mount. The newly elected President Tweeted, while his opponent had to yank down a transition website which appeared online, even before all the votes had been counted.

And even though that website was only up for a matter of minutes, it was captured so everyone could connect with the details of the story, re-reported and trumped and harrumphed and spun. All within a few hours.

Where does an HP 3000 stand in such a connected world? I would offer it a position of honor and grace, since it still holds the answers to questions which are asked over the Web. In a little while, new software will let handheld iOS devices monitor the status of HP 3000s. That will mean that the iPad Mini which came to my door this month, earlier than expected, could be carried easily in one hand to track the status of a computer conceived in the late 1960s. We once couldn't hold a console for the 3000, even with two hands, unless we lifted weights at the gym. From 70-plus pounds to 7.9 inches and a matter of grams, we're reducing while we're better connecting.

There must be something we read in our DNA that keeps us linking more closely. I like to believe that it's represented in A Machine with an Old Soul, my prospective title for the book that will flow from the 3000 Memoir Project. Your computer family was created to remember what's important. Connecting that data in every way possible, safely, just improves its powers to bring us together. Like on that special Tuesday evening this month in the US, we experienced our future together, and all at once. Anything that aids the art of community is worth preserving.

-- Ron Seybold