Charon: Think of it as a 3000 upgrade
Advice on reductions helps manage risk

CHARON sets 3000's future

Editor's note: ScreenJet founder Alan Yeo attended the recent Stromasys briefing in Europe, where the company introduced and illuminated its HP 3000 emulator CHARON HPA/3000. Yeo has already covered the spirit and intention of the briefing, as well as the frank examination of the product's prospects. He also points out that the emulator's tech magic does not make it a direct store/restore 3000 replacement. But in his summary, Yeo says the solution is supplying a future for the 3000.

By Alan Yeo

Third of three parts

Print-ExclusiveIf you're adopting the Stromasys CHARON HPA emulator for your 3000 operations, you are going to have to do some serious planning on what does and doesn't get moved from your old environment. For example, on the peripheral side: DDS tapes? I don't think so! Your smart new Intel-based hardware isn't going to allow you to plug in that old DDS drive that you rely on for your backups. [Ed. note: In an update, Stromasys CHARON manager Paul Taffel begs to differ. The company also believes DTCs can be integrated, but it is waiting for a freeware customer to test that theory.] What's more, I think the jury is out on DTCs, as serial terminals and printers don't exactly fit with a modern Intel/Linux environment.

So if you're not already doing it, you are going to need to look at configuring and modifying your new HP 3000 environment to use things like Network Attached Storage (NAS) and networked printer devices. All of this may require an advanced level of expertise to configure.

Another important point made at the European event in Frankfurt was that Stromasys are logically supplying a new PA-RISC server (albeit emulated in software) when you purchase CHARON-HPA. They don't "do" MPE/iX, or third party utilities, and they don't sort out your software licensing for you, or know how to install or upgrade it. That is up to you to organise. Stromasys do not intend to become your support organisation for MPE/iX, Intel hardware, or Linux software issues.

I just mentioned Linux, which is a prompt to clarify an issue regarding the CHARON-HPA emulator. Whilst the Stromasys emulators for other platforms can run on Windows and Linux hosts, the HP 3000 emulator is only going to run on Linux. The only exception to this is the free/hobbyist edition that ships with a copy of VMWare Player and can be installed under Windows. As I understand it, there is no plan for a production Windows version, so I think that is a marker that Windows is itself now regarded as "Legacy."

My conclusion is that Stromasys have done an excellent job, and that their current pricing looks fair. 


They are certainly not giving HP 3000 users a get out of jail free card by giving it away. If you're using old HP 3000 hardware and versions of MPE/iX, then the upgrade to a modern CHARON-HPA/3000 server should be no more effort or cost than you would have incurred upgrading to the appropriate A- or N-Class HP 3000 (if they were still available). 

I think the free personal 2-user edition is going to be of great service to the HP 3000 community, as it will enable a large group of people to still keep their hands on an HP 3000 — so they will still be available to provide support into the future.

Times they are a-changing 

It's perhaps apt to compare this event in Frankfurt with the Ratingen event some nine years earlier, and realise how much has changed, and how much hasn't. Nine years ago if you read the Ratingen review, we got lost and drove around in circles. Today everybody has satellite nav, and probably on their iPhone, smartphone or tablet, none of which existed nine years ago. Nine years ago HP had a large support organisation at Ratingen and a huge production and software centre at Böblingen near Frankfurt. It's now all gone! Just shut down, or outsourced to Poland and Bulgaria.

Nine years ago HP was a big company in Germany; now it's just a few sales offices. Nine years ago there were a bunch of people in Ratingen wondering what the future of the HP 3000 was. On our February night in Frankfurt we finally got the answer: Hello CHARON!

As a final note, I did go back and read my old Ratingen piece from 2004. I'd concluded with "The meeting closed with the normal good-byes — but there was more than a sense that the paths of many of us, which had crossed if only infrequently over the last decades, might not intersect again as we set off in new directions." This has proved unhappily true. However, the upside of the Stromasys event was that as we departed, with freeware copies of an HP 3000 on a CD in our bags, I had the feeling that this time many of us expected to meet again in the future. 

By the way, for those of you wondering why the Stromasys emulators are called CHARON: the legendary Charon is the ferryman over the river Styx, carrying you from your old life to the next. I'll leave it to your investigation to work out how Stromasys is derived from that legend.

Alan Yeo is founder of ScreenJet, a vendor in the 3000 community that supplies migration and modernization software for MPE/iX solutions — as well as the organizer of two 3000 HP 3000 Community Meets and the HP3000 Reunion.