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HP hardware: bargain, but needed now?

Why There are Always Parts Available

N-Class 220Last week on the 3000 newsgroup, HP hardware supplier Cypress Technology was offering an N-Class HP 3000 for $1,800. Cypress was even including an option to custom-configure the server at that price. The 3000 was selling without a license that could be transferred. But even this kind of investment would make an adequate disaster recovery system, given that it has a copy of MPE/iX already loaded on it. Even more useful would be the parts from the server -- a value at $1,800.

The Cypress box is a single 220MHz CPU with a 1.5Mb cache, 4GB total memory, a 9GB boot disk drive (how quaint; just a bit larger than a $7 thumb drive of today) and a 147GB main storage disk drive.

Hewlett-Packard once told the 3000 community that the vendor could provide custom legacy support through 2010, but the offering would depend on parts availability and the age of the HP 3000. But older systems might have parts which are no longer on the HP warehouse shelves.

But no matter how old the HP 3000 might be in your shop, you can be reasonably sure that spare parts will not prevent you from keeping it working. Five years ago this month, Wyell Grunwald offered a "practically free" HP 3000 on that same 3000 newsgroup. All that Grunwald wanted was the cost of shipping to send the 200-pound server onto its new home.

After one quip about this early '90s server making a good bookend, another community member said they could use the system for parts. Imagine, an HP 3000 PA-RISC server built in 1990 — yes, 23 years ago — still has parts available in your community.

The key word in that last sentence is community. Even when HP runs out of HP 3000 parts, the community can carry on the supply. This group got a lot of longevity when it invested in the HP 3000, as well as durability. The word "tank" is part of Grunwald's 922 description.

You can't overlook how underpowered the Series 922 is compared to any other HP 3000. After all, the entire PA-RISC line only started to ship in 1987, and only in significant numbers a couple of years later. Code-named SilverFox Low at its introduction, that Series 922 was a very early model 3000, just three systems off the start of the PA-RISC line.

The harsh numbers: This HP 3000 has just five percent of the horsepower of the smallest Series 979 or HP's smallest N-Class server. And now, there's an N-Class out on the used market, selling for less than a beefy laptop, albeit without license.

While you would not want to carry a lot of computing on a swaybacked steed of a 922, the fact that it remained a parts repository 18 years after it was built might give a homesteader some comfort. HP warned everyone starting out in 2001 that 3000 parts were going to become scarce in five years' time. So long as your community stays connected and communicating, the Hewlett-Packard support expertise in MPE is likely to get scarce long before many 3000 parts disappear altogether.