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What Else Everyone is Doing These Days

Multifaceted-150x150Multi-tasking has been debunked, but a multi-faceted career is common in your 3000 community. We used to think we could work on several things at once. Now it's obvious that what we really need to do is work at something else, even while we all take care of the partner who brought us to the computer dance.

Take Birket Foster, for example. One of the best-known 3000 community members, he has been chairman and director of Storm Internet Services since 2003. The wireless Internet company serves customers in rural and outlying areas of Eastern Ontario. Not a small venture, either, but one built upon HP 3000 success. A recent article in the Eastern Ontario AgriNews took note of Storm's latest "freestanding wireless tower and company support centre, [raised up] on the grounds of his longtime software business on Main Street in Chesterville."

No MB Foster Associates, no Storm. The wireless venture grew up during the transition era for the 3000. This is what I mean by the "else" much of the community does. Take Richard Corn, who created the ESPUL and NP92 printing utilities for MPE, all the way back to the Classic 3000 days. Rich, a charter supporter of the Newswire, is also selling Cloud Print for Windows software today. Again, no RACC, no Software Devices LLC, where that Windows software is developed and sold. He's still supporting ESPUL, by the way.

I could include myself in the What Else Workers. My partner Abby and I established the Newswire when most people knew her as Dottie Lentz, and for years we did nothing else but 3000 information services. From the days of her Bolt Bucks giveaways at HP World conferences, we've evolved into additional ventures. My own What Else is The Writer's Workshop, where writers who range from fledglings to published novelists gather Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays and by appointment to learn and practice storytelling. They finish novels like Danuta or Lay Death at Her Door. I finished my novel Viral Times during the transition era. Without missing a day of the 3000 news from our current times, I could re-engage my fundamental skills and desire: storytelling and writing. I strut my stuff on The Write Stuff and Twitter about storytelling at @ronseybold.

Does the 3000 community suffer from the What Else work? It depends on your perspective and role. Did you sell HP 3000s and create them, or launch new customers with your applications? Adding a facet to those jobs might be at the 3000's expense. Ecometry cast away its 3000 aspirations -- although it supports several dozen MPE sites -- to create a Windows multichannel commerce version of what was once known as MACS/3000, built by Alan Gardner and partner Will Smith. Gardner and Smith never get to sell off the company for millions unless they've built up more than 300 customers using their software.

Alas, no new Ecometry sites today, but Robelle is among the companies still supporting the 3000 version of the software. Its website tells the Ecometry user "you are already a Robelle customer, even if you don't realize it, since the Ecometry application uses Robelle's Suprtool to speed up data access." For more than a decade Robelle has sold HP-UX versions of Suprtool, and even more lately, a Linux version. Not exactly a What Else, just another facet. But when we speak of Robelle, we must make a transition in this What Else tale to those who continue to dedicate themselves to the 3000. They've chosen no sort of What Else, often for reasons of strict technical focus.

Adager and VEsoft lead the way in omnipresent vendors with an MPE-only focus. What they're doing works at such a fundamental level of the 3000 that it demands full-time attention. Alan Yeo is also dedicated to the HP 3000 -- in its migrations as well as support of 3000 clients -- at ScreenJet. Pivital Solutions is an all-3000 venture, and using its dedicated focus leads to satisfied support clients. Customers are also happy at Allegro Consultants and Beechglen. Both of those support providers serve as many or more non-3000 sites today. Allegro's What Else is creating iOS applications, some that interact with HP 3000s as well as Linux and Unix servers. And if your name is the MPE Support Group, your focus is pretty clear.

Meanwhile, the Support Group serves MANMAN sites with ERP needs at the same time that it created partner Entsgo, an HP, IBM, IFS, and Openbravo solutions partner. If you haven't heard of Openbravo, you might not be aware that it's "professional open source solutions for business, offering the industry's first real alternative to proprietary enterprise software." And the Support Group is keen on Kenandy Cloud ERP, another solution related to the 3000, but evolved beyond it. Kenandy is built on the ASK Software foundations of Sandy Kurtzing. Before she became Kenandy CEO, she and her partners were working in kitchens with 3000s hooked to acoustical couplers in the 1970s, growing up MANMAN, and therefore the 3000's manufacturing heartland.

And the individuals? Jeff Vance is one of the best-known names in the world with 3000 excellence in his CV. Vance left the HP 3000 lab to join K-12 app provider QSS, a move to drive that ISV into the Linux application marketplace. Not so long ago Vance left QSS to work at Red Hat, pretty much where Linux grew up into a commercial solution.

Again, no MPE lab, no chance to work at the company whose environment will replace HP's Unix. Vance has taken the kind of What Else that becomes All Else, since his days of MPE UDC and utility development are done. Michael Berkowitz was our first paying subscriber to the Newswire, but long after Guess Jeans turned off its 3000 and turned him to other technical work elsewhere, Michael still keeps an eye on 3000 people through the community's 3000-L mail list.

Today he reported on some of the other HP lab experts gone elsewhere. Visiting Vance's LinkedIn page, Berkowitz notes

So I go to the webpage, find that he's working for Red Hat, but also notice the "people also viewed" column on the far right.  Lots of names from the past.

Mike Paivinen
Scott McClellan
Becky McBride
Craig Fairchild
Steve Macsisak
Stephen Watt

Of that group, including Jeff, only two (Becky and Craig) are at HP, the company they might have thought they'd be employed for life.

Fair enough, but HP's been shedding tens of thousands of good people for the entire period of the 3000's transition. Walter Murray went from the HP Langauges Lab to the California Corrections organization. Now he's in an All Else post, managing IBM mainframes there. As a What Else fellow, former HP Support Escalation expert Bob Chase is now at SMS, where his clients include Unix and Linux enterprise managers.

There are others, many others -- maybe the majority of community keystones -- who do a What Else today. Look around to see Fresche Legacy transforming legacy environments in the AS/400 community. Even while it's got its Speedware roots dug in at application support engagements for 3000s, and employing a surprising number of MPE veterans. Applied Technologies, a company building its engagements around open source software to help companies using 3000s, as well as those that do not. 

Of course, there's the biggest debutante of the 3000 ball, Stromasys and its virtualization emulator. This company started up serving the Digital world with Charon and continues to do so. They've added the 3000 to their facets -- and so in a rare turn, Charon PA-RISC servers became a What Else for that vendor.

This is the way of our 2013 working world. We go on to something Else, because of what created our expertise, whether it's What Else or All Else. But the 3000 remains essential to success in multiple facets or in new gems of careers. Charles Finley, once one of the stoutest 3000 resellers from his Southern California Conam base where he grew SCRUG into a user group force, commented on Berkowitz's inventory of who's gone from HP.

I'd like to give Finley, now going after transitions at Transformix, the last word -- but first say this: everybody is doing what it takes to stay busy with what's needed. And the HP 3000 is so solid that it is, as the Skin Horse said in The Velveteen Rabbit, a computer that's Real. "Becoming Real takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept." Much of the 3000's ability to make room for What Else is because it does not break easily.

Finley has it right about what makes everyone who still knows the 3000 well someone who's very Real. It's all about the relationships, the wellsprings of the computer's stories.

Those, admittedly competent, HP people only represent an era in which there was a substantial connection between HP and its loyal installed base. That was not valued by some people in power at the time. Therefore, they dismantled it. What I also believe to be true is that it is unlikely that they at HP can ever get it or anything like it back, even if someone was empowered to try. 

I would venture to guess that those same people are doing a great job at their current employer because that's the kind of people they are. However, I would also guess that it is not likely that their current employer, unless it is some subset of IBM, has a similar relationship with their installed base that HP once had.