Addresses, personalities change, not souls
Prospects for Hot-Plugging HP 3000 Disks

Personality resides in hardware, not MPE

Print-ExclusiveIt’s easy to think of technology like MPE as something that can be changed, like a personality. The Gartner Group calls operating environments like MPE and Unix personalities these days. Not as important as it once was in IT planning, that personality — this is what we’re told.

A personality is certainly more readily changed, like an address in a new neighborhood, or the paint on the curb at my son Nick’s new house. Fans of Louisiana State lived there, so there’s a purple rectangle on the curb with LSU next to the house number. It will probably become a rectangle of Cowboys blue before football season ends. 

Your MPE, your computing soul, is getting a new address this year and for the years to come. That soul will live in a new address, at the curb of the hardware house of Intel. Nothing will be the same in this virtualized computer’s world except its soul. People have come to call this server of yours an HP 3000, but it’s really an MPE system. Memory, CPUs, motherboards, storage, power supplies, networking — every part of it has changed over the 29 years I’ve observed. Except that soul.

MPE has been that constant observer of the family of applications, making a company buzz like grandparents in a summertime pool, both of us catching a boy who leaps into their arms. That boy was Nick, two decades ago. Now it’s his son we catch. The act of catching, cradling accomplishments over decades — that’s the soul of a family.

It’s tempting to believe that the richness in that accomplishment is something you’d retain while changing a computing personality. Like gifts of wiring database-handling into filesystem commands — an old soul trait in computing — might be enjoyed with less-integrated choices. I believe the 3000’s soul is important, just like I believe its hardware is the personality and body that changes all the time. People cherish MPE servers. Being cherished means going beyond reason to revere all that brought you together.

The sun poured through the many windows at Nick’s new house this afternoon as we built a dining room table and chairs, then hung an IKEA silver-framed mirror on the wall alongside that table. Outside, there was a screech owl house tacked up on the big oak, a tree nestled in a patch of jasmine. All so different than his box of an apartment where I helped him move a futon up three flights as a young man.

A family makes a home, while an address just makes a house. MPE made a 3000, while hardware makes a computer.

I was missing my own house before too long tonight, but I was really missing the soul makes it my home — my wife Abby, the G’ma to go with my own role as G’pa. A user who chooses an emulator seeks a virtual home to cherish their very real, very unbreakable MPE soul.

The natural state of every computer system is virtualization. Being cherished, that’s something you cannot virtualize like you change hardware personality. Like the Skin Horse in The Velveteen Rabbit, only the love of an owner can make software like MPE that becomes Real. The Skin Horse said about the soul of that becoming Real, “it 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.”