By Ron Seybold
I whiled away hours on the streets of Austin a few weeks ago, waiting to take a place in the dark. The Austin Film Festival was rolling, celebrating its 20th Anniversary with nine days of movies. Anniversaries usually prompt memories. We tell stories of how things used to be in our lives, partly to mark how far we’ve travelled, along with how far we’ve grown.
We don’t like to think about growing older. Not most of us, not when we have to lace on our shoes with extra thick soles like I did to stand on a Congress Avenue concrete sidewalk, waiting for the newest Coen Brothers film to unreel at the gaudy, throwback Paramount Theatre. I stood beside a woman who’d been setting sound stages with props for several decades. She talked for more than an hour about how Bruce Willis loved the tacky statue she chose for Armageddon, loved it so much he bought it after the movie wrapped. I heard that story four times in about 90 minutes.
Some of our readers might feel the same way about the annual November Nightmare story I write, recalling the tacky HP business deke on 3000 owners. It changed all of our lives, though, so it merits its testimony. But as I’ve promised in my last paragraph of this year’s edition of the Nightmare, this year is the last time I’ll tell that story. Everybody knows the Titanic goes down at the end of that North Atlantic voyage. The story we don’t know is how the survivors’ lives went on. Most of all, we want to know what they did next. How did the disaster affect them?
But after all, we were surprised we’d made most of the way through 2001 on her dream of serving news about a computer that everyone said was dead in 1995. We got six swelling, hot-growth years out of the gamble. But then another 12, as of this fall, serving news about the survivors, even how to survive, as well as chronicles of the casualties.
Others who were surprised were competitors. HP’s competitors at IBM, who figured on sweeping up plenty of 3000 customers, but that didn’t happen. The 3000’s competitors at HP, who figured on gathering nearly all of the market into Unix folds. Again, didn’t happen. Customers were now free to choose anything, because everything was a struggle. Swimming toward the Unix lifeboats, the ones with the high gunwales painted with the same vendor colors as the scuttled cruise liner — well, that looked less fruitful than letting their Windows ships hold more business passengers.
HP was also surprised that so many 3000 owners went noplace for years, despite a deadline that should’ve made everyone leap into seas of change. Even our competitors we faced at the Newswire surprised us, by leaving us last standing in the HP-only news business. Good man Tim Cullis at HP User in the UK, the Interex volunteers and allies like Chuck Piercey and his HP World. Also, HP Professional and its magazine mavens. All gone away, gone to good grass pasture, or gone under. We didn’t figure we’d be here, left to turn out the lights on whatever day that finale appears. We’re not eager for the dark.
But many of us crave the dark when there's a great story waiting inside it -- like when we sit in front of a movie screen.