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TBT: The Legacy of 3000 Creators

Fred White and Ed SharpeIMAGE/3000 creator Fred White (left) and Ed Sharpe pose in 2004 with one of the earliest models of HP 3000 memory boards, at Sharpe's computer museum in Glendale, Ariz.

The creators of some of the 3000's earliest pieces are still with us, most of them. A notable exception is the legendary Fred White, pictured above in a photo taken from the years before his death in 2014. He's holding up his end of a memory board for an early-model 3000. The HP 2000 Access system behind him introduced many people to HP business systems, and they went on to become the computer's first wave of users.

Sharpe in 2014Holding the other side of the board is Ed Sharpe, who created and curated the first networking resource online devoted to the 3000, a bulletin board system he called The Forum. Throughout the first decade of the 3000's life, BBS communication was the only way to exchange information about MPE technical details other than attending user group meetings. HP did not launch its teleconference sessions, broadcast to customers through HP sales offices, until late in the 1980s.

The Forum earned the support of system managers reaching out to connect with each other. The character-based BBS interface was not much less sophisticated than the mailing-list-based HP3000-L of about a decade later. Downloads of contributed software were a big feature of the Forum. It connected users in an era when long-distance was still a serious business expense.

The biggest drawback to the Forum was the long distance charges for the users when downloading Forum CSL files! I am sure I caused some corporate phone bills to increase. Over in Europe, they had greater accessibility to X.25  at that time.

There was sport and fun on the Forum, too, much like the current-era's Friday Funnies from the 3000-L. "We had a total-weirdness chain story that everyone would add upon about Jo-EL, this man from another planet who presided over HP Labs (a tease at HP's Joel Birnbaum and riffing on Jor El from Superman). The thing went on forever, and we were all killing off each others' characters. and they would  come back to life  miraculously."

Sharpe created the Forum BBS using the only version of BASIC ever developed for MPE, BASIC/3000.

The marvels of early technology like that core memory are a part of Sharpe's passions. "We are basically holding 8K," he reports about that photo with White. "Core memory was wonderful though -- no battery back-up needed. You could go back a year later, turn it on, and there it was -- just as it was when you shut it down. This  board design was a single board compilation of the board set: Core, SSA and XYD that went into the HP 2100 computer. It was used in the HP 2000 F and HP 2000 Access system we had."

Ed and Series IISharpe kept track of the resources in one of the community's Contributed Software Libraries by way of a column in the HP Chronicle for five years. After retiring from The Computer Exchange, a computer retail and timesharing business in Phoenix, he opened up the Southwest Museum of Engineering, Computing and Communication. He's got a collection of vintage gear at the museum including that HP 2000 and gems like an HP 9845 workstation, the latter complete with built-in thermal printer and cassette tape-based storage.

Thanks to a donation from Keven Miller of 3K Ranger, the museum now has a Micro HP 3000. "We will continue to look for more parts to keep it supported into the future," Sharpe says. "We are still looking for a Series II, a Series III and a Series 30 -- and a CX or pre-CX 3000. (Yeah, I may be dreaming there...)"

He's still learning about the HP 3000, too. "I need to know, will the old BASIC 3000 interpreter and compiler from MPE IV run on MPE V?"