About five years after Hewlett-Packard stopped building the 3000, another legend ended its sales. Hydrox, the original sandwich cookie and the snack that Oreo copied and knocked off in 1908, fell off the world's grocery orders in 2008. Sometime tomorrow morning, Hydrox Cookies will arrive at ardent fans' doors and mailboxes.
This resurrection of a beloved cookie has several things in common with MPE systems of the past. At the heart of each revival is a belief that a better-known product is not necessarily better. That, plus a devotion to research that any return to sales demands. Some 3000 owners believed, from 2004 up to the year Hydrox left the market, that HP would return to 3000 sales. By 2010 there were few who retained such hopes — but by that year a better 3000 was already in development.
Like MPE users, Hydrox consumers know their cookie is superior to something better-known: the Oreo. Leaf Brands made tomorrow's return possible by rescuing the Hydrox trademark from disuse by Kellog's. The cereal company was the last firm to make a Hydrox, but by the end the cookies were being baked using high fructose corn syrup instead of genuine sugar. Unlike Oreos, though, the first ingredient in a Hydrox is flour, not sugar.
Hewlett-Packard never tinkered with the composition of MPE/iX or the 3000 hardware at the end of its HP lifespan. But the company has transferred its "HP3000" trademark to a VPN server appliance series. A set of HP inkjet printers called the 3000 has also been on the product list since the last HP 3000 rolled off the line in 2003. HP has not abandoned that trademark, but the server's owners haven't dropped their devotion to the product, either. Like the Hydrox fanatics, some 3000 users look forward to a return of MPE-capable systems.
It's like making a new cookie from an original recipe: new MPE boxes have growth options. And like Hydrox, you purchase them in different ways today.
Today you purchase a new 3000 through any high-end Intel server supplier. As of this week, you buy boxes of Hydrox from Amazon, but the distribution chain will widen, say the new makers of the cookie.
What the sandwich cookie world had been left with, after the Hydrox exit, were a dozen brands of Oreos, from Double and Ultra Stuff, to Thins, to mint and peanut butter stuffings. Key lime Oreos were an improvement to the sandwich cookie world, yes. Likewise, the 3000 replacement markets have a wider array of tastes because of much-improved Linux options, and the scope of Windows and Unix choices alone outnumbers even the Oreos products.
Over the last 12 years we'd sometimes receive a message or query about the prospect of taking back the 3000 brand and legacy from the hands of HP. By this year, there were only a few companies doing business with Hewlett-Packard regarding their MPE systems, after all. Most of them were paying to transfer existing licenses, a $432 transaction. Why not cut "3000" loose from HP's intellectual property?
Unlike Kellog's, Hewlett-Packard hasn't moved on. It has little to gain by cutting the trademark loose. For eight years, the OpenMPE advocates worked and wished for independent ownership of source code, but nobody was driven to carry forward manufacture of that PA-RISC chip line that powers 3000s. The OS — that stuffing that makes the computer cookie so special — was another matter. Without the value of MPE, the Charon line from Stromasys has no reason to exist today. Virtualizing that chipset made a 3000 with a better future.
Hydrox cookies have two essential elements that make them superior, their fans say. The trade-secret vanilla of the stuffing is unique, and the cookie is baked with cocoa flour in addition to regular flour. Cocoa flour is the equivalent of the Intel x86 line that powers Charon. Everybody knows where to get it. But the classic vanilla for the stuffing, manufactured in Texas for the new owners Leaf Brands, is the equivalent of MPE/iX: a trade secret. But this one was carried forward.
Leaf's owners first confirmed Kellog's was finished with the Hyrdox brand, rescued the unused trademark, and then set about re-crafting the cookie. They needed to match the taste that Boomers remember from their childhoods, research that reminds me of the Stromasys development that matched the HP 3000 boot process. Leaf's Ellia Kassoff found archived Hyrdox cookies on Craigslist, worked to match the ingredients on the package, then tested his cookies on the most ardent of fans.
The most fun version of this cookie revival comes from NPR's Planet Money. The report says that on the subject of trademarks, Kassoff sought evidence of a Doctrine of Abandonment.
The trademark is this relationship between a company and its customers. And so if that relationship is broken, if the company stops using the trademark, there isn't really anything to protect anymore. The trademark is deemed abandoned.
The good fortune for the devoted fan of MPE is that HP didn't have to abandon the 3000 trademark for the server to regain a growth path. These days when you type "HP3000" in the HP website search window, the first two results point at Stromasys and its distributors. The trademark lives on, along with its delightful stuffing.