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September 21, 2015

Throwback: FlashPaper strikes fresh match

FlashPaper No. 1


Twenty years ago today your community was gaining one of its best database chiefs at HP, a development we illuminated in the first FlashPaper. In September of that year only a handful of 3000 vendors were operating websites, and we were not among those — so we drafted a last-minute news report sheet to deliver the latest developments into envelopes along with the first complete issue of the NewsWire. We were so full of confidence about a wave of news for the 3000 that we'd come to give the FlashPaper a slogan of "News so hot it might ignite."

We'd made a test-run at printing HP 3000 news, but that FlashPaper of September 21 was our genuine debut into breaking stories as fast as print would permit. The flame of change had been kindled in the 3000 division. We started work to change the forum for the computer from glossy magazines to something chasing newsmakers. We've always called October our birthdate because Issue No. 1 needed a date to match print-time waiting. Nine days was the fastest that print could be written and mailed in 1995.

FlashPaper First IssueThe IMAGE/SQL lab had a hot seat at the time, its third project lead in three months. Tien-Yu Chen took over for Reynold Schweickhardt, who'd taken over for Jim Sartain at the start of the summer. R&D manager Harry Sterling promoted Chen from advanced development projects like the Critical Item Update team. He was a choice who made changes happen like increasing the scalability of IMAGE. We reported that Chen was the kind of leader who, while meeting with database tool vendors at HP, would grab a file system engineer on the spot to help along a discussion. (Just click on the paper above for a full read.)

Choices between Windows NT and Windows 95 were on customers' minds; the latter was still just a month old, while the former would take its DEC operating system roots and become Windows Server — but the Y2K challenge would be in IT's rear-view before NT grew into enterprise-grade Windows.

Headcount and job assignments were important to that community of 1995, since leadership was in flux and the 3000 was embarking on a renaissance era in its database developments. Sartain had moved away from the labs to pursue a Master's degree and Schweickhardt was going to Washington DC to help with Congressional campaigns. The '96 elections were 14 months away, though. Chen turned out to be a database chief who'd work on the 3000's heart through the end of the computer's futures at HP.

We reported that a new DBQUIECE command was coming in the 5.5 release, too, a way to support "true online backups so customers can back up system while users are still logged into the database." There was also Etherprint, software that used an HP 9000 workstation to link a 135-page per minute Xerox color printer with a 3000. And what we called an Internet watcher was software to monitor FTP requests for MPE processes, then kill any process with an "unwanted activity of service." Netwatch/3000 never made a big splash in a market much more focused on data exchange over peer to peer networks.

Being able to watch for news at the last moment helped us sharpen our focus and the vision of the community, though. We'd only get so specific on the date of the FlashPaper once more over the 20 years of print: November 14, 2001, the dismal day HP called a halt to its futures for the server.

07:25 PM in History | Permalink

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