In the days when 3000 users logged on to their systems each day, the welcome message was a part of the social exchange between system managers and their customer base. Since the HP 3000 harks back to a day when only a specialized terminal could produce graphics, the server's messages had to be delivered using ASCII characters. This was a challenge that the 3000 manager of the 1980s and 1990s would warm to during the coldest of seasons.
On the archives of the 3000-L mailing list, we find messages on creating the ASCII tree as recently as 1996. "For those of you that have always wanted to put one of those Christmas Trees (with the blinking lights on an HP terminal) in your welcome message," said Tracy Johnson, "but never had the time to bother keying it in, I've attached (for those that can handle attachments) an ASCII text file you can upload."
The skills to create artwork that would be plugged into a welcome message probably spring from the era's necessary focus on detail. What also helped was perhaps the quieter days of the holiday week we're about to enter. “I use QEDIT's full screen mode,” Costas Anastassiades said when MPE/iX 5.0 was new, “and switch the terminal to graphics mode (Ctrl N/Ctrl O) and then mess around with the various graphic keys. It's all there, on screen, and I can see what I'm doing. So we've had some animation (blinking lights on the original X-mas Tree), and I've added some "Rich Text Format.” Now if only someone can get a terminal to beep "Silent Night"....:)"
Of course, that emoji at the end of Costas' 1996 message is the bridge between the era of ASCII messages and the social media of today.
We're taking a few days off for the Christmas holiday at my house, a time to enjoy grandsons who'll scarcely understand that a computer couldn't display pictures. I hail from the era when A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas were new holiday cartoons, so I'm of an age to understand why the magic of a terminal display was something to play with. I'll leave us all with an ASCII-style holiday poem shared by Paul Edwards, user group director and legendary 3000 trainer, back in 2002. Enjoy your good nights to come, the one before Christmas, as well as those after. We'll be back next week with our 2015 wrap-up reports.
'Twas the night before Christmas
and all through the nets
Not a mousie was stirring, not even the pets.
The floppies were stacked by the modem with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The files were nestled all snug in a folder
The screen saver turned on, the weather was colder.
And leaving the keyboard along with my mouse
I turned from the screen to the rest of the house.
When up from the drive there arose such a clatter
I turned to the screen to see what was the matter.
Away to the mouse I flew like a flash,
Zoomed open a window in fear of a crash...
The glow from the screen on the keyboard below
Gave an electronic luster to all my macros.
When what to my wondering eyes should appear
But a little sleigh icon with eight tiny reindeer
And a tiny disk driver so SCSI and quick
I knew in a nano it must be Saint Nick.
More rapid than trackballs his cursors they came,
He whistled and shouted and faxed them by name.
"Now Flasher! Now Dasher! Now Raster and Bixel!
On Phosphor! On Photon! On Baudrate and Pixel!
To the top of the stack. To the top of the heap."
Then each little reindeer made a soft beep.
As data that before the wild electrons fly,
When they meet with a node, mount to the drive,
So up to the screentop the cursors they flew
With a sleigh full of disks and databits, too.
And then in a twinkling I heard the high whine
Of a modem connecting at a baud rate so fine.
As I gazed at the screen with a puzzling frown
St. Nicholas logged on though I thought I was down.
He was dressed all in bytes from header to footer
The words on the screen said "Don't you reboot 'er."
A bundle of bits he had flung on his back
And he looked like a programmer starting his hack.
His eyes how they glazed, his hair was so scary,
His cola was jolt, not flavoured with cherry.
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a GIF
And the pixels of his beard sure gave me a lift.
The stump of a routine he held tight in his code
And I knew he had made it past the last node.
He spoke not a word but looked right at me
And I saw in a flash his file was .SEA.
He self-decompressed and I watched him unfold,
Into a jolly old elf, a sight to behold.
And the whispering sound of my hard drive's head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He went straight to his work without saying a word
And filled all the folders of this happy nerd.
And 'tis the whole truth, as the story is told,
That giving a nod up the window he scrolled,
He sprang to the serial port as if truly on fire
And away they all flew down the thin copper wire.
But I heard him exclaim as he scrolled out of sight
"Merry Christmas to All, and to all a good night."