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Songs of a Simpler Week of September

HP Song Book coverThere's tragedy a-plenty to ponder today, what with the news of Irma's landfalls and a somber anniversary of an attack right at hand. Over this weekend, though, an old friend of the HP 3000 passed along a memory marker. That's a piece of documentation that proves our 3000 world was a different place, but a place still related to what we know today. The marker for this month comes from Dave Wiseman, WisemanGatorwhose 3000 pedigree includes dragging an inflated alligator around a conference show floor as well as a 3000 performance dashboard with a Windows GUI, sold with a freeware version years before open source became an industry strategy.

Wiseman shared a sheaf of pages from the HP Song Book. Corporations of the 20th Century had official corporate songs, but these tunes first rose up on Sept. 11, 1989, sung at the Interex conference in San Francisco. They were written by Orly Larson, a 3000 division database expert who played guitar and strummed up good vibes from customers in the era before corporate Internet.

50th Anniversary SongIn addition to being a September a dozen years before the 9/11 tragedy, the 1989 conference opened on the 50th Anniversary of Hewlett-Packard. Unix was not yet HP's chief enterprise computing platform. The vendor wanted a seat at the desktop user interface table with its New Wave GUI, coupled with the HP Deskmanager office mail and software suite hosted on 3000s.

There was still more software to sell than HP could explain easily.

Database SongHP was trying out the concept of offering two databases for the 3000, TurboImage and Allbase. The song lyrics (at left) told the 1989 attendees that HP had already sold over 35,000 HP 3000s with IMAGE. Another product, HP SQL, was being touted for $15,000 "US list, that is," a line that somehow was scanned onto the melody of the ragtime hit Baby Face. Allbase's price was $30,000 in that year, "unconfigured, that is." This might have been the last time that HP software pricing made its way into song.

1989's September was less than one year away from the most coordinated revolt of the 3000 customer base. In 1990, passionate and incensed customers revived the SIG-IMAGE special interest group and railed at HP's top executives in a conference Management Roundtable. In this kind of ruckus in a Western, the piano player in the saloon would be told to play a song to quiet down the crowd.

HP-plus-Interex songAlas, the HP songbook of a year earlier wasn't on hand. Railing against HP's mistakes at the roundtable became a regular feature of Interex meetings, but the songs retained a place, too. By September of 1997, the conference in Chicago included songs so familiar that a few attendees at HP's party on Navy Pier didn't need a songbook to sing along. Allbase at $30,000 hadn't survived. Neither had the name of the show once called Interex. The user group licensed the rights to use "HP World" from Hewlett-Packard—a sign of simpler times when the vendor and its users were on the same page.