It's official. The CAMUS user group is holding a phone-in meeting of about two hours on November 16. The subject on the agenda is being called the HP 3000's Y2028 Issue, a tip of the hat to the Y2K challenge the 3000 survived 17 years ago.
The call starts at 10:30 CST, led by CAMUS president Terri Glendon Lanza. The agenda as of today lists Allegro, Beechglen and Stromasys as assisting in discussion of a roadblock to unlimited use of MPE/iX. Lanza will provide the call-in number to anybody who contacts her. You can sign up for the free call by emailing Lanza or calling her at 630-212-4314.
The meeting, an annual affair, lists these issues surrounding MPE's long-term future—otherwise known here as The 10-Year Clock, starting to tick this December 31.
Our main topic will be what we are calling the “Year 2028 Problem”. Without a fix, all HP3000 and Charon MPE systems will experience invalid dates beginning January 1, 2028. After this main topic, there will open discussion for all platforms.
If you are running the MPE (MPE/iX) operating system on an HP3000 or Charon platform, the Year 2028 Problem topic ought to be of great interest to you. Most, if not all, of our CAMUS members who are running MANMAN and other applications on an HP3000 or Charon MPE OS system will likely have moved on to another system by 2028. But if not, we believe that the time for a fix is sooner than later, given the dwindling availability of expertise.
Membership of CAMUS goes beyond MPE/iX customers who use ERP systems. DEC sites are also on the rolls. "If you are running on a different system," Lanza said, "you might still find this topic fascinating."
Lanza said the NewsWire's article from May of two years ago "got many of us thinking 10-12 years out" into the future. We'll be on the line on the 16th to offer whatever help we can. As usual, that help will consist of locating people with genuine expertise. If you're supporting MPE in any way, there's room for you to share experience and ideas.
The CALENDAR intrinsic that may block HP 3000 use in 2028 has been described as a bug. On the first day of that year, dates will not be represented accurately. Some in your community consider that year's New Year's Day, less than 13 years from now, as the 3000's final barrier. But it depends on how you look at it -- as a veteran, or a voyager.
A voyager might see CALENDAR as a deadline for departure. This is one part of MPE that was designed in the 1970s, a period when HP had just scrapped a 32-bit release of the 3000's first OS. And just like the Y2K date design, HP engineers never figured their server's OS had any shot of working by the 21st Century -- let alone 2027. But VEsoft's Vladimir Volokh says, "It's difficult to predict anything, especially the future." An IT pro who's planning to depart the 3000 believes CALENDAR is a bug, but that's not how Vladimir sees it.
"This is not a bug, really," he said. "It's a limitation. The end of 2027 date was as far away as infinity when MPE was created." This is a man who defines the term veteran, the kind of professionals who had to work inside 4K memory spaces to build 3000 programs. Limited and expensive resources like memory and disc were supposed to be extended with newer computers. "Every analyst told us a computer would live five years, at most," Vladimir said.
But as a veteran, you've now come to see the day when MPE's lifespan is reaching eight times that prediction. The veteran who chooses to see CALENDAR as a limitation can refer to HP's own lab response. Engineers during the '90s built HPCALENDAR to start extending the 3000's date limits.
The HP 3000's date intrinsics will outlast those in Unix, so long as a program uses HPCALENDAR. HP advised its 3000 customers in 2008 to begin using it on HP 3000s. HPCALENDAR harks back to version 5.5 of MPE/iX. Its power lies in the 3000 for use by programmers who want accurate dates beyond 2038 (the limit in Unix) for application files.
Lifting the limits in application date handling -- that's one level of engineering skill. Extending the operating system limits beyond the 16-bit CALENDAR is a task with a greater challenge. It doesn't mean that it cannot be done. What matters is how healthy the 3000's best experts will be in 10 years or so. Vladimir says he'll be younger than 90 by then. Almost everyone in today's community will be even younger. And isn't 70 the new 60? It will matter when the 3000 needs the last set of bits to move from 16 to 32.
There's a old joke about software shortcomings being called features, rather than a bugs. Veterans learn to call them limitations and look for ways to overcome these aging designs. Everything is aging, even something as omnipresent at Windows XP. It's a fact that XP is dying, and the 3000 is dying. Well yes, says Vladimir. He tells his hundreds of customers who he visits, "We are all dying. But slowly."