Meet shows veterans never too old to learn
June 25, 2018
The number of people in the pub was not noteworthy. The weekend's HP 3000 Reunion added up to something more than a body count, though, a remarkable and lively turnout for a computer whose vendor declared it dead more than seven years ago.
The veterans of MPE and the 3000 showed a spark of curiosity during the afternoon-to-evening gathering at the Duke of Edinburgh pub and Apple Park in Cupertino. In the late afternoon they held iPads to see a virtual reality view at Apple's Visitor Center, peering at the insides of the Apple HQ building. Earlier, a support talk about the care and feeding of the 3000 sites with aging hardware prompted questions and opinions about homesteading. That strategy was the only one that remained for the men and women crowding a cozy pub room flocked with red and gold paper.
The gold matched the sponsorship banner from CAMUS International. The group sent $200 to cover bar and lunch expenses, showing that manufacturing interest still surrounds companies using a 3000. Terri Lanza, who arranged the banner and the contribution, wished she could attend. Like dozens more, she has to rely on her colleagues who made the trip.
They came from as far away as England and Toronto, and some from five minutes' drive away. Orly Larson tooled over from his house on a quiet Cupertino street. Dave Wiseman came from England and Gilles Schipper crossed the continent from Toronto.
Tom McNeal, one of the engineers who helped create the memory manager in MPE/XL, attended to represent the Hewlett-Packard 3000 lab. He left HP after Y2K to join a Linux startup. While that was fun, he said, the energy didn't outlast the funding. He came to reconnect and even to see a lineup of hardware for MPE XL that prompted him to observe where multiprocessing came into the product line.
Vicky Shoemaker, Dave Wiseman, Gilles Schipper, Stan Sieler and Harry Sterling giggle at a video of George Stachnik's 12 Days of Christmas parody. The video from an HP party hailed from the late 1980s, when the struggles of building an MPE for PA-RISC were finally overcome.
People learned at the meeting, more about one another and their 3000 afterlife than something to use in 2018. McNeal was joined by ex-HP stalwarts Harry Sterling, the final GM of the division, and Larson. They made up almost 20 percent of attendees. There was hearty laughter coming from them and the rest of the crowd while everyone watched a video from another 3000 notable. George Stachnik was singing a 12 Days of Christmas parody on a recording from the middle 1980s, when Sterling was running the 3000 labs.
When Stachnik's parody came to the five golden rings line, he'd changed it to Rich Sevcik giving him "every engineer." Sterling chuckled. "It was just about that many," he said.
The same goes for Gilles Schipper, counting on a California 3000 site to help him leverage the trip from Canada. With the exception of an editor from a blog who was on hand, all others were remembering past efforts and survivals, and celebrating their thriving on the current day. "How many grandkids now?" or "What college did you send them to?" and "How long have you been retired?" were common questions.
The Hewlett-Packard that was represented was the benevolent HP Way company. Sterling has built a thriving real estate practice in Palm Springs. McNeal hailed from the 3000 labs that built MPE to exploit the then-new PA-RISC. Larson taught IMAGE and spread the word at customer events and site visits, sending the message that the 3000's database was better than most. An intimate pre-party at his house in Cupertino included stories traded back in his tiki hut bar.
The dinner table at the pub had two of the three most famous beards from the 3000 community, too. Larson's and Bob Karlin's were wrapped around smiles over the likes of scotch eggs, Cornish pasty and Newcastle Ale. Bruce Hobbs, the other bearded veteran, wanted to come. Dozens more wanted to come, some so urgently their RSVP'ed name tags were already printed up but unclaimed. Deep into the night the talk turned to religion and politics, because everyone knew one another well enough to remain friends through those subjects.
Wiseman counted on that friendship as he brought together people who hadn't seen each other in decades but fell into conversations as if it were only yesterday when they last spoke. It takes a social computer system to open hearts to a reunion after more than 40 years. Nearly everyone at the Duke could count that much experience with the 3000.
"When you're back in town, drop by," Shoemaker and Cooper said to me as they left. They were not counting the numbers in the room. They were counting on our return in the years to come. After the afternoon ended, that hope for a return seemed to add up.