Date upgrade deadline: now in single digits
Fine-tune: Validating interleaved backups

New year gives MPE a ride on a Raspberry

Raspberry Pi
Robert Mills has a plan to put an HP 3000 in his pocket. The UK programmer reported this week that he's got the MPE V version of an HP 3000, the Series III Simulator, running on a Dell Inspiron desktop. The Simulator gives Intel-based servers the ability to mimic HP's Classic 3000 hardware -- in the same style as the Stromasys Charon virtualizing software lets HP's PA-RISC processing be hosted on Intel systems.

Mills says he's working his way backwards in time for 3000 computing. Once his simulated HP disk drives can be replicated, he'll have a 3000 circa 1983 running on his Dell system.

The simulator on my main computer (Dell Inspiron 3668 running Linux Mint 18.3 with Cinnamon Desktop) has two HP7925 (120Mb) disc drives, two HP7970E tape drives, and 1024K words of memory. The simulator reports that it is executing machine instructions approx 95 times faster than a real Series III. With a little bit of work I could increase the number of HP7925s to eight. This would give me a system that equals, except for the processing speed, a system I worked on during 1981-83.

It's fun to note that the simulated Classic 3000 runs 95 times faster than the original HP hardware. This echoes the upgrade potential of a system virtualizer like Charon. Host the emulated 3000 on faster Intel hardware and see performance increase. The size of the 3000 itself is decreasing for Mills in his plans.

"The next thing I plan to do is try and install the simulator on my Raspberry PI 2B, which has a 2Tb Seagate Expansion Drive," Mills said. "If it works, I'll have an HP 3000 that I can carry in my pocket." The Raspberry is the hardware that helped drive the Rover on the surface of Mars. It's a wonderful story of how a community has lifted a processor into such demanding jobs.

The Raspberry Pi was introduced in 2012 as a teaching tool in the UK. It became far more popular than anticipated, selling outside its target market for uses such as robotics. NASA launched the JPL Open Source Rover Project, which is a scaled down Curiosity rover and uses a Raspberry Pi as the control module, to encourage students and hobbyists to get involved in mechanical, software, electronics, and robotics engineering.

The Raspberry Pi is a device about 3 inches by 4 inches including connectors, so it fits easily in a shirt pocket. The pocket reference invokes memories of the HP engineering mantra from the era when the 3000 was born. Engineers practiced "next bench" designs: products were created for the engineer at the next bench in HP's labs. The lore from those HP Way days says that the first HP calculators were built to the size they employed because they fit into a shirt pocket.

The Raspberry Pi has a long list of operating systems it can run, including nine that are not based on Linux. MPE V appears ready to join the list, since the Simulation Project includes the OS.

It runs the MPE V/R version E.01.00 operating system," Mills said of the Simulator. "The languages pre-installed are: BASIC (interpreter and compiler), COBOL 68, COBOL 74/85, FORTRAN 66, Pascal, RPG  (including the RISE Editor), and SPL."

If a computer that was driven by SPL can be simulated onto hardware that fits in a shirt pocket, anything is technically possibile.