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February 27, 2019

Wayback: MPE joins the land of the Internet

Whole-Internet-Catalog
In a February of 23 years ago, HP brought MPE/iX into the Internet era. During that year, Sun was already running roughshod over the computer industry by selling servers built for use on the networks that were exploding around the World Wide Web. The 3000 community knew how to call the Internet the WWW, thanks to early guides like the Whole Internet User's Guide and Catalog. Modeled after the Whole Earth catalog of the 1970s, the early O'Reilly & Associates book covered basic Internet utilities like telnet and FTP, rudimentary search tools like Gopher, plus a quick reference card to remember essentials like the commands for Archie, an FTP utility. The book boasted nine pages of Internet Service Provider listings.

Five years after those ISP listings were printed, they remained in the pages of the Catalog, unaltered. Putting books onto the Internet was still out in the future, some five years away. That's not the Amazon start date, because that distributor was selling only paper books until 2004.

The O'Reilly guide was recommended to 3000 managers by David Greer of Robelle. In the pages of that February's NewsWire, Greer shared the basics of being a 3000 manager who used the WWW to "get you online and finding information that helps you manage your HP 3000." The finding was taking place via Unix or PC systems, not HP 3000s. HP had a set of CD-ROMs it sold with the electronic versions of its documentation.

In that same issue, the 3000 market learned that HP would be releasing a Web server that would run under MPE/iX. Delivery of the OpenMarket Web Server was supposed to start in July. HP had to port the third party product, working with code from an OpenMarket product already released for HP-UX systems. HP was selling such a wonder at prices starting at $1,650. While the rest of the world was working with open source Apache for Web services, HP was tier-pricing a Web server. Hopes were high among Web experts, who said "even the smallest HP 3000 can be used to handle lots of Web requests, especially since the Open Market product is about five times more efficient than freeware alternatives."

A stutter step was the best that HP could do for the Open Market introduction. By summertime the server's porting was called off, making the 3000 look even further away from Internet-ready. In a couple of years HP was using a port of open source Apache to make a secure Web server for MPE/iX. HP would be so confident of the 3000's Internet suitability that it renamed the server the e3000. That e was for e-commerce, we were told.

In the same month as the Web server news, HP announced it was putting its MPE/iX patches online. Delivering OS patches for a computer whose roots were in the minicomputer era felt splashy, even if 14K modems were doing the work.

HP was bringing its 3000 patch distribution process up to par with HP's Unix systems.

If you can get online to the Internet, you can take delivery of the latest patches from HP's World Wide Web server (the address of the Web site is http://us.external.hp.com), The online services also include proactive notification of patch availability through e-mail to your site, plus access to information about the patches. If you don't have World Wide Web access, you can get what you need through e-mail. HP says you can send a message to us.external.hp.com to get more infor mation. In the body of the message type: send guide. Then on a separate line type: send mpeguide. No subject is required. The easiest way may be to use the Internet Express or America Online WWW browsers to travel to the above Web address. 

Jeff Kell, curator of the HP 3000 Internet mailing list, said that "while it beats nothing, it isn't exactly pretty—but it's a promising start to a great resource." In 1996, most 3000s online patches were accessed over dialup lines, so file size had a big impact on how useful managers found the service. Kell went on to say "if the online patches follow the same format as patches have in the past, HP should supply common files as part of the MPE/iX FOS, so they won't have to take up so much space in the patch trucks."

"The online patch delivery era is already under scrutiny for improvement," we wrote in a FlashPaper article, "a signal that it can be of immediate use to HP 3000 sites. If nothing else, it can be the leverage you need to get your HP 3000 connected to the Internet." That direct connection to the WWW would be rare in the years going forward, especially for delivering Web services. Wiring MPE/iX into telnet and fitting it with domain services was far more useful.

02:12 PM in History, Newsmakers | Permalink

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