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May 29, 2019

Wayback: HP's piggy ain't coming back, Dad

Elephants
More than 15 years ago, 3000 customers were searching for a undo. HP had recently announced the end of its road delivering and supporting the MPE/iX server. At one point after another, the customers raised hopes that this decision was a mistake HP would roll back. The reality of the finality took a while to seep in after it had stained the community.

I'm reminded of that plea for a redo after reading about email services and elephants. Ringling Bros. cut off the dates for its circus two years ago this month. Loud outcry about the lives of elephants unmanned the circus, in part because the gentle giants were so iconic to the big top experience. This month a documentary, produced by the circus, told the story of the final performance on Long Island.

A New York Times article about the last circus show for Ringling included a comment about a return to the ring. One middle aged fan said, "If it's gone for good... well, I don't want to know about that." Similar words were spoken about Hewlett-Packard's 3000 support, development, and hardware.

A tech story with a lot less heart just emerged about an undo, too. Mailchimp, which delivers plenty of email newsletters you've subscribed to and maybe forgotten, is scuttling its popular pricing in favor of a more monetarily rewarding scheme. Users of the service went into immediate outrage. It sounded a lot like what 3000 customers did in 2002, 2003, and so on, until it became plain there was no HP tomorrow for your server and its OS.

Like the 3000 folks I know well, I had to make changes to my book author outpost and my writer coaching-editing business. I was luckier than my 3000 readers. Something newer that did all I needed to stay in touch with customers was right before my eyes. In a bit of irony, I discovered my migration target through a newsletter about publishing tactics — an email delivered without Mailchimp.

The 3000 community was on the lookout for every instance where HP could relent and return MPE/iX to the vendor's futures. In one memorable wish, the change in CEO leaders for the company from Carly Fiorina to Mark Hurd led the rise in hope. Fiorina, after all, was leading HP when the company chose to cut off its 3000 prospects and customers. The HP-Compaq merger was a spark that lit the firey exit. Fiorina was said to have commanded about every HP product, "If it's not growing, it's going."

Foolish business sense for any company with customers who'd been loyal for nearly 30 years. Mistakes are often made in the computer industry. The howls of outcry become pleas and then fantasy before long. Well, it took eight years, and in some quarters a fever dream of a 3000 return has not died.

Piggy's gone
And the headline above? Another icon, The Simpsons, includes an episode where Homer's suckling BBQ pig is hurled away from his feast. Vegetarian Lisa, as intent as any HP top manager of 2001, engages her rage and pushes the grill on its wheels downhill, where it careens out onto the street, and then into the river and then sails out of a hole in the dam. It's a hilarious metaphor for customers' last-ditch hopes of getting HP to retain its legacy. Homer says while chasing after it, "It's just a little dirty. It's alright, it's alright."

As if a customer's pain and loss can ever be funny. Bart replies, "Piggy ain't coming back, Dad."

The elephants are resting in retirement in Florida. Mailchimp's subscribers are settling on the free and simple MailerLite. And those 3000 users — well, they're doing fine with the support of independent system experts, or the virtualized hardware of Charon in some places. More every month, it seems. The 3000's not gone. Piggy, that fattened beast of grow-or-else thinking at HP, isn't coming back to your market, dad.

09:27 PM | Permalink

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