« Debugging the diagnostics | Main | How to make databases live past shutdown »

October 10, 2019

Who's to blame when the lights go out?

Power-lines-towers
Photo by Peddi Sai hrithik on Unsplash

Yesterday the lights didn't come on in Northern California. Everywhere, it seems, because the Pacific Gas & Electric corporation didn't want to be sued for windstorm damages to its power lines. They cut the juice to prevent lawsuits. Tesla owners got a dashboard warning.

The surprise about the outage was as complete as the shock over Interex dowsing its lights overnight in 2005. Except the cynics could see the PG&E blackout coming.

Solar panel-owning residents of California and electric car owners were most surprised. I went to a 3000 tech mailing list to look for people worried about topping up their Teslas, because some people who picked 3000s are pioneers, so Teslas are well represented among MPE veterans. Like the usual chaff on a mailing list, there were turds of political opinion floating there about who's to blame for California's darkness.

So I wasn't surprised to see more attacks on the state of California. "A third world country" is the shorthand smear, although you can say lots of the US isn't a first world country any longer. In the exchange on the mailing list, it was apparently too much trouble to keep a state’s government separate from talk about Pacific Gas & Electric’s corporate moves. Once PG&E goes bankrupt, then the private corporation’s demise will be blamed on California voters, using that logic. It’s easier than keeping commerce and government separate, I suppose. 

Blaming the tough regulations about state rate hikes for the disaster that is PG&E business is having it both ways: Government is crucial, and government is ridiculous. On and on it goes, until we are supposed to trust a government that lets PG&E do whatever it wants, so long as profits stay high. 
 
Because every corporation with ample profits has always taken care of its customers in every need. 
 
Some people on that mailing list sure have a short memory about such nonsense. We are all survivors of a meltdown of a business model where corporate profits were ensured — because revenue growth was the only thing that mattered — while legacy technology got scrapped. Millions of dollars of investments, the fate of hundreds of vendors, and thousands of careers were lost.
 
The mailing list name still has the numerals 3000 in it. You’d think people would remember what brought us into each others' lives, along with the lesson we learned the hard way together. Oversight is important. The problem which hit the Hewlett-Packard 3000 customers was a lack of oversight from top-level management and the board of directors. It's sometimes hard to know what to do while things are changing (the computer business) and ambitions are high (make HP bigger than anybody, so it will win every deal).
 
A good rule to follow, though, is like a physician. First, do no harm. The 3000 community got treated by HP like a limb that had gone gangrenous. Old history that'll never be changed, yes. Also, a lesson for managers on how to treat older bodies like an operating system and software that's not new but is still performing well.  
 
Complaining about oversight, when you'd rather have none at all, is what got HP into the state it's in today. Two corporations, neither growing, both unable to honor the promises of forever-computing that drove companies to buy its products. HP's cut itself loose from the future of OpenVMS, and the thousands of companies that rely on that legacy OS need to trust VMS Software Inc., new owners of the OS's future.
 
It's a better deal than the one HP gave its 3000 customers. Private money would've taken over MPE futures in 2002. HP wouldn't sell or license it, but again, that's just history. Now that the lights aren't going on for the 3000 at HP anymore — so many of HP's 3000 web pages are dead or buried alive — it evokes the powerless situation in California.
The political noisemakers just would rather let PG&E do what it wants with rates, and then blame it on California when the light switches on the solar-paneled houses do nothing.
 
It turns out we need the grid even when we’re off the grid. 3000 folks needed a vendor who knew how to give a forever-computing solution an endless tomorrow by licensing an OS future.
 
The noisemakers like to ridicule the powerless Californians by saying that the state's not a first world entity anymore. It's not crazy to call California a country; its economy is bigger than all but nine of the countries in the world.
 
In one rude wisecrack, a child asks their father about how to see now that the California lights have gone out. Maybe the answer goes like this, not lit by the candles from the noisemaker's punch line.
 
"Daddy, what did the founding fathers use to write the Consitution?"
 
"Oil lamps, sweetie. Bring that one there closer to the table, while I finish writing this letter on the laptop.”
 
“Daddy, why are you writing the California attorney general?”
 
“Because we still have a state government. The founders always wanted the states to be different.”
 
“You mean we can’t be Texas?”
 
“There’s enough Texas already, sweetie."
 
I'm writing with my windows open this morning, because it’s the first day in Texas with both rain and weather below 70 since April. It's getting hotter in Texas, so we all have to make plans to get our houses cool enough to live in for half the year. I'm not about to blame Texas government for that. It won't help me with with the solution, though. They're leaving that to the corporations. 3000 people learned a hard lesson about that life without oversight.

11:23 AM in History, Homesteading, News Outta HP | Permalink

Bookmark and Share

Use our search engine to find 20 years
of HP 3000 news and articles

Comments

Comments

The comments to this entry are closed.