Homesteading

How to use Perl on an HP 3000

By Dave Lo

Perl is an interpreted language that is the brainchild of Larry Wall. He continues to develop and guide the language, which, through the help of the net community, is available on virtually every computer platform, from Apple’s Macintosh to MPE.

Perl, officially known as either Practical Extraction and Reporting Language or Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister, is a popular language for implementing web page CGI scripts, processing string data, even system administration. The official Perl web site is www.perl.com.

However, Perl is much more than a sometimes-odd-looking web scripting language. It has enough power to be a full programming language. One glance at some of the O’Reilly Perl books will testify to that (Perl for Bioinformatics, Perl for System Administration, Perl for Website Management).

If you think of perl as a shell-like programming language that evolved from quick-and-dirty handling of text, lists, associate arrays, and regular expressions, then you’re already thinking Perl. Let’s dive in!

Scalar variables

0 # Perl has no line numbers, they’re here for reference only
1 $num = 123;
2 $str = “abc”;
3 print “number=$num string=$abc”;

Line 0 is a single-line Perl comment, which are similar to Unix shell comments. There are no multi-line comments.

Perl is not a strictly typed language, so a variable can hold either numeric or string values. Also, no declarations of variables are needed before they are used. Line 1 and 2 assign a number and a string. These type of variables are known as scalar variables (they hold a single primitive value), and their names are prefixed by a $ sign. One characteristic of Perl is that all variables names have a prefix character such as $. This may seem strange, but not when you think of similarities to Unix shell scripts.

List variables

1 @list = (12.3, “abc”, 4..6);
2 foreach $i (@list) {
3 print “$i\n”;
4 }
5 $count = @list;
6 print “There are $count items\n”;

Another fundamental variable type in Perl is List. Line 1 shows the assignment of a list variable, whose name is prefixed with a @ sign. A list variable is like a 1-dimensional array. But unlike strictly typed languages, a list in Perl can contain mixed types of data. Here, the list contains 5 values: the number 12.3, the string “abc”, and numbers 4, 5, and 6.

Lines 4-6 are a typical way of looping through all the items in a list, using the foreach construct. In line 5, notice that literal strings in double quotes can contain variables that are dereferenced.

Line 7 may initially look like an error (assigning a list variable to scalar variable), but it is a common occurrence in Perl and shows an important concept: context. Think of context as fancy type-conversion. Here, because the left-hand-side of the assignment is a scalar variable, the right-hand-side must also be scalar. So the list variable is “evaluated in a scalar context”, which does the convenient thing of returning the number of items in the list. You’ll discover that Perl has many of these types of conveniences built-in.

We could also have accessed the list in a traditional array-like fashion by numeric indexing. Like C, Perl starts array indexes at 0.

9 for ($i=0; $i<@list; $i++) {
10 print “$list[$i]\n”;
11 }

Note in Line 10 that we prefixed the list with a $. This is because list[$i] is a scalar value, so a scalar prefix is needed. Another important point is that scalar and list variables names are in different namespaces. This means you can simultaneously have a $abc scalar variable and @abc list variable. Use this feature carefully, otherwise you end up write hard-to-understand code such as $abc = $abc[$abc].

Hash variables

A powerful feature in Perl are hashes (otherwise known as associate arrays). Hashes are like arrays that are indexed not by sequential numbers, but by string value. It is a simple way to store key-value pairs.

$review{“Monsters Inc.”} = “funny and original”;
$review{“Harry Potter”} = “true to the book”;
$review{“Lord of the Rings”} = “also true to the book except for Arwen”;

Here is an example of parsing a string similar to those commonly returned from an HTML form:

1 $line=”option=1&company=Robelle&product=Qedit,Suprtool”;
2 @pairs=split(/&/,$line);
3 foreach $item (@pairs) {
4 ($name, $value) = split(/=/,$item);
5 $form{$name} = $value;
6 }
7 @list = keys(%form);
8 foreach $name (@list) {
9 print “$name = $form{$name} \n”;
10 }

In Line 2 and 4, the split function takes a regular expression (although we are using it here just for a simple string search) and a string, finds the substrings that are separated by the regexp, and returns a list of those sub-strings. So in Line 2, we are looking for the substrings separated by an ampersand &. Split returns this list of three strings:

option=1
company=Robelle
products=Qedit,Suprtool
In Line 4, the split works in a similar way to break up “option=1” into a list of two elements (“option”, “1”). Notice that Perl allows simultaneous assignments of several variables. The assignment puts the first element in $name and second element in $value.

In Line 5, the assignment to a hash looks almost like assigning to an array assignment, except that curly braces are used instead of square brackets

In Line 7, the keys function returns a list of all the key values in a hash (“option”, “company”, “product”). Notice that a hash is prefixed by a % sign when used in hash context. If you wanted to get all the values in a hash, you would use the values function, which would have returned (1, “Robelle”, “Qedit,Suprtool”)

Perl on MPE/iX

Perl for MPE/iX is available for download from the HP Jazz Web site: jazz.external.hp.com/src/hp_freeware/perl/. Perl was ported to the HP 3000 by Mark Bixby. Here are some notes on Perl/iX from the Jazz Web site:

“The following prerequisites apply to Perl on MPE/iX: MPE/iX 6.0 or greater. This software has not been tested on versions earlier than 6.0. Approximately 325,000 sectors of available disk space.” Perl has been linked to use the shared libraries /lib/*.sl and /usr/lib/*.sl; if these libraries are missing or have restrictive permissions then Perl will not run. These libraries are a standard part of MPE FOS starting with 6.0. If for some reason you are missing these libraries, you can recreate them by logging on as MANAGER.SYS and then running the shell script /PERL/PUB/mpebin/LIBS.hp3000.

Integration With MPE

A few MPE-specific modules are starting to become available for Perl. The following is a partial list; none of these are bundled with this distribution, so if you want to play with them you’ll have to download and build them yourself:

MPE::CIvar — Ken Hirsch’s interface for MPE/iX JCWs, CI variables, and the HPCICOMMAND intrinsic. Please see invent3k.external.hp.com/~MGR.HIRSCH/CIvar.html for more info.

MPE::IMAGE — Ted Ashton’s interface for MPE/iX TurboIMAGE databases. Please see search.cpan.org/search?dist=MPE-IMAGE for more info.

Web Resources for Perl

These include www.perl.org, the Perl user community; www.perl.com, O’Reilly’s official Perl home; and www.cpan.org, the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network for perl distribution, doc, modules. If you have trouble installing packages from CPAN, read Ken Hirsch’s installation tips at invent3k.external.hp.com/~MGR.HIRSCH/cpan.html

O’Reilly books

• Learning perl - A good introduction to the language

• Programming perl - Known as the “camel book”, it is the definitive Perl reference written by the authors of Perl

• perl cookbook - Solutions for common operations. For example, Problem: How to do something to every word in a file?

Solution: Split each line on whitespace:

while (<>) {
for $chunk (split) {
# do something with $chunk
}
}

 


Cooking with Python on MPE

Whip up tasty dishes with ample applications using this scripting language

By Curtis Larsen

Something I’m sure I share with other HP 3000 folks is a love for technology that solves problems in some straightforward yet elegant manner. After all, this is why we all continue to use our HP 3000 systems (and probably why we chose them in the first place).

Especially exciting, though, are the new technologies that further extend our systems and solve even more problems. I can remember eagerly reading each new “Communicator” for the enhancements list, and my personal favorites – upgrades to the Command Interpreter. I’d be excited to try out each new function and new “FINFO” parm. (When the JOBINFO function hit the streets I was practically singing.)

As much fun as I have with the CI though, I recognize that every programming language has its limitations. So HP 3000 programmers have used various different languages available such as COBOL, Business Basic, or VESoft scripting – or a combination of them — to solve larger tasks. Each language brings its own flavor and abilities to the programming table, and when POSIX scripting was added to the ingredients, a wonderful curry resulted. Like a great curry, you can still see, smell and taste each individual ingredient, but they all contribute to a sum greater than the parts.

Some of the new flavors the POSIX world gives us are the Bourne, BASH, C, and Korn, shells, as well as public-domain C, FORTRAN, Assembly, and Basic compilers. It also gives us the newer interpreted scripting languages such as Perl, Java, and Python.

Now chances are good you’ve heard about Perl and Java, but how much do you know about Python? Ahhh… let’s start opening some of those spice jars, shall we?

Python is a fast, extensible, object-oriented scripting language created by Guido Van Rossum and named after the ’70’s British comedy troupe and television show “Monty Python’s Flying Circus”. (It’s too good to make up folks. If that doesn’t begin to spell “curry” to you, I don’t know what does.)

Python and Perl are very similar in capabilities —what can be done in one, can also be done in the other – it’s just that their approaches to those capabilities differ. Perl leans towards terse syntax, and many small “add-in” modules, while Python (if not verbose) leans more towards self-describing syntax and fewer, larger, “add-in” modules. Both can be written in Ye Olde Top-Downe style, or by using objects and methods in the newer Object-Oriented style of programming — pick the sauce that suits you. Both languages have been ported to almost every OS imaginable (and a few that weren’t). Python also uses OOP syntax similar to Java with it’s “Object<dot>Method”. This similarity to Java comes in very handy, but more on that later.

One quirk that Python people have to get used to though is the indenting. The beginning of a text line is significant in Python, and indicates dependence. Now, now – I heard that agonized cry, like you had just eaten too much pepper. Trust me on this one – like a pepper you may find it hard to swallow at first (especially in one large bite), but if you come to it slowly, you’ll learn to appreciate the subtleties and grow just as addicted to it. And let’s be reasonable – if you can start a significant line of COBOL at a certain column for twenty-odd years, you can handle a little reasonable indenting.

Rather than explain Python’s syntax in detail though, I’ll point you to the Python web site where you can really chew on it. The main plate is at www.python.org, and many other links can be found from there for general consumption.

Ok, so let’s say you buy into it for now – you’re at the MPE table checking out the various Python dishes for appearance and aroma before biting into one. A wise course of action, but while some of the offerings can be a bit exotic, I’ve found nothing unattractive. You can find an incredible list of Python applications at “The Vaults of Parnassus” (www.vex.net/parnassus) — here are a few that might be of interest to you in combination with an HP 3000:

• “ZOPE”: An extremely powerful Web-application creation utility — and then some!

• “Gadfly”: A powerful Python-based SQL engine – see its Web page for details.

• “Peercat”: Web-based aggregate data collector. (Usually news items, but…)

• “Scanerrlog”: A script to meaningfully parse Apache’s “error_log” file to HTML, etc.

• “txt2html.py”: Converts various ASCII formats to HTML.

• “inpim.py”: Calendar/To-Do app w/cross-system sync. Budgeting subsystem, too.

• “PyBook”: Searches, downloads, and displays Project Gutenberg books.

• “Roundup”: Issue tracking system with web,CLI, and e-mail interfaces.

• “RoutePlanner”: A highway trip planner.

• “Pyrite”: Allows Palm Pilot synchronization.

• “PyPsion”: Similar application for Psion PDAs.

• “web2ldap.py”: Full-featured web-based LDAPv2+ client.

• “flad”: Create, read, and write INI-like config files.

• “ODBC Socket Server”: Access Windows ODBC sources via XML TCP/IP interface.

• “Python-DSV”: Parses CSV, TSV, etc. files, guesses string encoding, etc.

And more CGI scripts than you can shake a kebob stick at.

This list just scratches the surface, since there are far more HP-useful Python applications than can be shown here, and due to its ease of use and power, more people are sitting down to the “Python picnic” each day. There are many Python applications that could have a strong impact on your regular MPE recipes, and more are continually arriving. Look over the list above – ever want to directly use your HP data with a Palm Pilot? Send and receive data from an ODBC source directly from a batch job? Map the shortest routes to clients? Check on the weather before shipping a product there? Many more possibilities exist!

Python includes very good support for XML (including XML-RPC and SOAP), LDAP, and offers an interesting native object persistence (or “object pickling”) to a file, so that you can save an object and its properties, freezing it for cooking another day.

Although the “original” Python was written in C, a newer version of Python named “Jython” has been written using Java. In addition to running native Python scripts, this version also permits use of the native Java objects and features from within Python. Looking (and reading) very similar to Java, you can actually code something very quickly using Python for later export to Java, etc., treating Python as a sort of RAD language. So whether you think of Python as a “C food” entree, or as a side dish to chew on with your morning “cup of Java,” you’ll find it both digestible and flavorful. You can use a little or a lot, spread it thinly or plaster it on thickly – whatever suits your taste and mood.

I’ve only used the C-based Python on my HP system, but you could give Jython a whirl. The C version is a bit dated but runs quickly, while the Java version is very current, but starts a tad slower. It just depends on what you want to use Python for, and whether or not you’ll need some of the newer functions and modules.

Probably the thing that really excites me personally about Python is its “dictionaries,” or what Perl calls “hashes.” Folks who use these types of variables almost always get hooked on them. For example, you can create a dictionary named “D”, and store a value in it using a string key named “info” which might look like this: D[“info”] = “555-1212”. Now whenever you say ‘print D[“info”]’ you’ll get “555-1212”. It’s like using an array, but without the limitations of an array — you don’t need to preset a dictionary, worry about internal structure, use only numbers, or know how many “elements” it will have. You can even dynamically store a dictionary within another dictionary (and so on) to get some incredible depths of sophistication. Suddenly a “simple scripting language” allows fast use of tables and three-dimensional databases. (And it pulls up those values just as quickly!)

For an HP 3000-specific example of using Python dictionaries, I combined a VESoft Security/3000 report with a quick Python hack – er – script to show me the last date any terminal in a given date range was used, then print those results sorted by terminal. Sure, I could have coded it all some other way, but using the report as input to a filtering script was simplest for me, and gave me the results I wanted very quickly. Figure 1 below shows the script (be gentle).

Figure 1

import fileinput, string # These modules provide some
# nice extra methods for file
# and string handling, etc.

x = " " # Inits: Not needed, but. . .
hist = {}
totals = {}

for line in fileinput.input(): # Loop thru each report file
r = string.strip(line) # line (given as the parm)
if r[0:5] == "Logon": # Detail record? Process it.
rdate = "0" + string.strip(r[07:14]) # Load our work variables
rdate = rdate[-7:]
rdev = int(string.strip(r[23:27]))
rlogon = string.strip(r[27:62])
rname = string.strip(r[63:94])
hist[rdev] = (rdate, rlogon, rname) # Load the ‘history’ dictionary
# using the LDEV # as the key
if rdate <> x: # Print each new date as we go
x = rdate
print rdate
# Initialize the ‘totals’ dictionary logon count at first use
if not totals.has_key(rdev): totals[rdev] = 0
totals[rdev] = totals[rdev] + 1 # Add one to the logon count

keylist = hist.keys() # ‘keylist’ contains seen LDEVs
keylist.sort() # BAM! Now it’s a sorted list

for ldev in keylist: # for each LDEV we saw. . .
rdate, rlogon, rname = hist[ldev] # load some work vars, and:
print "%04u %5u %7s %s" % (ldev, totals[ldev], rdate, rlogon)

This script assumes that a chronologically-ordered list of LDEV logons will show the most recent logon for every terminal (with any luck, hey?), and records every logon for each LDEV. Each successive assignment overwrites the previous value used by that LDEV key, so the last logon for each LDEV key is the last value kept. Additionally, the script counts each time that LDEV key was seen, so that you have an idea as to how often the terminal is used. This little script could easily be adapted to record other information, like the first logon, or whatever else you might need.

I hope this helps whet your appetite for the Python language, and that you will give it a try – again, there’s far more to the language than can be described here. Many thanks to Joseph Koshy at HP Bangalore for bringing Python to MPE/iX, and to the HP3000-L list for assistance. You can  see what Koshy is doing in his spare time to port Python v2.x by visiting the Python/iX web site on Sourceforge: pythonix.sourceforge.net. For a copy of Jython, head on over to www.jython.org and download a copy.

Go ahead — join the Python/iX groundswell now, and get your piece of the Python.

Curtis Larsen has been working with HP 3000s for 11 years, and believes that, given enough time, any application can be written using the CI. He currently works for Covance Laboratories, in Madison, Wis.


The Spectrum Project, Part II

By Bob Green

Last month I presented the first half of our history of the PA-RISC 3000 development, using excerpts from our old customer newsletters, supplemented with new comments (My comments are shown below prefaced by “In Retrospect”). By 1986 we reached the point where Robelle was allowed to experiment with a prototype MPE system at the migration center and were aghast at how slow and unreliable it was. And since the Unix versions of Spectrum seemed to be humming along nicely, the problem seemed to be software, not hardware.

September 11, 1987 Newsletter:

First Spectrum Shipments: Rumor has it that HP shipped the first four 930 machines on Friday, August 21st, with more to follow every week thereafter. As of press time, we have been unable to find out whether ordinary mortals are allowed to touch these machines (as opposed to those who have signed non-disclosure agreements).

In Retrospect: Due to the NDA, over a year passed with no Spectrum news in our newsletter. The project was now 18 months past the original promised delivery date, but was still far from completion. Many people wrote articles, about the Spectrum, mostly based on marketing hype from HP, but no one broke the embargo on real information. We were all terrified. The MPE group had dug themselves into a very deep hole, and no one wanted to be the one who caught the eventual backlash.

October 19, 1987 Newsletter: The Spectrum Song

Orly Larson and his database singers performed again at the Interex show, including their hit, “The Spectrum Song:”

If it takes forever, we will wait for you
For a thousand summers, we will wait for you
‘Til you’re truly ready, ‘til we’re using you
‘Til we see you here, out in our shops!

From the HP Management Roundtable: Schedule for Shipping Spectrums — “We are shipping equally around the world. Our first shipments went to both North America and Europe. We are acknowledging availability for 930s and 950s through December at this time … We expect by the end of November to be able to have acknowledged the entire backlog.”

In Retrospect: HP continued to spin the “shipments” of Spectrums, without mentioning that these were not finished products. The models were 930 and 950 and the operating system was called MPE/XL, changed in later years to MPE/iX when POSIX was integrated into MPE. By this time, HP was worried about their stock price also and did not want any negative news in the financial press, no matter how accurate. As shown by the next Q&A at the roundtable…

Early 930/950 “Shipments”

Question: “Are the 930s and 950s being shipped or not? In public you tell me they are shipped. In private, however, I hear from both users and HP that these machines are still covered by non-disclosure agreements and that access to these machines is very restricted, even when in customer sites. What is the story?”

Answer: “MPE/XL architecture is very, very new. There’s a million new lines [of code] that go into MPE/XL, and a lot of software sub-systems as well. And so we are being extremely cautious in how we proceed at this point. We’re going through what we call a slow ramp-up through the remainder of this year and going into large shipments in 1988. The reason for that is that we want to fully test out the system capability in a large number of customer environments and we want to make sure that the information on what’s going on in there and the people involved are protected from outside folks who either benevolently or not benevolently would like to find out what’s going on.

I’m sure we’re going to run into some problems along the way that haven’t been encountered in our earlier phases of testing. We haven’t really hit these machines with full production pressure yet. We know from experience that when you do that, you uncover things that you could never uncover in testing, even though extremely rigorous. [Rumor has it that the customers receiving Spectrums now are not allowed to put them into production until 1988.]”

In Retrospect: Early Spectrum customers called us to ask which version of Suprtool and Qedit they needed for their new systems, and whether there were any problems that they should be aware of. But legally, we could not even admit that we knew of the existence of the new servers. So we came up with the following wording: “If you had a new 3000, and we are not admitting that we know anything about a new 3000, you should be using Suprtool version 3.0 and Qedit version 3.6. On this hypothetical system, it might not be a good idea to hit Control-Y while copying a file from any other HP 3000. We can’t tell you what will happen, but you won’t like it.”

February 12, 1988 Newsletter

Spectrum Finally Leaves the Nest: Hewlett-Packard has officially released the 930 and 950 Spectrum computers, finally abandoning the protection of non-disclosure agreements. We have heard from several sources that the 930 and 950 attained Manufacturing Release during the month of January. This means that people who received “Control Shipment” Spectrums can now put them into production and let outsiders use them. You no longer need to sign any restrictive agreements to get a 930/950. It also means that we users can now compare notes on what the MPE/XL systems are good for.

Interestingly, we didn’t hear about the Manufacturing Release (MR) of the Spectrum from Hewlett-Packard itself. As far as we can determine, HP kept this event very quiet — no press conferences or splashes of publicity. Even some HP people in Cupertino were not aware that MR had occurred. Just because the 930 and 950 are released does not automatically guarantee that you can get one. Given the huge backlog of orders that HP has, it will make “controlled shipments” for a while, picking sites whose expectations match the state of the machines.

In Retrospect: Users had been following Spectrum for almost four years and you could see that we were eager for the release of the product. The MPE lab had grown to hundreds of engineers and technicians and hundreds of Spectrum servers. The amount of money being plowed into the project was awesome. Anyone with any kind of skills was being hired as a consultant, in an attempt to get the situation under control and begin shipping revenue-generating servers. But we were premature in our February proclamation of Manufacturing Release, an HP corporate milestone that requires signed confirmation that the product passes the performance tests set for it in the design specifications.

March 31, 1988 Newsletter

Spectrum Is Released but Not Released: In our last news memo, we reported that MPE/XL users were now removed from non-disclosure restrictions and allowed to put their Spectrum machines into production. In the last month, that news has been confirmed by many sources.

We also concluded, and reported, that MPE/XL had obtained MR (Manufacturing Release). That is untrue. MPE/XL has apparently obtained SR (System Release), but not MR. “System Release” seems to be a new category of release, created just for MPE/XL. We have heard from some new 950 customers who did not need to sign a non-disclosure agreement. However, one customer reported that before HP would allow him to order, he had to sign a document stating that he had no specific performance expectations. On the other hand, we heard from a school that recently went live with 35 student sessions and had great response times (“the machine is coasting along at 10 percent PCU utilization”).

In Retrospect: In order to stem the rising tide of bad expectations, HP released the MPE systems even though they could not pass the testing department. And the performance was still poor in many cases, less than the non-RISC 3000s being replaced, although excellent in a few other cases.

Non-disclosure restrictions are not lifted for everyone. Sites that are beta-testing subsystems which were not released with the initial MPE/XL system are still restricted. Also, third-party FastStart companies such as ourselves are still restricted from passing on any performance or reliability information that we obtain from HP. We face no restrictions regarding performance information received from our customers, so please call with your experiences.

Non-disclosure continues – HP is picking their initial customers carefully and coaching them to only pass on the good news about their new systems. We are still frustrated to not be able to pass on our ideas about how users can improve the performance of the Spectrum.

October 12, 1988 Newsletter

Gary Porto at Childcraft reports that with MPE/XL 1.1 the problem of a serial task in a batch job hogging the system is not so bad as it was with 1.0. This problem can occur with SUPRTOOL, QUERY, or any long serial task. The batch job still hogs the system, but at least people can get a minimum of work done. With 1.0, they couldn’t even get a colon! Gary reports that he has 65 on-line users on his 64-megabyte Series 950 and that the performance is pretty good — as good as his Series 70.

In Retrospect: On the 4 year anniversary of the project, HP released version 1.1 of MPE/XL, which made the systems much more useful, but still not up to the original promised performance of 1984. However, the promise of the “Precision Architecture” (HPPA) was there, as certain tasks were amazingly fast.

By this time, HP salesmen were getting irritated with us for not giving our customers any kind of endorsement for the switch to the 930/950. But our NDA was not cancelled until Manufacturing Release. Finally, the sales force convinced HP Cupertino to send us a signed release from our NDA. I don’t know when MR eventually happened.

From the UK’s HP World magazine: Early MPE/XL Migration Results. London Business School is not a typical installation. Much of their software is written using double precision floating point Fortran which benefits considerably from the Precision Architecture. MIS Director Gordon Miller says “Our straight line performance is up considerably — one program runs 40 times faster — but the performance gains are very application dependent and cannot be accurately forecast beforehand.”

Keith Howard of Collier-Jackson in Tampa, Florida participated in the Spectrum beta testing and upgraded from a Series 58 to a Series 950 — quite a leap. One application was found to be 6% slower due to constant switching between compatibility and native modes, but in most circumstances the machine was five to ten times faster than the Series 52 and one batch job ran 53 times faster!

Glaxo Export has temporarily deferred delivery on its second and third 950 systems due to implementation problems on the initial machine.

HP promises performance improvement for Precision Architecture over the next five years of 40-50 percent per year. Some of this will be achieved by further tuning of MPE/XL — version 1.1 is said to be at least 20 percent faster overall.

In Retrospect: As with the original 3000 project, the birth of the Spectrum was traumatic, expensive and embarrassing. But it paid off. HP was able to roll out better servers for the 3000 line on a regular basis for the next 10 years.

Despite the numerous expansions and revisions to the HP 3000 hardware and software, upgrades have been painless. Even the conversion to the PA-RISC design was backward-compatible and reasonably painless (if you ignore the slipped schedules). Often the user just rolled the new system in on a Sunday, plugged it into the power, reloaded the files, and resumed production. The original 1974 MPE Pocket Reference Card is still useful; everything on it works under MPE/iX version 7.5, except the Cold Load instructions. I have programs that I wrote in 1972, for which the source code was lost years ago, and they still run in Compatibility Mode.

When asked for an eulogy for the 3000, my reply was, “A great IT platform: reliable, affordable, flexible, easy to operate, and easy to program. And every release compatible with the previous for over 30 years. Perhaps some future OS team will adopt these same goals.”


The Spectrum Project, Part I

By Bob Green

Commemorating the Oct 31, 2003 “wake” for the HP 3000, Robelle are devoting our NewsWire column to some history. Our story of the original 16-bit HP 3000 (1972-1976) is told on our Web site.

After initial development, the HP 3000 grew and prospered. From 1974 to 1984, HP continued to produce more powerful 3000 hardware running more capable software. Each new model was compatible with the previous version and a joy to install.

But the pressure was on to switch to a 32-bit architecture, as other manufacturers were doing. So HP announced a radical change: a new 32-bit hardware for the 3000. The project was code-named Spectrum. As a 3000 consumer and 3000 vendor, Robelle was excited and concerned about the prospect of a new hardware architecture. Certainly it would be wonderful to have more powerful processors, but what about the disruption to our steady incremental, risk-less progress?

The first notice we took of the Spectrum appeared in our December 1984 customer newsletter, with continuing news to follow for the next four years (my retrospective comments are included as “In Retrospect”).

December 12, 1984

The first Spectrum machine will be an upgrade for the Series 68. Other size models will follow soon after, since HP is working on different Spectrum CPUs in three divisions at once (in the past, all 3000 CPUs came out of one division). This first Spectrum can be expected in the first half of 1986.

In Retrospect: Please make a note of that 1986 promised delivery date, and remember that HP faced serious competition from DEC and others. Customers who loved the 3000, but had outgrown the power of the system, were demanding more capable models.

Spectrum is based on the RISC concept, modified by HP Labs. RISC stands for Reduced Instruction Set Computing. Such a computer has no micro code, only a small number of key instructions implemented in very fast logic. The original Berkeley RISC machine had only 16 instructions. Spectrum has more than 16, but not many more. HP selected the instructions for the fast base set by studying typical application mixes on the existing HP machines. Other functions will be done via subroutines or co-processors (e.g., a floating-point processor, an array processor, or a database processor).

In Retrospect: The actual number of instructions in the Spectrum turned out to be about 130, not 16, but they were all simple enough to run in a single clock cycle. HP was the first computer company to go with the RISC philosophy and the only major one to risk the firm by converting all their computer models, both technical and commercial, to a single RISC design.

June 11, 1985

HP’s new Spectrum machine will have both Native-Mode software and 3000 software. The first Spectrum machine to be released will have 3-10 times more computing power than a 68, about 8-10 MIPS in Native Mode. Programs copied straight across will run about twice as fast as on a 68, and those that can be recompiled in Native Mode should run 6-8 times faster. Much of MPE, including the disk portion of the file system, has been recoded in Native Mode. Since most programs spend most of their time within MPE, even programs running in emulation mode should show good performance (unless they are compute-bound).

In Retrospect: The expectations were building in our minds: these machines would be much faster than our current models!

Spectrum will use much of the new operating system software that had been written for Vision, which saves a great deal of development time. Spectrum will use 32-bit data paths and will have a 64-bit address space. Forty Spectrum machines have been built and delivered for internal programming, but product announcement is not likely before 1986.

In Retrospect: Vision was an alternative 32-bit computer project at HP, using traditional technology, which was cancelled to make way for the RISC design from HP Labs. Invoking Vision re-assured us that this project is possible, that progress is being made. It was now six months after the first announcement of the project.

August 16, 1985

According to an HP Roundtable reported in the MARUG newsletter, “Most of what is printed about Spectrum is not to be trusted. Spectrum will be introduced at the end of 1985 and delivered in Spring 1986. There are 40-50 prototypes running in the lab and the project team consists of 700-800 engineers. HP will co-introduce a commercial version and a technical version with the commercial version fine-tuned to handle many interactive users, transaction processing, IMAGE access, and the technical version will be structured for computational programs, engineering applications, and factory automation. HP will eventually offer a choice of MPE and Unix. Most software will be available on Spectrum at introduction time and over time all software will be available.”

In Retrospect: HP tried to dispel rumors, but still predicted 1986 for delivery. HP would produce two Spectrum lines: the Unix line for technical users and the MPE line for commercial users, using the exact same hardware.

“The following describes what will be required to convert – Least: restore files and IMAGE databases as they are and run. Next: recompile programs in native mode. Next: change over to new IMAGE database system. Next: change source code to take advantage of RISC.” Robelle Prediction: Spring 1986 for a Spectrum that will reliably run existing MPE applications is not an attainable release date.

In Retrospect: The new relational HPIMAGE database mentioned here was cancelled much later in the project, after a brief encounter with end-users. I don’t remember much about HPIMAGE, except that a lot of work went into it and it didn’t succeed as hoped. TurboIMAGE ended up as the database of choice on the Spectrum. Without any inside information, but based just on past experience and common sense, Robelle tried to inject some caution about the 1986 release date. During the original traumatic HP 3000 project, Dave Packard “sent a memo to the HP 3000 team,” according to Chris Edler. “It was only two lines long and said, essentially, that they would never again announce a product that did not then currently meet specifications.” The division listened for over 10 years, but eventually, people forget….

September 20, 1985

From a Spring 1985 UK conference: Most existing peripherals will be supported and it will be possible to use networking software to link existing model HP 3000s to Spectrum, with the exception of Series II/III and 30/33. These would need a Series 37 or other current range machine to act as a gateway to Spectrum.

From an HP press release: “100 prototype models were already being used internally for system development as of April 1985.”
HPE, the new operating system for the commercial Spectrum is a superset of MPE. It will have two modes of operation: Execute mode (HP 3000) and Native Mode. The switch between the two will be made on a procedure call, but there will be some programming work needed to translate parameters when switching.

In Retrospect: Execute mode was eventually called Compatibility Mode and switching between modes turned out to be major CPU bottleneck in the new system, albeit one that would be removed over time.

The Spectrum is rumored at this time to provide 32 general-purpose registers to the user program and a virtual data space of 2 billion bytes.

December 30, 1985

From Gerry Wade of HP: The name of the Spectrum machine, when it comes out, will not be Spectrum. Another company already has that name. Spectrum will use the IEEE standard for floating-point arithmetic and will also support the HP 3000 floating point. Each data file will have a flag attached to it that tells which type of floating-point data it contains (the formats are not the same).

In Retrospect: The file flag idea never happened, although the TurboIMAGE database did introduce a new data type to distinguish IEEE floating point. Information on implementation details is starting to flow, which helps us believe that the project is on schedule and likely to deliver the more powerful servers we desire.

June 16, 1986

In reporting on Joel Birnbaum’s Spectrum presentation, the HP Chronicle had these observations: “Comparisons with Amdahl and DEC mainframes in slides showed areas where the Spectrum computers topped the larger machines’ benchmarks. ‘Even with un-tuned operating systems software, it’s significantly superior to the VAX 8600,’ Birnbaum said.”

In Retrospect: Joel was the HP Labs leader who was the sparkplug of the RISC project, building on research that he had done previously at IBM. In retrospect, we can see that Joel was talking about the performance and delivery of the UNIX Spectrum, not the MPE version, but customers took this as a promise of vast performance improvements in the very near future. It was now past Spring 1986 and the promised new 3000 machines were nowhere in sight. In fact, HP has not yet announced the new models and pricing. This was the first slippage in the project, barely noticed at the time.

July 20, 1986

Many people have been asking, “What is Robelle doing about Spectrum?” HP has invited us to join its Fast Start program for third parties and we have agreed. This program gives us pre-release access to Spectrum information and actual systems. We have visited Cupertino and run our software on the new machines. We are confident that all of our products will operate properly at the time that Spectrum is officially released.”

In Retrospect: Since Suprtool and Qedit were essential to the large 3000 customers that HP was targeting, HP asked Robelle to start porting and testing our products on the new systems. But to do that, we had to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement, the most draconian one we had ever seen. We used careful wording in our announcement above. From this date on, until years later, we could not tell our customers anything useful about the new machines. HP was especially sensitive about their reliability and performance.

When we arrived in Cupertino to do our first testing, we found the prototype Spectrum systems crashing every few minutes and running slower than our tiny system 37. We were appalled. Nothing in HP’s public statements had prepared us for the state of the project. I had personally gone through a similar situation with the original 3000 in 1972-74, and I wondered if upper management at HP knew how terrible things were. I thought about talking to them, but our NDA also prohibited us from talking to anyone at HP.

The Unix versions of Spectrum, on the other hand, seemed to be humming along nicely, showing that it was not a hardware problem.


Your Guide to Image Logging

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By Bob Green

The system is down – the hard drive is toast – and you may have to restore your IMAGE database from yesterday’s backup. In the past, this is the scenario that typically got HP 3000 system managers interested in the transaction-logging feature of the TurboIMAGE database.

But now, as a result of the Sarbanes-Oxley law (SOX), IMAGE Logging is also being used to create audits for data changes. Managers who have never used transaction logging before are now enabling it to create an evidence trail for their SOX auditors.

Here is an example from Judy Zilka, posting to the 3000-L newsgroup:

“As a requirement of Sarbanes-Oxley we are in need of an HP 3000 MPE system program that will automatically log changes to IMAGE data sets, KSAM and MPE files with a user ID and time/date stamp. We often use QUERY to change values when a processing error occurs and the user is unable to correct the problem on their own. The external auditors want a log file to be able to print who is changing what and when.

George Willis and Art Bahrs suggested IMAGE Transaction Logging:

Judy, we have enabled Transaction Logging for our TurboIMAGE databases coupled with a reporting tool known as DBAUDIT offered by Bradmark. For your other files, consider enabling a System Level logging #105 and #160. The LISTLOG utility that comes with the system can extract these records and provide you with detail or summary level reporting.

Hi George & Judy:

Yep, Transaction Logging will meet the requirements for Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPAA for requirements relating to tracking “touching” data.

Also, remember you must have a corporate policy relating to this tracking and either a SOP or a formal procedure for reviewing the logs. The SOP or procedure needs to address what constitutes normal and abnormal activity with regards to reviewing the logs and what action to take when abnormal activity is noted.

— Art “Putting on the InfoSec Hat “ Bahrs

P.S. The fines for not being able to show who did what and who has access to what can be very, very eye-opening! Of course these comments only apply to the US and businesses linked into the US.

So what is IMAGE logging?

First of all, it is not the same as “system logging” or system “logfiles.” These record MPE system activities such as logon and file open, and have their own set of commands to control them. You can see in George’s answer above that he suggests system logging to track KSAM and file changes.

IMAGE logging is a variety of “user logging” and is a part of the TurboIMAGE database application. Once enabled, it writes a log record for each change to a database. There are three programs that can be used to report on those database log records:

LOGLIST (a contributed program written by Dennis Heidner; I am not certain what the current status of this program is).

DBAUDIT (a product of Bradmark; in the spirit of SOX disclosure, I must admit that I wrote this program and it was a Robelle product before we sold it to Bradmark!)

AuditTool 3000, from Summit Solutions (www.sumsystems.com), created for ERP system logging and expanded to work with any 3000 application.

Setting Up IMAGE Logging

A number of MPE Commands are used to manage IMAGE logging; see the MPE manual at docs.hp.com/en/32650-90877/

index.html

:altacct green; cap=lg,am,al,gl,nd,sf,ia,ba

:comment altacct/altuser add the needed LG capability

:altuser mgr.green; cap=lg,am,al,gl,nd,sf,ia,ba

:build testlog; disc=999999; code=log

:getlog SOX; log=testlog,disc ;password=bob

:comment Getlog creates a new logid

:run dbutil.pub.sys

>>set dbname logid=SOX

>>enable dbname for logging

>>exit

:log SOX, start

:log SOX, stop

You can use the same Logid for several databases. For a more detailed description, see Chapter 7 of the TurboIMAGE manual, under the topic “Logging Preparation.”

IMAGE Logging Gotchas

Although the basics of user logging are pretty straightforward, there are still plenty of small gotchas. For example, Tracy Johnson asks about backup on 3000-L

“If when backing up IMAGE Databases that have logging turned on and you’re not using PARTIALDB, shouldn’t the log file get stored also if you store the root file? This question also applies to third-party products that have a DBSTORE option.”

He continued, “One problem I’ve been having is that since a log file’s modify date doesn’t change until it is stopped, restarted, or switched over, one might as well abort any current users anyway, so any log files will get picked up on a @[email protected] “Partial” backup, because DBSTORE and “online” (working together) features won’t do the trick. Because even though a root file’s modify date gets picked up on a Partial backup, the associated log file’s isn’t.

Then Bruce Hobbs pointed out that there is the Changelog command to close the current logfile before backup (which ensures that its mod-date is current and that it will be included on the backup) and start a new logfile.

Later Tracy ran into another interesting gotcha regarding logging and the CSLT tape

“If you use IMAGE logging, always make your CSLT the same day you need to use it! (Or make sure no CHANGELOG occurred since the CSLT was made. Thanks be to SOX...which forced IMAGE logging.)

“We added so many log files identifiers for each of our production databases it reached the ULog limit in sysgen of 64 logging identifiers. So, per recommendations of this listserv (and elsewhere,) I had to update the tables in sysgen and do a CONFIG UPDATE this weekend to bring it to the maximum HP ULog limit of 128. Not a problem. Stop the logging identifiers with “LOG logid,STOP” Shut down the system and BOOT ALT from tape. System came up just fine — UNTIL it was time to restart logging! Every logging identifier reappeared with old log file numbers a few days old. (We do a CHANGELOG every night and move the old log file to a different group.) I scratched my head on this one for half of Sunday.

<Epiphany Begin> Then it occurred to me, the Log file numbers the system wanted were from the day the CSLT was created. I had made it before the weekend, thinking it would save me some time before the shutdown! </Epiphany End>

Therefore:

a. Logging Identifiers retain the copy number on the CLST tape in the case of an UPDATE or UPDATE CONFIG.

b. Logging Identifiers on the system retain the NEXT log file they need to CHANGELOG to.

So if one needs to use a CLST to load and you’re using Image Logging, remember to use it just after you create it, or make sure no CHANGELOGs occurred since it was made.

This may effect some sites as they may believe their CPU is a static configuration and only do a CSLT once a month or once a week. In the case of an emergency tape load, to save some heartache rebuilding image log files, they may need to do a CSLT every day.


Making Your Legacy Foundation Open

By Scott Hirsh

After having been immersed in networked storage, I’ve had a lot of time to think about infrastructure architecture. The first lesson is that storage (along with networking) is the foundation of an IT architecture. So it stands to reason that an infrastructure that’s built to last will begin with external storage, ideally from a company dedicated to storage with as much heterogeneous operating system support as possible.

What you get from an external storage platform that supports multiple operating systems is the ability to change vendors, hosts, and operating systems with a minimum of fuss. Yes, a migration of any kind is not without its pain, but it’s a lot more painful when all hardware and software is tied to one vendor. That’s a lesson everyone reading this should have learned by now.

Furthermore, these independent storage players have extensive expertise in supporting multiple platforms, including migrating customers from one to another. And frankly, unless you’re contemplating a non-mainstream operating system, networked storage is an excellent investment because it is a best practice for storage vendors to provide ongoing support for any operating system with critical mass.

For example, any HP 3000 users running on Symmetrix will have no problem using that same storage on HP-UX, Solaris, Linux, Wintel, and many others. If you’re running on internal disk, you’re stuck with HP-UX, best case — not that there’s anything wrong with that.

The Best Offense is a Good Defense

Here are some quick guidelines that recap the concept of minimizing transfer costs:

Start with a networked storage platform that supports as many operating systems as possible. This is the foundation layer for your IT infrastructure.

The best Total Cost of Ownership in IT is based on consolidation. However, that doesn’t necessarily imply homogeneity. It’s a matter of degree. It’s a matter of physical location as well.

Software drives hardware. Choose DBMS, applications, tools based on support for multiple operating systems and hardware. Be cautious regarding any decision that locks you into one vendor. For example, SQL Server-based solutions, which only run on Wintel, will have higher transfer costs than Oracle.

Keep your vendors honest, but at the same time don’t underestimate the value of a true partnership. One company I consulted for dropped HP after learning that HP felt they “owned” them. Any time one side thinks they have the other over a barrel, there’s bound to be trouble. We’re all in this together.

The Glue That Holds It All Together – You

In the new, defensive, minimum transfer cost environment, IT departments take on the role of systems integrator. That’s the catch for designing maximum flexibility into your environment. The IT staff must make everything work together, and be prepared to shift gears at a moment’s notice. To me, that’s the silver lining to this otherwise dreary story of no loyalty and diminishing options. More than ever, it’s the people who make the difference.

Back in the day, hardware was expensive and people were not. Today, if you're still using your own hardware on-premise, the hardware is cheap and the people are expensive.

Perhaps the greatest legacy of the HP 3000, and what will ensure our continued leadership in IT, is the hard-earned knowledge of what’s a best practice and what is not.


Worst Practices: Staying on HP's 3000s?

By Scott Hirsh

In the years since HP’s end-of-life decision for the HP 3000 has worn off, was it a “worst practice” to be an HP 3000 user over its final vendor life? What could we have done differently, and how do we avoid painting ourselves into a technology corner in the future?

The key is a concept that vendors understand intimately – transfer cost. Transfer cost is the cost of changing from one vendor or platform to another. For example, switching phone carriers involves low transfer costs. You hardly know it happens. But changing from one operating system to another – say, HP 3000 to Solaris – means high transfer costs. Vendors try to make transfer costs high, without being obvious about it, to discourage customers from switching to competitors.

It is your job to identify potential transfer costs in your technology decisions, and to keep them as low as possible. One way to lessen risk to spread the risk over multiple platforms and vendors. Trust no one, and always have a Plan B.

This means making the assumption that everything that has been happening – vendor consolidation, commoditization of hardware and the subordination of operating system to DBMS and application – will continue unabated.

The days of the “HP shop” are long over. Even if you've decided to standardize on HP, Sun, IBM, you should do so with the knowledge that one day you may need to switch gears abruptly. In other words, these companies are noted for their legacy hardware, which you must be prepared to dump for another brand with as little pain as possible.

Start with a networked storage platform that supports as many operating systems as possible. This is the foundation layer for your IT infrastructure.

The best Total Cost of Ownership in IT is based on consolidation. However, that doesn’t necessarily imply homogeneity. It’s a matter of degree. It’s a matter of physical location as well.

Software drives hardware. Choose DBMS, applications, tools based on support for multiple operating systems and hardware. Be cautious regarding any decision that locks you into one vendor. For example, SQL Server based solutions, which only run on Wintel, will have higher transfer costs than Oracle or Sybase solutions.

Keep your vendors honest, but at the same time don’t underestimate the value of a true partnership. One company I consulted for dropped HP after learning that HP felt they “owned” them. Any time one side thinks they have the other over a barrel, there’s bound to be trouble. We’re all in this together.

No loyalty

We now know more than ever that there is no loyalty on either side of the bargaining table. The IT culture of planned obsolescence has accelerated, and any hope that a technology vendor will watch out for the customer is laughable at best. Ironically, in the computing arena, it’s IBM who seems to protect its customers the best. The shop I managed for 12 years was an IBM System 3 to HP 3000 Series III conversion. Who could have imagined?

Mix and Match

For the longest time I enjoyed being an HP 3000 user and an HP customer. Rather than see the HP 3000 as a “proprietary” platform that I was locked into, I looked it as an integrated platform where everything was guaranteed (more or less) to work together — unlike the emerging PC world where getting all the various components to work together was a nightmare.

But around the time that HP decided commercial Unix was the next big thing, the concept of heterogeneous computing was reaching critical mass. As discussed in my last column, the glory days of the HP 3000 were just too easy. IT decision makers seemed to have a complexity death wish, and we live with this legacy. Consequently, the way to lessen risk today is to spread the risk over multiple platforms and vendors. Trust no one, and always have a Plan B.

This means making the assumption that everything that has been happening for the past few years – vendor consolidation, commoditization of hardware and the subordination of operating system to DBMS and application – will continue unabated.

Separation of OS and Hardware

When the concept of hardware independence first manifested itself in the form of Posix, I was intrigued. Is this too good to be true, the user community having the upper hand on its technology destiny? Perhaps not the holy grail of binary compatibility among Unix flavors, but a quick recompile and hello new hardware. Well, it was too good to be true and nobody’s talked about Posix lately that I’ve heard anyway.

Likewise for Java. Write once, run everywhere — slowly. Yes, there are lots of handy applets and specialized tools that are Java based, but many of these Java applications use “extensions” the scourge of openness.

Two main operating systems that facilitate hardware independence are Linux and Windows. Each has its issues, from the standpoint of transfer costs. Linux, of course, comes in several flavors; all based on the same kernel, but tweaked just enough to derail binary compatibility. (Can’t we all just get along?) And Windows is from Microsoft, who knows something about locking people in then shaking them down. But while these two options are not without their problems, they represent at least the short-term future of computing.

Of the two hardware independent operating system solutions, Linux seems to me the better story. Clearly the flavor is a major decision, with Red Hat having the most support from major hardware vendors. But I have seen other distributions – notably SUse – adopted in large organizations, so don’t necessarily assume only one choice. The idea is not to turn this into “Linux everywhere” discussion, but to illustrate the concept of Linux as a means of avoiding being painted into a corner.

But will everything run on Linux? No. You almost certainly will need some kind of Windows presence, although I do business with some companies who absolutely, positively want nothing to do with Windows (and Microsoft). But that’s not typical. Most of us in IT resign ourselves to doing at least a little business with Microsoft.

Microsoft, however, has shown itself to be the boa constrictor of software companies. They never stop squeezing, especially when they know they have your critical applications. The hardware independence story is good, but Microsoft substitutes software dependence. Proceed with caution.

But the principle here is that even if you choose an operating system that only runs on one vendor’s hardware, you can at least mitigate the risk by choosing a DBMS and applications that can be transferred to another hardware and OS if necessary.


HP 3000s and the time to end Daylight Saving

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During the 1990s, Shawn Gordon wrote a column for the NewsWire on VeSOFT products and reviewed software for us. He also left the 3000 world for the novel pastures of Linux, long before that OS was a commonplace IT choice. His departure was an example of thinking ahead. Along those lines, Gordon's got a classy article from his website about Daylight Saving Time. DST is a failed experiment that costs everyone more money. California, where the HP 3000 was born, is on the path to eliminating DST. Arizona and Hawaii are already non-DST states.

DST became a thorn in the side of 3000 shops because it had to be accommodated with customized code. The cutover days, into Saving and then out of Saving, were different every year. A handful of clever jobstream hacks lurched systems into and out of time zones that were working perfectly until the law said every zone had to shift forward. Or back.

Here's Shawn's article, as polished as all of his offerings have been in both software and writing. You can write your US Representative to get this clock switching put away for good. The US Senate already is hearing a bill about this, although it's the misguided solution to make DST permanent. The alleged Saving has only been going on since HP first made 3000s. Since HP's given up on that, maybe the US can give up on Daylight Saving.

By Shawn Gordon

One might think that the societal contributions from New Zealand mostly consist of the band Crowded House and sheep-based products, but it is New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson that we have to thank or curse for modern Daylight Saving Time (DST). Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the idea, but it is based on a satire he wrote in 1784 about Parisians rising late in the day. Hudson authored and presented a paper in 1895 to the Philosophical Society proposing a 2-hour shift. This was entirely due to him working a “shift schedule” and not having enough daylight left after work during certain times of the year to collect bugs. His proposal was entirely self-serving. If he couldn’t get the time off, he’d force society to change.

Shortly after, and totally independently, the prominent English builder and outdoorsman William Willett noted in 1905 how many Londoners slept through the beautiful summer days, and as an avid golfer, he also didn’t like playing at dusk. Willett is often wrongly credited as the man who came up with DST. Again, totally self-serving and a desire to control other people's behavior. Willett was able to get Parliament to take up the proposal but it was rejected, he continued to lobby for it until his death in 1915.

DST wasn’t formally adopted by anyone until WWI in 1916 as a way to conserve coal, but again, this only controlled behavior, it didn’t change time. The same results could have been had by just starting everything an hour earlier. After the war, DST was abandoned and only brought sporadically, notably during WWII, but did not become widely adopted until the 1970s energy crisis.

In 1973, President Nixon changed the US to year-round DST, which of course was silly, everyone could just start earlier. The act was repealed when it resulted in a marked increase in school bus accidents. A study done by Stanley Coren of the University of British Columbia in 1991 and 1992 showed an 8 percent jump in traffic accidents on the Monday following the “spring forward” time change. After some jumbling around for a couple of years, it was finally settled in 1975 to the last Sunday in April through the last Sunday in October. Making changes to computer clocks in those days was not trivial and this was an enormous burden in the budding technology sector.

In the mid-1980s, the Sporting Goods lobby and associated lobbyists were able to convince Congress to extend DST to the first Sunday in April, which increased DST from six to seven months of the year in 1986. Computers were now far more prevalent and the change had an even larger impact and cost that everyone just had to eat. Simply having to change the clock twice a year was an enormous burden.

The systems I worked on at the time required the computer systems be restarted to change the clocks, which meant making sure all batch processing was completed so you could have a quiet 20 minutes or so to restart the systems in the middle of the night, which required a human being be sitting there.

In 2007, as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, DST was extended another 4 weeks so that the United States and Canada are now on it almost two-thirds of the year. The claim was that this additional 4 weeks would save 0.5% electricity per day for the country, enough to power 100,000 homes. There is a provision in the act to revert to standard time if those savings didn’t materialize. A 2008 study examined billing data in the state of Indiana before and after the 2006 change to DST and showed an increase of 1-4 percent due to the extra afternoon cooling and increased morning lighting costs.

All public safety claims made in the 1970s by the US DOT have been discounted by later empirical studies by the NBS. Similar claims by Law Enforcement of reduced crimes were also discounted as the sample set was too small (two cities) and did not allow for any mitigating factors.

In November 2018, California passed Proposition 7 which repealed the Daylight Saving Time Act of 1949 that approved the clocks in California to stay in sync with changes made at the federal level. This is the first step in allowing California to either (sensibly) cancel DST altogether like Arizona and Hawaii, or (foolishly) staying on DST year-round. If a state as large and influential as California were to abandon DST altogether, you would likely see a lot of adoption across the US and possibly the end of this silly practice altogether. The people that think year-round DST is a great idea, don’t remember when we did it before.

Arbitrarily changing something like the clock has huge effects and costs across society, as previously noted. Major systems can go down from bad date calculations. There was an outage in Microsoft Azure on leap day 2012 because of a simple date math bug. Politicians and lobbyists are oblivious to these costs and concerns and blithely change the clocks around as though they are some Olympian Gods that command time itself.

Ultimately, it is the arrogance of politicians that seem to think they are creating or giving you an extra hour of daylight, when in fact they are just controlling everyone’s behavior. There is no energy savings, quite the contrary. It doesn’t improve public safety, it does none of what it is purported to do. What it does have is a deleterious effect on public health and safety. A negative impact on kids performance in school, as many studies show that kids do better in school by starting later in the day and DST is contrary to that.

DST mandates massive hidden costs and dangers in adjusting delicate computer software systems. Modern life does not require DST. Our lighting energy costs are trivial compared to our other usages like computers and TV. Flexible work arrangements and a global economy makeshift work mostly a thing of the past. It’s time to move to the 21st Century and drop this anachronistic legislative holdover that was developed by arrogant and self-serving men. Write your Senators and your Representatives and let them know what you think.

Photo by Darwis Alwan from Pexels


In Your History: Strobe emulator project rolls up sleeves

December 2004

Editor's note: Strobe abandoned its emulator project before Stromasys released its Charon emulator for PA-RISC in 2012. Strobe was the first to announce officially, though.

Strobe commits engineering time to design HP 3000 replacement

3000 support now stands by for the next seven years and beyond. Applications continue to work on HP 3000s. The base of MPE experience is adequate, with IT pros ready to pass on 3000 skills and employ what they know. The only thing missing for the HP 3000 afterlife is new hardware — and if a Pacific Northwest company succeeds on its mission, new 3000 systems won’t be missing for long.

Strobe Data, a company with almost 20 years of experience building hardware emulators, has revealed that it has started design on an HP 3000 emulator. Mike Penk, the engineer who just completed Strobe’s software-only product that emulates Digital’s venerable PDP-11 systems, is leading Strobe’s efforts. The end result will let PC hardware act as if it’s a system with HP’s PA-RISC CPU at its heart, the processor that drives both HP 3000s as well as HP’s older Unix systems.

The newest Strobe project will take several years to deliver its first version. Strobe’s president and founder Willard West said his company’s business experience in emulator lifecycles tells him there’s no rush to complete a product before HP leaves the 3000 support arena. In fact, the lack of vendor support for discontinued systems has been a part of the Strobe business model.

Used HP 3000s will still be in the market by 2007, but West says his company has never considered used systems as competition for Strobe emulators. Price won’t help used systems compete, he believes, even if they sell for a fraction of an emulator.

“If a customer’s going to buy used product, he can probably buy it for 10 percent of what our product will sell for,” West said. “But it’s used, and who’s going to support it? I just don’t see that the used market will be viable two years from now.”

After gathering data on the 3000 market last year, Strobe seemed poised to start design of a product they’ve built for other platforms. The company waited until the summer of 2004 had passed before tossing its hat into the homesteading ring.

“The need [for an emulator] has developed, and nobody has stepped in to address that need,” West said. “We have a solution that we have been working on, in various flavors, since 1985.”

No HP dependency

Design and testing of an HP 3000 emulator stood at the heart of early plans by advocacy group OpenMPE. Prior board members reasoned that without replacement hardware available to the market, the 3000 platform couldn’t maintain a mission-critical profile. Emulation — where a software suite or a hardware-software combination transforms a PC processor into accepting HP 3000 instructions — dominated OpenMPE and homesteading discussions until late 2003.

OpenMPE even worked to get HP to declare its intent to offer an emulator-level license for MPE/iX, available beyond 2006. HP managers from the HP 3000 division offered a letter of intent to demonstrate their commitment to support an emulator with such a license.

But OpenMPE activity during the past year has focused on getting a limited license from HP to use the MPE source code in development outside HP. In the group’s latest strategy, 3000 hardware would be plentiful, while MPE/iX will need continued care after HP shut down its MPE/iX labs. HP has said it won’t decide on such third-party licensing of MPE source until the second half of 2005.

Stobe’s project doesn’t depend on anything that HP might decide. West said keeping MPE/iX static, with no further development beyond HP’s efforts, works for a marketplace accustomed to reliability.

“I kind of see OpenMPE going in the wrong direction,” West said. “People are homesteading because they have a reliable piece of software and reliable hardware. When people start talking about changing either one of those, they get nervous. What assurance do they have that the OpenMPE group has the resources to do this?”

Understanding software

Although Strobe’s aim is to create a product that processes MPE/iX commands exactly like an HP 3000, Strobe’s efforts could require more intimate knowledge of MPE’s internals than the company has on its staff today. The emulator itself is likely to be a software product at first, running on an Intel Pentium chip and using Linux to manage system operations. This design follows the model Strobe used in its most recent emulator, a software suite called Osprey/MP that mimics the Digital PDP-11 hardware.

Performance challenges might push Strobe to incorporate custom-designed hardware in its emulator, West said. “We may build a PA-RISC hardware platform eventually,” he said. “If the customers need more speed than say, a 4Ghz dual Pentium-4 can give them, we’ll have to turn to the hardware implementation.”

Strobe sells hardware products which emulate the HP 1000 servers, used for real-time applications, as well the Data General Eclipse servers and those PDP-11s. Strobe recommends its customers use server-class PCs with top-grade memory and storage when emulating these business-class servers.

HP’s letter of intent for licensing MPE/iX on an emulator requires customers to use HP computers, although engineers at HP say there’s no way for MPE/iX to check what kind of PC is executing the 3000 applications’ instructions.

In the meantime, HP has said that it will transform HP 9000s into HP 3000s on a limited basis, which would keep even more sites on HP-built hardware. West is unconcerned about HP’s latest offer, one that might be available only to the largest of HP 3000 users.

“Can I kiss them for doing that?” he asked. “They’re keeping those customers in stasis for me when they do that.” Staff at HP’s own IT operations have been asking about how to compare HP 9000 models to 3000 counterparts, so HP’s IT shops could continue to use transformed 9000s for business-critical MPE/iX applications.

Those software applications extend the lifespan for an emulator product, West said. “There’s lots of things that can happen to software,” he said, “like it’s not documented, or the people who wrote it aren’t around anymore. There’s lots of reasons to homestead.”

Bootstrapping work

Strobe says it has several customers who have offered it seed money to start work on an HP 3000 emulator. Rather than raising capital to start development, Strobe can use profits from its emulator business to begin work. “I have a company, a foundation of an income stream,” West said. “I can make the commitment and then have the money flow in.”

Some of the most extensive work on the project will involve managing IO streams between storage and the emulated processors. West said enlarging the volume size an operating system can handle is the problem his company has most frequently encountered.

Strobe will build an execution engine for the PA-RISC instruction set, an effort that “will take no more than 30 percent of the effort” on the project, West said. Most of the challenge of making software stand in for a computer lies in virtualization: the redirection of peripheral data into and out of the core processor. IO instructions are trapped and passed to the host, so disc drive models are emulated in software under Windows or Linux.

Strobe’s emulator will only be aimed at supporting the 32-bit mode of the HP 3000 and HP 9000. A version that runs Linux will come first, to prove the PA-RISC emulation concept, West said. Unix is likely to follow, and then the Strobe emulator will have to mimic the “BIOS switch,” as West called it in shorthand, which tells MPE/iX that it can continue booting on the hardware.

The MPE nuances that make HP’s PA-RISC computers become HP 3000s lie closer to the end of Strobe’s emulator project. West believes his company will have access to 3000 experience by then.

“When we get to the point where we want to run MPE as a test, I have great confidence that HP, with that [MPE/iX] license, will tell us how to implement that switch,” West said. “We’ll certainly have experience in the operating system by the time the product is up and running.”


Using Shell Scripts on MPE/iX

Newswire Classic

By Ken Robertson

[Ed. Note: Bob Green of Robelle reminds us that both MPE and Unix have scripts, but there are a number of differences. To explain, he offers this article written when Ken Robertson was at Robelle.]

Before MPE/iX, there was a run-time environment for the MPE/V class of HP computers called the Command Interpreter (CI). This MPE/V CI had limited programming capability, with If/Else constructs and numeric variables limited to values between 0 and 65535. The basic interface of the MPE/V CI (Command Interpreter) was ported to MPE/iX machines, and beefed up so it would be usable as a run-time shell.

The MPE/iX command interpreter has a generous command set, pushing the shell into the realm of a true programming tool. Its ability to evaluate expressions and to perform I/O on files allows the end-user to perform simple data-processing functions. The CI can be used to solve complex problems. Its code, however, is interpreted, which may cause a CI solution to execute too slowly for practical purposes.

Command files are a collection of commands in flat files, of either variable or fixed length record structure, that reside in the MPE or POSIX file space. Basically, command files are what you could call MPE Macros. Anything that you can do in the CI interactively, you can do with command files, and then some. You can use command files in situations that call for repetitive functions, such as re-compiling source code, special spooler commands, etc. Command files are also great when you want to hide details from the end-user.

A command file is executed when its name is typed in the CI, or invoked from a command file or programming shell. Just as in program execution, the user’s HPPATH variable is searched to determine the location of the command file.

MPE Scripts Versus Unix Scripts

For the average task, the MPE scripting language is easier to read and understand than most Unix scripts. For example, command line parameters in MPE have names, just like in regular programming languages.

Of course, there are several script languages on Unix and only one on MPE! On Unix you can write shell scripts for any of the many shells provided (C shell, Bourne shell, ksh, bash, etc). Although there is also now a Posix shell on MPE, most scripts are written for the CI. Several third-party tools, such as Qedit and MPEX, emulate HP scripting and integrate it with their own commands.

A command file can be as simple as a single command, such as a Showjob command with the option to only show interactive sessions (and ignore batch jobs):

:qedit
/add
1      showjob [email protected]
2      //
/keep ss
/e
:

You have created a command file called SS — when you type SS you will execute showjob [email protected]

On MPE, the user needs read (r) or execute access (x) to SS. On Unix you normally must have x access, not just r access, so you do a chmod +x on the script. This is not necessary in MPE, although, if don’t want users to be see the script, you may remove read access and enable execute access.

Structure of a Command File (aka CI script)

A script is an ASCII file with maximum 511 byte records. Unlike Unix, the records may contain an ASCII sequence number in the last 8 columns of each line. The command file consists of 3 optional parts:

1. Parameter line with a maximum of 255 arguments:
parm sessionnumber
parm filename, length=”80”

2. Option lines:
option nohelp,nobreak
option list

3. The body (i.e., the actual commands)”
showjob job=!sessionnumber
build !filename;rec=-!length,,ascii
In MPE scripts, there is no inline data, unlike Unix ‘hereis’ files.

Parameters

Notice in the example above that parameters are used with an exclamation (!), as opposed to the $ in Unix. The same is true for variables. Parameters are separated by a space, comma or semicolon. All parameter values are un-typed, regardless of quoting.

In a typical Unix script, the parameters are referenced by position only ($1, $2, $3, …). In an MPE script, the parameters have names, as in the function of a regular programming language, and can also have default values. In Unix you use [email protected] for all of the parameters as a single string; in MPE you use an ANYPARM parameter to reference the remainder of the command line (it must be the last parameter).

Here is a script to translate “subsys” and “err” numbers from MPE intrinsics into error messages. The subsys and error numbers are passed in as parameters:

parm p_subsys=108,p_error=63
setvar subsys hex(!p_subsys)
setvar error hex(!p_error)
comment the hex conversion allows for negative numbers
comment the #32765 is magic according to Stan!
setvar cmd “wl errmsg(#32765,!subsys);wl errmsg(!error,!subsys);exit”
debug !cmd

As you can see above, the Setvar command assigns a value to parameter or to a new variable. But there are also system pre-defined variables. To see them all do Showvar @;hp. To get information on variables, do help variable and to get help on a specific variable, say hpcmdtrace, do help hpcmdtrace (set TRUE for some debugging help).
In most MPE commands, you must use an explicit exclam ! to identify a variable: build !filename

However, some MPE commands expect variables, and thus do not require the explicit !. For example, Setvar, If, ElseIf, Calc, While, and for all function arguments, and inside ![expressions].

Warning: variables are “session global” in MPE. This means that if a child process, or scripts, changes a variable, it remains changed when that child process terminates. In Unix you are used to the idea that the child can do whatever it likes with its copy of the variables and not worry about any external consequences.

Of course having global variables also means that it is much easier to pass back results from a script! And this is quite common in MPE scripts.

Options

Options allow you to list the commands as they are execute (option list), disable the Break key (option nobreak), enable recursion (option recursion), and disable help about the script (option nohelp).

The script body below shows active process information. This example shows many of the commands commonly used in scripts: If, While, Pause, Setvar, Input and Run. Other commands you will see are Echo, Deletevar, Showvar, Errclear.

WHILE HPCONNSECS > 0
    IF FINFO("SQMSG",0)
       PURGE SQMSG,TEMP
    ENDIF
    BUILD SQMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG
    FILE SQMSG=SQMSG,OLDTEMP
    SHOWQ;ACTIVE >*SQMSG
    SETVAR PINLIST ""
    WHILE FINFO("SQMSG",19) <> 0
         INPUT SQLINE < SQMSG
         IF POS("#",SQLINE) <> 0 THEN
           SETVAR PIN RTRIM(STR(SQLINE,47,5))
           SETVAR PINLIST "!PINLIST" + "," + "!PIN"
         ENDIF
    ENDWHILE
    IF FINFO("SPMSG",0)
       PURGE SPMSG,TEMP
    ENDIF
    BUILD SPMSG;REC=-79,,F,ASCII;TEMP;MSG
    FILE SPMSG=SPMSG,OLDTEMP
    SETVAR PROC "SHOWPROC PIN="+"!PINLIST"+";SYSTEM >*SPMSG"
    !PROC
    WHILE FINFO("SPMSG",19) <> 0
         INPUT SPLINE < SPMSG
         IF POS(":",SPLINE) <> 0 THEN
           ECHO !SPLINE
         ENDIF
    ENDWHILE
    PAUSE 30
ENDWHILE


Handling Errors

In most Unix scripts, if a step fails, you check for an error with an If-conditional and then take some action, one of which is ending the script. Without an If, the script continues on, ignoring the error.

In MPE, the default action when a step fails is to abort the script and pass back an error. To override this default, you insert a Continue command before the step that may fail. You then add If logic after the step to print an error message and perhaps Return (back 1 level) or Escape (all the way back to the CI).

     continue
      build newdata
      if cierror<>100 then
         print "unable to build newdata file"
         print !hpcierrmsg
         return
      else
         comment - duplicate file, okay
      endif

You can set HPAUTOCONT to TRUE to continue automatically in case of errors, but this can be dangerous. The default behavior at least lets you know if an unexpected problem occurs.

User Defined Commands (UDC)

UDCs are like Command File scripts, except that several are combined in a single “catalog” file. They are an older feature of MPE, so you may see them in older applications even when scripts seem like a better solution. The primary reason that they are still useful is that they support Option Logon, which invokes the command when a user logs onto the system.


3000 sites miss progressive tactics, then vendors

Puzzle pieces with hands
The word progressive is on the rise again in our vocabulary. The term rose at first in the turn of the 20th Century, when it signified something that envisioned a better future. In some cases, those progressive tactics were aimed at reforms. You might compare reforms to removing old, buggy versions of compilers to replace them with newer, more capable ones. If you go back far enough, people running HP 3000s were replacing FORTRAN 66 with FORTRAN 77, or replacing MPE written in SPL with MPE/iX in Modcal.

Then there's the progressive tactic of devising something new to meet a need where no solution is in place, old or otherwise. Progressives in the first decade of the 20th created the US Food and Drug Administration. Today, 114 years later, the FDA will be gatekeepers to our survival in the US. All COVID-19 vaccines pass through the FDA.

The HP 3000 equivalent of such a progressive tactic might be MPE/iX source code licenses. Nobody knew why the market would need access to the innermost code for the 3000's OS. Then the HP business changed, dropping 3000 future development. The hit on the market meant more internal designs had to become external tools. Independent support companies, as well as some well-schooled utility vendors, earned the right to read trade-secret code for MPE/iX.

While there's very little need today for that sweeping kind of progressive behavior for an HP 3000 customer, the other kind of forward-looking progressive plans have become too short in supply. Running an HP 3000 in a production environment with mission-critical duties isn't an automatic trigger for support anymore. This isn't true in every production case, but the decline of this progressive investment outlook is costing the community, even while it saves some dollars in operating expenses.

One notable loss is that our most stalwart sponsor, Pivital Solutions, is shifting its resources away from the HP 3000 starting in January. Other support companies have already sidetracked or ended their offerings. Pivital held on longer than nearly all of 3000 expert companies. It remains well-stocked with know-how, not to mention one of those rare MPE/iX source licenses. Source solves problems HP did not anticipate. But the growth of its 3000 customers stopped several years ago, president Steve Suraci reports.

"We will continue to honor our obligations to support our remaining base through 2027," he told me this week, "but we can no longer limit ourselves by our 3000 tethers." 

The situation may be different at other companies, but my experience and reports show that eliminating 3000-related budgets is everywhere. "The sites that remain are no longer looking to be progressive," Suraci says. "The vast majority of the remaining customers still use the 3000 for mission-critical functions, but they no longer invest in the platform. They make no pretense when it comes to budgets."

Suraci and his company have been ardent supporters of the 3000's mission ever since the company entered the market almost 30 years ago. At first, there was its work in the GrowthPower ERP market. GrowthPower was an MRP II system with integrated financials that ran exclusively on the HP 3000. There was, at one time, over 1,000 customers for GrowthPower.

About a decade later, Pivital joined the ranks of vendors who sold new HP 3000s as an authorized reseller. This promised to open the doors to sales to even more 3000 use that went beyond MRP. Less than a year after Pivital joined HP's reseller lineup, though, Hewlett-Packard canceled its future development for the 3000.

Pivital was being progressive about its role in the 3000 market. HP didn't reward anyone who stepped out like that, especially so in the case of Pivital. The company was the last one joining the reseller ranks. It didn't rattle Suraci and his team much. They stood their ground on support and remained exclusive to the HP 3000. Many support companies try to maintain a wider range of expertise. Sometimes that means the knowledge base isn't as deep.

It's better for the customer that we specialize, he told me more once. He also reminded the market that its support vendors need to have parts in a depot, rather than shopping for a replacement at the last minute.

"Customers are all too willing to risk their support on a pipe dream that a capable closet technician will show up at a moment's notice, with no service level agreement or parts inventory to support them," Suraci says. There are plenty of parts in the market — but having specifically what a customer needs within a four-hour response time means that the right way to support a site is with a depot.

HP abandoned its 3000 base almost two decades ago, "but we embraced the remnants," he said. "Initially, it was a great match. There was still a progressive base, and we were a willing partner capable of helping them reach their initiatives. "

Over time, he says, things changed. Suraci is unique among support firm presidents. For many years now, he's advised his customers to move onto a computing solution that's supported by a vendor or a marketplace. Something other than an HP 3000 and MPE/iX, to be precise. "For all the right reasons," he says, "the base dwindled as users migrated to more current technologies."

It might have happened more gradually without that vanishing progressive strategy. A site committed to a support budget, with some designs on refreshing architecture where they can, will still be able to rely on the HP 3000 for a good long while. There are seven more full years of MPE/iX use before the 2028 date decision looms. There are even solutions announced or in development to clear that hurdle.

What's not been done, however, is the adoption and practice of supporting every mission-critical 3000. That would include the archival systems holding key data, the kind that regulators demand. Since the progressive tactics have faded, these plans are sending 3000 vendors into new directions. Good vendors like Pivital are curtailing their connections. Supporting your vendor is good for your future.


Legacy systems remain ramparts of IT

Notre dame architecture
Earlier this month, a long-time 3000 migration firm pointed to an IEEE article about legacy IT investments. Inside the Hidden World of Legacy IT Systems quotes a study by Statista that reports that three-quarters of all IT spending since 2010 goes toward operating and maintaining existing systems. The numbers throughout the IEEE article tell a story that's familiar to legacy managers like those who maintain HP 3000s. $2.5 trillion, out of a total IT spend of $35 trillion, has gone to trying to replace legacy systems. Nearly a third of that has been spent on failed efforts.

Fresche Solutions' co-founder Jennifer Fisher pointed at the legacy link. The company was once called Speedware, selling development tools and experience with legacy systems. By today, the company's got 22,000 customers, many in what 3000 managers would call the AS/400 space, and it sells X-Analysis, onboarding software that delivers reports on what's inside a legacy installation's many software modules.

Christine McDowell, VP of marketing at Fresche, says that legacy systems got themselves into a jam because they've run so effectively up to now. "The systems ran so well that they didn't change a lot," she says. "Time has caught up with them." Older languages, such as RPG in the IBM Series i space that's the modern name for AS/400, are providing a lot of the pain for legacy refreshes.

The company is still managing HP 3000 resources, along with Series i systems, as part of its solutions. There's no more growth in the Series i market than in the HP 3000 space: "We don't see net new IBM i," McDowell says. The growth has been negative in the HP 3000 world. Legacy is holding its own overall, but some platforms are more fixed in place than others.

Many legacy systems, though, share one common element that makes them continued ramparts. "The need for an integrated system is just as great as before," McDowell says. As one of the original group of HP 3000 Migration Partners in 2002, Speedware sold its customers on the advantage of having 100 percent referenceable projects. The Fresche customer base today is many times the size of Speedware's. "It's always been a part of our DNA to strive for 100 percent referenceability," McDowell says. "I never say 100 percent now, because I haven't talked to every customer."

Legacy is surviving in large measure because companies are facing what's called the succession problem. "It's the reality of the people who built and managed these systems," McDowell says. "There was often no succession plan."

To keep the legacy technology relevant, it's got to be modernized. Not everyone needs every aspect of modernization. For the a la carte shoppers, a subscription service can now take the place of capital expenses. IBM's Series i market is distinctive because it still enjoys the support of its creator. More than two thousand business partners and vendors still sell into that market. It's a multi-OS chip ecosystem, supporting a Unix variant, the AS400 environment, as well as mainframe-style systems.

There's proof that the HP 3000 remains in use as a legacy solution, McDowell says. Dun and Bradstreet Asset Reports still show a large number of companies reporting 3000s in service. "Companies still get value from these systems," she says. "They just need to figure out which pieces they will leverage." 

 


Giving gratitude for 3000s and survival

Thanksgiving-1680142_1920
This holiday weekend, many of us can give thanks for surviving a year unlike any other. A pandemic is one way to learn how deep your fortitude can go. It was easier to love a business computer that was still being manufactured and sold. Even if the sales were disappointing and irregular, newer systems were still going into the world.

In love, we find out who we want to be. In war, we find out who we are. This has been a year of war for health, and it brings us close to two decades of battle to keep resources at hand for 3000s.

By this weekend, the only systems headed into the world running MPE are the new releases of the Stromasys Charon emulator and some experimental installs of a Classic 3000 emulator. The latter SIMH software runs MPE V and it has devoted hobbyists around it. That emulator is not a production asset. The one from Stromasys is proven.

On a holiday invented to promote thanks as well as outsized eating, Thanksgiving reminds us of what a 3000 user can thank the gods for — and something to envy, too.

Prolific commenter Tim O'Neill has asked, "Can you write about the current futures of other no-longer-supported systems such as HP 1000, Alpha, and old HP 9000s?"

We can write some of that. The HP 1000, a product line that HP turned off just after Y2K, still has third parties who will maintain and support RTE operating system applications. The HP 1000 got a proper emulator from Strobe Data, engineered just in time to capture the business of companies who couldn't part with RTE apps.

A similar story is true of the AlphaServer line from HP. Killed off in the last decade, Alpha is a third-party supported product. No other Alpha computers were built after HP shunted Alpha users to the Integrity line, a migration path of now-dubious future. Alpha has a good emulator in the AXP version of Charon from Stromasys. The presence of Charon also prompts thanks from companies who can't support the concept of 17-year-old HP hardware running MPE/iX.

But while the Alpha and the 3000 live on in the virtualization of Stromasys, both communities can be envious of the deal another retiring environment received from HP. OpenVMS lives on in an exclusive license to VMS Software Inc. The company got a 2013 arrangement to carry OpenVMS forward with new versions using the HP source code for the operating system.

OpenVMS futures have some tantalizing what-if's, both for the OS as well as for the 3000 users who wanted more MPE/iX future from HP back in 2002. OpenMPE campaigned for use of HP's source code for MPE and got an arrangement that was announced 13 years ago this week. That source was limited to a technical support resource, however.

If, as happened with OpenVMS, that source had been promised to a single third party, six years before HP would drop support like it was for OpenVMS, there could be more to be thankful for by now. Extensions of some third-party applications. Support for newer technologies. A replacement OS vendor, blessed by HP, to mention in boardroom meetings about the 3000's future.

Perhaps OpenVMS customers should be thankful for something else, too: lessons HP faced about ending the life of a business operating environment, delivered from the OS that had brought HP to the computing game. Third parties who love and care for a legacy computer were at the ready for the 3000. They fell short of convincing Hewlett-Packard to turn over a marketplace. It seems HP learned that leaving customers with no better choice than replacing a 3000 with Windows was not business that anybody feels thankful for.


HP Enterprise reclaims 3000 manual library

HPE Documentation interface for support

HP 3000 and MPE/iX manuals might be found anywhere these days. It's a common request to hear from a 3000 pro, "Where can I find that manual?

HP is back in this business with a new interface. These webpages at HPE's website are a high-value address to locate documentation and make it available to a new 3000 administrator. Or a migration team trying to understand how something like TurboStore/iX works.

There's no guarantee of how long HP Enterprise will keep this library open. Get it while you can.


One OpenMPE legacy: Deep data on 3000 hardware's power

OpenMPE logo
It was easy to complain about OpenMPE's unmet hopes and dreams. HP never gave the small collective of ardent MPE veterans a chance to change things top to bottom. Hemmed in by non-negotaible NDAs, and sequestered to the corral where smaller customers live, OpenMPE didn't do what everybody wanted. Good-hearted and high-minded people came to the board and left, sometimes dismayed.

However, OpenMPE became a harbor for the schooners of 3000 capability. The OpenMPE website recently came under the curation of Keven Miller at 3k Ranger. He's rehosted and returned many of the assets of information OpenMPE created.

For example, there's a great grid showing the relative performance of HP 3000 hardware. Why might anybody need this in 2020? We live in a world where reusing assets is more possible than ever. These MPE systems remain for sale at hardware brokerages. the 3000-L newsgroup doesn't get many new messages these days. One regular post, though, comes from Jesse Dougherty. Systems like A-Class, N-Class, and even 9x9s remain for sale.

Comparing these is a lot easier with a performance chart. So 3k Ranger helps out, forwarding the research collected by OpenMPE. Knocking at the web address of "openmpe.com" doesn't deliver an answer anymore. The work remains at another address, still serving a purpose more than nine years after OpenMPE disbanded.

The aims of OpenMPE were high. At one point in 2009, the group was in line for a source code license. Even 11 years ago, the phrase succession planning was in the lexicon of 3000 owners. Succession was a part of MPE's future, since it's a long-serving asset.

 


Damages and desires got stamped from HP's decision

EFORMz flyer

Paper, printed with barcodes or mailed, still plays a role.

Nineteen years ago, Hewlett-Packard rocked the 3000 world with a fateful announcement. "No more new 3000s," the creator of the system said. "December of 2006 marks the end of HP's MPE road. Your ecosystem has been shrinking for some time." And so on.

How bad was that decision, really, in the long view from 2020? It killed companies, cratered careers, made vendors vanish. The world's landfills and scrapyards gathered tons of aging 3000 iron, over the next decade and beyond. What good came of it might be measured in how companies and experts rebuilt their prospects and skill levels.

Not many injured parties fell immediately from a mortal wound. Like COVID, though, the news attacked those whose careers or business models were already vulnerable. I was tempted, in the years that followed, to compare the HP choice as another kind of 9/11. I didn't go there, and I won't try to equate that business decision with a pandemic that's killed close to 1.5 million people worldwide.

The pain of a loss, though, isn't so easily defined. For some people and companies, November 14 was the wildfire that cleared out the old forest floor to make way for new trees. Minisoft was roaring along with its terminal emulator and middleware business. Its founder Doug Greenup summed up the firestorm and the aftermath eloquently.

"At first our business was not really affected," he says. "In fact, our sales actually trended up slightly with upgrades. We were faced with a critical decision to either let our company fade slowly away with the declining MPE business, or reinvent ourselves. I remember that 90 percent of our total business at the time was MPE."

"We decided to take Minisoft in a radical new direction going back to our old word processing days. We originally produced a product called Miniword which competed with HPWord and TDP on the HP 3000. Based on our long lost past, we created a document management suite written in Java that was operating system agnostic. We then marketed this software suite into several new non-HP worlds: QAD, RedPrairie, Manhattan, STW, and Microsoft Dynamics."

"It was very difficult to reinvent, and it took several difficult years," Greenup wrote to us on the 10-year anniversary of the announcement. "HP's decision almost killed our company. But we survived and are stronger as a result."

A few weeks ago, Minisoft dropped a marketing flyer, full color and tri-folded, into my mailbox at the curb. The flyer updated me on eFORMz, its solution for printed forms. It emerged in the years after 2001. Minisoft says, "The world's great brands run on eFORMZ" with a list: Petco, Tiffany, Office Depot, Adidas, Victoria's Secret, Mrs. Fields. The lineup reminded me of the Who's Who list that Ecometry boasted during the year of that 2001 HP announcement. Known brands, the Ecometry sites, all using the HP 3000.

eFORMz doesn't require a 3000. If a company has one, the software integrates effortlessly. The non-HP worlds began to open up as opportunities for Minisoft after Nov. 14. The fact that a printed flyer could promote software in 2020 is a tip of the cap to the continuing power of paper. When the HP news of 2001 arrived at the NewsWire, we were as deeply invested in paper as a little business could be.

Like Minisoft, paper lined my path away from the loss. Books, to be specific, paper that's more durable than periodicals.

I think of books as the HP 3000 of communication. Steady, knowing, rich with data that becomes knowledge and then wisdom. I had to write my way out of the trouble. The Web, as we called it in 2001, became the bridge.

It's been 19 years since HP canceled its future for the 3000 and changed ours. Our lives stopped building on the success of periodical editing and publishing. We still did our 3000 storytelling, of course, and I keep doing it. But every Friday now, for six of them in a row, I write a little newsletter about writing and editing, instead of coding or managing an enterprise system. In the work of becoming a book editor, and the author of a novel and a memoir, I’m not a reporter any longer, not about the book work. I’m an author, as well as an editor and evaluator of other authors.

And Abby? Whoa — a yoga teacher who's produced three DVDs and is now in her 15th year of leading classes. Now people can attend her classes over Zoom. Students come from around the country, where they once had to show up at our address, or live in Austin for private sessions. People who don't think they might do yoga can practice Heavyweight Yoga. Thirteen retreats, too. A Fitness Magazine Fit 50 member, alongside notables like TV anchor Robin Roberts. Obesity Action Coalition's Bias Buster of the Year.

Could I see the way to this day if HP hadn’t ever stopped its 3000 business? Would our tribe instead be like the OpenVMS people who still have vendors and customers, but the latter isn’t spending much anymore, and so the former doesn't have money for ads? That all began in 2013 for VMS, when HP announced the end of its unlimited service to the Digital community. My new cattle drive toward books would’ve started 12 years later than it did. I’d have been 56, just beginning my journey. In that future, we might've had more in our retirement account. Or, we might have looted it for experiences, as we did through the years. What trip, Abby always asks, would you have not gone on?

I can think of a few, but they all promised to be delightful in the cozy run-up to each experience. Were there some lemon meringue pie slices we could have left in the San Antonio Tip Top diner’s cold case? To be sure, there were. How could we know which ones we didn’t need as comfort food for the soul, though?

There are, of course, other ways to measure how things worked out because HP lost its faith. We bet on a business that we didn’t think would last so long. You would've had to ask us on a really honest day in 1996, say, to hear me say this venture had about five good years in it. The unfettered, blue-sky time amounted to six years or so. The next 19 after 2001 have had some seasons better than others. You won't mistake technical publishing for the creative compensations of books and yoga. The satisfactions, though, are a different element to measure.

Many an MPE expert made this kind of transformation. John Burke became a mathematics professor. Some just branched out further, like Birket Foster and his Storm rural internet service company. He's still serving 3000 sites with data migration, too. Fresche Solutions waded into the IBM i Series market and held on to its 3000 work that'd begun while the company was called Speedware.

It’s an alternative history game, this one. However, it’s also a commemoration report. What did we do for Christmas in 2001, versus Christmas of 2000? I always mark what we are spending with the high water mark of the holidays. That was a time that always included the Dec. 31 birthday of my boy, the rock star who was proof I could create something warm and attractive and funny and smart. Amid my obvious failures, Nick is my durable success. And my marriage to a partner both special and true.

We got the Nov. 14 news a few days ahead of the vast majority of our customers. Some of the bigger vendors knew about it days or weeks ahead of us. I've written about hearing about the 3000's end of HP days while holding a payphone receiver with a cord on it. Fitting, considering how classic the 3000 was then and remains today. Wherever Nick and I were headed in Switzerland that night, we kept our appointment. A train station with a payphone on the platform led me to this New Tomorrow. We're all headed there by now because of COVID. Survival is going to be the outcome for so many of us, just as it was after 2001. 


SAP destination achieved at last for 3000 owners

Geese migrating
Close to 30 years ago, a fresh software vendor included the HP 3000 in its targeted platforms. The hopeful mission was to help level the HP playing field for Unix and MPE/XL business computing. In the years when mainframe stability was the IT standard — and MPE still hadn't locked in its iX suffix — SAP chose the 3000 alongside the HP 9000 servers.

The announcement about the software suite already changing ERP standards came from SAP's world headquarters in Walldorf, Baden-Württemberg. SAP was trying to expand its beachhead in the US. The Internet played a minor role in corporate computing. "The company is going to SAP" wasn't a strategic cliche, because unless that company operated IBM mainframes, there was no widespread target platform for the manufacturing and ERP keystone app.

Twenty-eight years later, SAP has carried its clout to a fresh destination. The target may even dislodge some of the most staunch customers using ERP alternatives like MANMAN. SAP is already the replacement system at TE Connectivity, once the largest HP MANMAN user by system count. The final MANMAN database goes offline this month. SAP will complete its occupation in the TE campaign.

The new platform isn't TE, of course. A company doesn't represent a platform for an application. Even State Farm Insurance, with several hundred HP 3000s during the Nineties, wasn't an MPE platform. The new SAP platform is Suse Linux 15. The Suse Linux world considers SAP adoption a milestone for its customers.

Suse says the majority of SAP customers in the late Nineties "didn’t take much note of SAP’s 1999 announcement that SAP R/3 had just been made available to run on Linux." The 2020 media release from Suse last week reported a historical footnote. "Despite the establishment of an SAP Linux Lab, Linux was a wallflower in the SAP community."

The German vendor was as resolute as any military general about winning a space in the US market, though. Hewlett-Packard was going to be an ally in the assault. The app was so new to datacenters that 1992 coverage included an explanation of what SAP stood for. Systems, Applications, Product was in R/3, "mainframe-class software" headed to HP 9000 and HP 3000 users. The R/3 version had gained client-server abilities to reach beyond mainframes.

In 1992, "the foray into the US market has yielded big fruit in the shape of an agreement with Hewlett-Packard to offer SAP’s R/3 mainframe-class software to its HP 9000 and HP 3000 users." As part of the agreement, SAP and HP opened a joint development center at SAP’s headquarters in Walldorf, staffed by full-time engineers from both companies.

German soil already had a HP 3000 development lab. Down the road in Böblingen, the European HQ for MPE/XL systems was battling the push of Unix. The 25th anniversary of the 3000 was celebrated best up the road in Stuttgart, where a disco party roared with a sax player on a trapeze cable. SAP’s first new products for the North American market were expected in first quarter of 1993.

The software was building its legend of an infinite and sometimes maddening range of customization. That made the concept a good match for the 3000 strategy of robust customization. Business rules for accounting, personnel, manufacturing, materials management, sales and distribution, and plant maintenance — they all were executed in custom modules for most ERP.

Suse said in its 2020 announcement that in the Nineties, "customers already installed other operating systems like IBM AIX, HP-UX, OS/400, and Windows that worked just fine. Back then, SAP even still supported a combination of HP 3000 machines and operating system MPE for R/3."

The lab in Walldorf turned out an HP-UX version of SAP. The MPE/XL edition failed to embed itself in the combat unit of HP's 3000. Böblingen HP engineers were fighting the good fight against migration to Unix.

Linux had such blue skies ahead that it's eventually replaced Unix at many datacenters. Carrying around the proprietary versions of Unix like AIX and HP-UX was extra baggage for a platform: Suse is the second most often used Linux in the world among the branded distros, behind RedHat.

"Suse deployments/transitions for business-critical workloads and applications have been made available for public cloud environments," last week's release says. "Furthermore, major release 15 is the first version to take multi-modal principles into consideration." The names of the distros alone spell the coming change. Vendor specific operating systems were once named as acronymns. VMS, MPE, HP-UX, AIX: these ruled the corporate datacenters.

SAP modified its application to stand on the Linux platform. That represented the strategy beginning in the 1980s. On-premises computing was complemented by time sharing data processing. Everything needed a footprint in corporate offices, even if that footprint was no more than HP 2622 terminals or PCs that emulated them.

Linux won over the acronyms. The Suse report says, "Thanks to valiant efforts by SAP and partners like Suse, customers were able to see the benefits that highly efficient and optimized Linux systems have for mission-critical SAP systems."

There are new acronyms by now, like software-defined infrastructures (SDI), and application-focused architectures. IT is still run on acronyms. The emulation and virtualization of hardware and machines is a modern solution. The Stromasys Charon emulator replaces VMS and MPE servers. What's old, like the Nineties era servers, can become new again.


Final N-Class units at TE return to the markets

Screen-bird-wing-sky-airplane-aircraft-1043002-pxhere.com
TE Connectivity is closing down its HP 3000 operations by the end of this year. The company uses MANMAN to manage its manufacturing operations, including IT leadership from Terry Simpkins. This veteran of the community threw his light into my life when he called with a tip on disk drive failures that became an epidemic in 1985. It was a widespread problem HP was keeping quiet. Management at HP had to announce a recall and repair blank check, so companies could get their storage hardware bulletproof again.

About 35 years later, Simpkins and those N-Class servers at TE are retiring. One of the databases in the 3000 cluster at TE had been running since 1978. Now that set of servers is available for sale.

"As we wind down the last remaining MANMAN database here at TE, it’s time to think about the ‘new home’ for our HP 3000s. Therefore, we have 4 N-Class machines, all of them 8-way 750Mhz, that are for sale. Two are available immediately; the other two will be available in early December. Anyone interested, please contact me via email or by phone at 757-532-5685."

Simpkins says he started managing the MANMAN operations at TE in 1993, when the company was Lucas Control Systems. It's been 27 years with the same phone number and mailing address," he says. "My HP 3000 time started at HP in 1981. That's over 39 years on the same platform, not a bad run. I started on MANMAN in 1985 at Spectra-Physics."

The last MANMAN database at TE is scheduled to convert to SAP over the Thanksgiving weekend. "Our legacy begins in the mid 1970's, but I can't quote an exact year — way before my time. That said, the 3000 was turned on before 1978.

Before the corporation became TE, the company names where the 3000s operated were

Shaevitz Engineering
Lucas Control Systems
Lucas-Varity
TRW
Measurement Specialties
TE Connectivity

The 3000 closeout puts two other veterans into the markets, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson. Releasing good talent and assets into the wild is one of the upsides to shutdowns. Experience in the 3000, so rare these days, becomes available once more.

Photo by PxHere


Indie 3000 expert keeps national spirits flowing


Upstart startup leads off with 3000 news

Good every day
Do you remember the day your first 3000 logon banner rolled across a terminal or a PC? That heady feel of stepping into something new with a promise of permanent promotions? You knew about MPE, a little, or just slid into an office chair and began to plug away at COBOL apps that tapped IMAGE data for the first time.

Starting the NewsWire, 25 years ago today, was not like that. My partner Abby and I arrived at the first issue with 22 years of publishing experience. Between us, we'd managed and launched operations for 18 news publications in the tech industry. Abby was already a publisher at four different magazines.

What was different about the NewsWire startup was its ownership. Just us, along with 10,000 or so owners of HP 3000s. Our audience owned our future. A few told us we were making something that would turn out to make us nothing. A subscription was "Not even worth $10 a year," said one 3000 veteran who'd written features at the HP Chronicle, my previous 3000 outpost. He came on to write for the NewsWire in our October 1995 issue, Volume 1 Number 1, as we say in publications.

That first technical feature, written by someone who doubted we'd sell subscriptions, was "PatchManager/iX: Maintenance Simplified." It toured the new software from HP for patching MPE/iX 5.5. That release was only forthcoming, as they call books that are promised but not yet released. In particular, one staging tool in PatchManager would improve patching. "Welcome to the 21st Century," the feature read. "MPE will go one better than most Unix systems with the StageMan/iX."

The software resolved a crying need. "Backing out a patch in today's MPE/iX environment can rival the agony of abdominal surgery—without the benefit of amnesia," Guy Smith wrote.

HP had been working on PatchManager/iX for more than a year by October of 1995. In publishing the NewsWire 25 years ago, we were picking up the trail of a business server getting a restart from its vendor. PatchManager was "created strictly to address customer issues with the patching process, not as a cost-saving measure," HP said.

Early technology

Like our readers, we were more cautious about new technology from the commodity sector. One report said "HP 3000 managers press Win95 into service—slowly" while the 3000-ready app Netmail/3000 was releasing DeskLink. The module of Netmail connected HP Deskmanager mail nodes to the outside world. "Until DeskLink came along, HP had been recommending the HP Deskmanager sites set up a Unix system to give their Desk users Internet access." The fall of 1995 was so different that email systems were thriving that didn't use the Internet—we always capitalized the word Internet that year.

We counted on those subscribers for our first revenues, but it was the advertisers and vendors who showed up first. At one point over the last 25 years, we had more than a thousand paid readers. That point arrived years after ads from sponsors—we borrowed the term from TV advertising—carried the NewsWire's fortunes. A publisher, my partner Abby stared down the daunting first months with just a few advertisers. WRQ, the biggest software company serving the 3000 other than HP itself, shook our hands on the Toronto Interex 95 floor for a full-page spread. Those pages 12 and 13, plus HP's ad on the inside front cover and Adager's ad on the back cover, were among our bedrock supporters. Full pages from MB Foster and the Support Group were also part of the starting lineup of our startup. All are serving the 3000 today. Well, not HP.

Creating the graphics files for printing was also Abby's job, tied so closely to the artwork for the ads. I came in during her first issue work to find our Macintosh LC struggling through refreshing pages. We ordered a Power Macintosh 8500 that day, but the chugger of the LC was going to have to get us through our first printing. 1995 was not a great year for Apple. In a few more months, Bill Gates would advise Apple to sell itself to Microsoft.

HP assured our readers they wanted open systems computing. The 3000 was putting on the clothing of an open system, an ill-defined term that usually meant Unix. Open was certainly not the truth about any system vendor's Unix, operating systems usually handcrafted from the standard Berkley Unix to exploit vendor hardware. Unix was open in the sense that software vendors always supported it in general. On the ground, vendor to vendor, the OS had as much support in apps as MPE/iX. If your app was having a problem, you called a vendor support line and logged your problem.

Taking our shot

If MPE/iX enjoyed the popularity of Unix in 1995, we might not have taken our shot with the NewsWire. The 3000 world was a forgotten backwater of IT. Our modest venture of two publishing pros in two back bedrooms, tapping experience and a deep list of contacts and experts, never would have had much chance against the likes of publishing giants like IDC, CMP, Ziff Davis, or even Datamation. I'd written freelance for Datamation two years before our NewsWire upstart startup. In the year before we launched the NewsWire we'd both worked on contract for Interex, writing and managing subscription campaigns. One of the hardest talks we faced in that fall was telling Interex executive director Chuck Piercey we were going to sail our own ship into the rest of 1995.

Always the former sports editor at heart, I wrote an editorial for that issue that compared the 3000 to baseball legend Cal Ripken. That year, Ripken broke the record for consecutive games played without a day off. Choosing to use the 3000 represented that same pursuit of reliability. 

"All around MPE environments, other systems go down, fail, and struggle to stay online. The HP 3000 takes the field every day. If computers were baseball players, the HP 3000 would be the Cal Ripken of the league. Cal recently broke Lou Gehrigs' Major League record for most consecutive games played." The numbers matched up. Ripken had played in 99 percent of the innings across the 2,131 games in a row. "Cal is steady, productive, and not flashy—but respected by those who watch baseball closely. Those are the traits of the HP 3000."

We started up in October, a time that leads up to the World Series. In the summer of 1994, I'd toured ballparks with my 11-year-old Little Leaguer for a road trip. The journey and its fatherhood roots would become Stealing Home, after 25 years of conception, revision and writing, then publishing. Baseball felt like a natural fit for the NewsWire and our 3000 focus. Willie Mays was a baseball legend and a star. He knew it was an every day, all the time job. "It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What's tough is being good every day," he said. That was the 3000 and its community and its major league of vendors: good every day.

Not without fears

We had our panic and fears during those earliest days. 3000 owners might have experienced some on the day they learned HP wasn't going to continue selling the servers. They could do little to change that. We had to ride out the fallow times in the first year, those months when some vendors wanted to wait to see who'd support the upstart news outlet.

When we traveled to our first Interex show with a full issue, in Anaheim's HP World of 1996, HP was waiting with a warning. Frankly, the state of the 3000 market was not going to earn an HP recommendation of the 3000 to the large corporations. Glenn Osaka had been in charge of the 3000 group and then moved up to managing the business server group. Hearing that HP's heart wasn't in its 3000 work sent a bolt of panic into us. Two people with ad contracts to serve and plenty of ink, paper, and postage to buy—we didn't want to hear how little the upper HP brass thought of the 3000. It was a legacy business, after all. Show some respect.

Little of that first hard summer of 1996 matched the wonder of dreaming up the NewsWire in the spring of the previous year. In March of 1995, we talked about a newsletter that would do the work of a magazine, produced on a tight budget. We'd worked for a publisher together whose purse strings were always drawn tight. We didn't need four-color printing. We'd learned to do good with two colors: black, and a fire engine red. We had to educate many a vendor on how to create artwork that required only two colors.

Then we printed the first issue and got the newsletters delivered two weeks late, produced on too-heavy paper that busted our postage budget. A new printer took us to press the very next month. Abby had to hunt down a graphics company to replace the in-house work the old printer performed.

Y2K and the rising tide of tomorrows

Like many people in our community, the approach of the Year 2000 lifted our ship. Advertising swelled as software companies added products and customers. The legacy applications and systems were going to need more attention to get them through the narrow part of the calendar, that Dec. 31 when the first two digits of the year were going to turn over for the first time in computing history.

The 3000 business seemed to be soaring by the end of 1999, a period when we posted some of our highest page counts. Interex conferences carried extra ad dollars and gave us chances to sign on new subscribers. The web site was popular enough to carry a paywall tied to subscriptions. For the first three full years, an HP 3000 hosted our web pages. Our webmaster Chris Bartram created a random passcode generator on a 3000 which assigned login passwords for subscribers. After more than three full years, another website, 3kworld.com, paid to license our content. We walked away from further subscription growth to get our stories into a wider world. 

More than two years later, HP's managers looked at the prospects for selling these servers in a post-2000 world. Maybe legacy computing became more vulnerable after the classic apps cleared the Y2K hurdle. We'd only been publishing for about six years when the fateful November 2001 news arrived. I developed the Homesteading label for the thousands of customers who'd be going nowhere soon. I was in Europe vacationing with my son when the call from Abby arrived. In a burst of hubris and desperate hope, I rewrote a front page of the Flash Paper that handed the shutdown news from HP to a readership stunned at the prospects of fewer tomorrows.

For some of our readers, HP's intentions of almost 19 years ago mattered little. Their companies were always going to follow their own counsel and were devoted to a full return on their 3000 investment. Many more had careers derailed or sidetracked, saw fortunes dwindle, made plans for different tomorrows.

The NewsWire was never built to become a massive operation with offices, staff, and benefits. Things were lean enough in the Nineties that no one here carried health insurance. Organizing for a small footprint—though not so small that healthcare didn't ever arrive here—gave us a plan for survival long term. Here at the end of 25 years of publishing, 20 of those years have unfurled in the shadow of HP's certain departure from 3000 life.

Those earliest months when we could believe in HP's 3000 faith were still tinged with wry, sometimes dark comedy. Citizen Kane is a favorite film here, and we'd often quote one of its lines at each other when times got tough. Kane is replying to his trust manager when he's asked why he'd want to buy the New York Examiner. "I think it would be fun to run a newspaper," Kane said.

It's been fun. We look forward to more, bolstered by support from companies with a long-term view of 3000 usefulness, like Pivital Solutions. We have enjoyed support from readers and owners and veterans of the 3000 world, too. Here's to a fresh quarter-century, however it looks. The Tampa Bay Rays are looking like a good prospect to get into the World Series, winning on a pittance of a payroll. Little things that are built smart can surprise you with their ability to be good every day.

 


MPE/iX networking flaw has workarounds and a fix

Network switch
Gilles Schipper, our Homesteading editor who's shared so much advice and instruction, wanted network help. Along the way to answers, an MPE/iX flaw was uncovered. There's a fix. But first, the problem.

Schipper writes, "All of sudden, two HP 3000s (running MPE/iX 6.5) are unable to accept VT sessions from terminals on same network. Network administrators unable to point to any network configuration or equipment issues that could explain the problem.

"Further investigation shows that one or two IP's associated with PRINTERS (usually 1, but sometimes 2) have appeared in the "GATELIST" command within NETTOOLS.NET.SYS (along with the IP address of the router). It seems that the inability of network terminals to log on to either system is always due to this bizarre situation that I've never seen before."

Currently, the solution is to run a job every five minutes or so that issues a NETCONTROL NET=LAN; UPDATE=ALL, which results in ONLY the correct router IP address in the GATELIST, and after which everything is okay.

How can I fix the problem permanently without requiring the running of the UPDATE job?

Craig Lalley says he's seen this before.

"I suppose you will probably want to know how I resolved it. I don't remember... but, network redirects come to mind. Are they getting network redirects at the console? Do they have the correct gateway in NMMGR? Have you looked at the buffers?

NETTOOL.NET -> RESOURCE -> DISPLAY?

Of course, what does LINKCONTROL @,A show? Finally, look at the Name Resolution."

Mark Landin puts the blame on a routing table.

"Sounds like your routing table is getting polluted with bad RIP updates. Doubt it’s coming from the printers themselves. Not sure how you’d track that down. Maybe if you put a PC running Wireshark on the same LAN you could find the source of the bogus updates."

Billy Brewer thinks the router redirects cause the problem.

"What you are seeing most likely is ICMP Redirects (normally coming from a router). I don't think I've ever seen where you would get a printer IP address showing in your gatelist in Nettool as that doesn't make any sense. Basically the culprit is sending out an "alternate" gateway and the HP 3000 unfortunately listens and updates the gateway (Gatelist).

The network guys (at least in my experience) are never wrong or guilty until you prove it to them. Anyway, if this is the case, you can watch your console and if you get the result below, it will tell you the IP address of the equipment sending the ICMP Redirect.

SYS-A:** NETXPORT IP : NETWORK PROBLEM; Gateway redirects severe

Loc: 215; Class: 2; Parm= $A1C37920; PortID: $FFFFF972

If you convert the PARM= value from hex to decimal you get the IP 161.195.121.32, which should be the router that your system is having trouble with.
A1 = 161
C3 = 195
79 = 121
20 = 32

Update: Schipper says the problems came through PCs on the network.

"It turns out that the ICMP redirect requests were being issued by two virus-infected PCs. This was determined by utilizing a packet sniffer. Once those PCs were disconnected from the network, all was good."

Finally, Doug Werth pointed out this is a flaw in MPE/iX which introduced a security hole. That's significant, because 3000s don't often exhibit those. The continued use of these servers on modern networks, pretty remarkable for a server first built in 1972, will expose such stuff.

Werth says, "What you are seeing is in fact caused by ICMP redirects. It has nothing to do with printers or DNS or network resources of any nature. Simply put, a router on the network is inspecting packets and believes it knows a better gateway for the HP3000 to route to use and tells it so via a gateway redirect. The HP 3000 dutifully updates its routing table accordingly.

"If the redirect packets occur at a high enough rate the 'ICMP redirects severe' message is written to the system console. This makes identifying the culprit fairly easily whereby one can ask the network administrator to disable that feature. Yet it only takes one redirect to mess things up which won't reach the threshold of 'severe.' and thus making identification much more difficult. The offending packets can be located by formatting a link trace directly on the HP 3000, or with a packet sniffer like Wireshark externally.

"And how to fix the problem permanently without running the UPDATE job? Beechglen has a patch for all versions of MPE/iX to permanently ignore ICMP redirects. Contact us on how to track down the offending gateway and patches."

"I have long considered this a significant security hole in MPE, as well as all operating systems that accept and act upon ICMP redirects. Turning them off permanently is a must. No server should allow for the possibility of a rogue piece of equipment getting on the network and rerouting its packets. That is a job that should be left solely to the configured default gateway."


25 Years: Java promise yields Go e! app

Let's Go e Enhydra app
It's November of 2000, close to a year past the harrowing Y2K milestone. The HP 3000 is now renamed the HPe3000, adding a letter to remind customers and prospects that the 36-year-old server is ready for the Web.

HP Europe is running a "Let's Go e!" conference. The event is so multilingual that a set of translator booths sits at the back of an Amsterdam hotel conference room. The presentations will convince customers from France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and the UK that tge 3000s in their datacenters can connect data with remote customers.

Amsterdam translation booths
I'm in the audience and look back to see a UN translator setup worthy of a scene in Judgment at Nuremburg. In real time, the genuine capabilities of a Java-driven app are being demonstrated. It's a proud moment for people like me who invested in the future of the 3000 world.

In a way, the conference is multi-lingual for technology, too. Java made its debut in commercial markets just a few years earlier. In that room we're being told that MPE/iX can speak Java right alongside Unix and Windows NT. It's an important point, that similarity with an open Unix environment, or the omnipresent Windows. The 3000 deserves a seat at the table, HP believes. It's especially important in Europe, where they've had a tough year selling against Unix. HP-UX and Sun Solaris are well dug-in across the continent.

An IT manager from Dornier, which makes custom looms for the fabrics sector, explains how their Enhydra web app server built upon Java/iX runs as fast anything. An outside team built them the app for Windows NT, then moved it to the 3000. At the time, that would've been a 3000 before the ultimate generation. 

Not especially fast compared to what would be announced four months later: PCI-based 3000s of the A-Class and N-Class. Still, for Dornier's business clients, fast enough.

Java earned a reputation over the next year or so as being significantly slower on MPE/iX than open system implementations. In almost one year's time, HP decided the ecosystem of the 3000 didn't have a strong future. Despite the translation magic in that Amsterdam meeting room, the place the e3000 was going to go was away from HP's futures.


25 Years: Build an emulator, so they'll stay

Field of dreams
Emulator day was a Saturday. February 2, 2002 arrived less than 90 days after HP cut short the lifespan of the HP 3000 hardware. On that Saturday, Robert Boers of Software Resources International announced a prototyping project.

We are currently building a prototype HP 3000e emulator, capable of running unmodified MPE and its applications on a Windows platform. Note that this is an A/D project only, we have made no decision yet about making it a product.

Boers was leading the company that would later become Stromasys after a name change. On that Saturday in 2002 he noted, "It is correct that we did not get much response about my note about hardware emulation. Our experience with the VAX and PDP-11 emulators is that the concept is often confused with operating system emulation, and the assumption is that recompiling would be necessary, or that not all applications will run.

"The hardware emulators we build are operating system-independent. The demo we use to show the concept is to unplug a SCSI system disk from a VAX, plug it into a SCSI port of a PC, and boot VMS (or another VAX operating system) from it. We do not need to convert the binary VAX code in any way or form. Performance is not an issue, we have reached VAX 7000 Dhrystone performance on a PC.

"The emulator engine we use is likely flexible enough for the HP3000 hardware (we use the same for PDP-11 and VAX). The core VAX emulator prototype (CPU, memory, disks) took less than 4 months to develop.

"It took us about a year to convince Compaq to support their software on our VAX emulator as they would any other VAX," Boers added. "We did that by passing their VAX hardware diagnostics and architecture tests. They now offer very reasonably-priced VMS transfer licenses."

At the time Compaq was the owner of the DEC lineup. Later that became HP, but the vendor grappled with the concept of transfer licenses without a released emulator in the 3000 marketplace.

In those early days of 2002, we asked HP's Winston Prather about the prospects for speed in setting up a licensing program for an emulator. What's the rush, he wondered. As we pointed out during his interview in that same season, many more people would be available as 3000 emulator customers in 2002 than, say, 2006.

Boers answered a raft of questions in the same timeframe from 3000 customers about the PA-RISC hardware emulator that would become Charon.

1) Would hardware emulation take more processing power than an OS emulator?

Depends on the OS. With a rich feature OS like VMS, the amount of code required to map all functionality accurately would be huge, expensive to write and to debug, and techniques to speed up execution by dynamically translating instruction sequences would not work. With 1-2 Billion instructions per second available the trick is more to keep the code size small. The total size, including the emulation of the major peripherals, of the run-time part of CHARON-VAX is < 500 KB and it fits in PC cache memory.

The big advantage of hardware emulation is the ability of fast and comprehensive testing by running the hardware diagnostics.

2) Does your VAX emulator provide bridges or gateways to the native OS or hardware? Is such even desirable?

Those bridges are available and used e.g to store emulated disks as files (although you can connect physical disks). Serial lines are effectively telnet sessions, and instead of mapping to the host serial ports, you can link them to host applications. But the goal is to leave the OS of the emulated system in control; our design goal is always to be able to run any available OS of the emulated system.

3) For MPE to run directly (ie. loaded directly from HP tapes) wouldn't you have to emulate the entire HP 3000 architecture?

Yes, certainly, that is exactly what we do for the VAX and PDP-11 emulators. For the PDP-11 we emulate over 100 devices (for the VAX less). We generate each device emulator component directly from its hardware description. A CHARON-VAX emulator is booted directly from the standard VAX/VMS installation kit on CD or standalone backup on tape.

4) Could you emulate multiprocessor 3000 hardware config (or, would you need to?)

Yes, but you need a host SMP system to benefit from the multiple emulated CPUs. We run actually clusters of VAX/VMS systems on a single SMP host that way. It only makes sense if performance is an issue, but if the original hardware is capable of it, the emulator should be capable as it is a direct copy.

5) Seems that if you implement a truly portable HP3K hardware implementation, as more modern host hardware becomes available, you could end up with a more powerful MPE box than you could ever have with real 3000 hardware - cheaper too!

Our standard VAX 3600 emulator runs at about five times the speed of a hardware VAX 3600 on an AMD 2000+ system (and probably gets 3 percent faster every year). But the 3600 is a slow system (compared to current technology) to start with. I have not looked into the HP 3000 designs in detail to be able to give an opinion here.

6) How much would we be restricted to peripherals and storage that are compatible with a real HP 3000, and how much could we use non-3000 components: tape drives, DASD, NICs)?

It is a matter of documentation and implementation time, there is no fundamental restriction except for real-time requirements (e.g. connecting with a parallel interface to an instrument), where the host system PCI latency might play a role. But NICs, disks, and tapes map very well. Emulated disks are generally faster than physical ones, because you can use the latest technology.


25 Years: 3000 gets firebombed, then ideals

Cathedral firebomb
The deepest and dimmest part of the 3000's road might have been the earliest days of 2002. All customers knew for certain was that HP had lost its desire to create more MPE/iX customers. Sixty days earlier, the vendor had revealed its plans to end manufacturing the HP 3000 hardware. About another four years was all HP could promise to thousands of customers.

We talked to Winston Prather, head of the 3000 division, during that darkest month of January. OpenMPE was only an ideal from a few loyal customers, including Jon Backus who spurred the organization's creation.

We asked Prather questions about where 3000 people might head next. This was a time before customers leveled serious broadsides at Hewlett-Packard. His replies went beyond the standard "migrate to another HP server platform."

People are talking about a hobbyist’s license for MPE source code. Is this a good first step for an OpenMPE?

I have no problem showing our source code to people from a hobbyist perspective. I’ve always been an advocate for sharing source code.

Would sharing source code hurt HP in any way?

It’s not obvious to me. I tend to think not. I tend to think that HP would not consider that harmful to us. Those customers who would stay beyond 2006 don’t buy anything from us anyway.

Is HP willing to allow MPE to move beyond the HP umbrella?

HP is willing to allow MPE to live on. I don’t know anyone who’s said differently.

People use Microsoft operating systems with HP hardware today. Do you think an OpenMPE, from a third-party entity, could keep people buying HP hardware?

Would people stay on and eventually buy some HP systems? Probably. Is it material, financially? I don’t think so. Would we invest to make that happen? Probably not. I don’t want to stop MPE from living beyond HP, but the return on investment wouldn’t be worth it for us.

How soon do you think have to make a decision about licensing MPE to parties outside HP?

I don’t feel the need to hurry, other than I know in the chat rooms there’s a lot of discussion about it. It comes back to my feeling that, yes, I want to enable an afterlife. But it doesn’t change my recommendation. If I think the majority of my major accounts — and maybe some medium and small accounts — need to do something different than [use HP 3000s], then what’s our hurry? What’s the difference between announcing this type of enablement here in January, versus waiting six months?


HP emulator OS licenses: easier for VMS than MPE

VW bug license plate
For hobbyists who operate emulators, licenses for OpenVMS have a new supplier. VMS Software Inc. is supplying OS licenses for the VAX users who employ the Stromasys Charon emulators. Up until this year, such licenses were only available from HP.

The HP-only license remains the only type that 3000 hobbyists can use. It might seem like a small point, since a hobbyist won't often be concerned with OS licenses. But the 3000 was once on its way to such a license, attached to the need for an emulator.

The OpenVMS free-to-tinker agreements from VSI have an attractive price, one that MPE/iX never achieved: free.

Hobbyist licensing for VAX and other DEC systems was already a tradition by the time HP merged with Compaq in 2002. Compaq had acquired DEC and its business servers in 1998. The plan for a large footprint for OpenVMS might have played a role in getting the first Stromasys emulator into the world.

That was back in the day when Charon was offered by Software Resources International. The company renamed itself Stromasys in 2012, remaining in close connection with HP. Hewlett-Packard said Charon "prolongs the usability of HP OpenVMS VAX and MicroVAX applications by enabling their transfer to new hardware platforms without any conversion effort."

It was just the sort of thing the 3000 community desired: vendor blessing of an independent emulation tool. More important, such a blessing was going to arrive before HP stopped selling new OS licenses.

"CHARON-VAX emulates a complete MicroVAX system on an OpenVMS Alpha, Linux, Windows NT or Windows 2000 platform," HP told customers in a 2005 web page, "allowing OpenVMS applications to run unmodified."

A $500 license for a production-level system was HP's best offer at the time. Users had to be running an Alpha system to get that deal. Windows and Linux systems would cost a user $1,000. HP called these extension licenses. The hobbyist-grade OS was free.

HP is providing the following extension licenses for the CHARON-VAX environment, allowing the OpenVMS VAX operating system and OpenVMS VAX layered products and licenses to be transferred to the CHARON-VAX environment.

HP bought in fully on integrating Charon with HP's support. The existing HP software service contracts were valid on supported OpenVMS VAX applications running on the emulator. HP fixed software problems if they were also seen in a comparable VAX environment. The offer extended to a layered version of the OS, which included compilers, clustering, and more.

Emulator licenses for MPE/iX

HP 3000 users were teased with a deal that hinged on the release of Charon or any other emulator. In a crucial move, a customer would be able to purchase a license that was not connected in any way to an existing 3000 system.

Late in 2003, HP said it "intends to establish a new distribution plan for MPE/iX which will likely be effective by early 2004. The MPE/iX OS would be licensed independent of the HP e3000 hardware platform. The license terms would grant the licensee the right to use a single copy of MPE/iX on a single HP hardware platform subject to certain terms and conditions."

HP wanted its emulator-based users to host the systems on HP-branded PCs. There was little technology available to verify such a condition, though. MPE would be provided "AS-IS" with no warranty.

HP didn't endorse the use of a 3000 emulator in 2004. The HP stuck fast to the strategy that the best move was a transition from MPE/iX to another HP platform. "At the same time, HP realizes that some customers are interested in running MPE/iX applications in an emulated environment."

The expected price for an MPE/iX license was $500, with a right to use that was non-transferable. HP was going to include subsystems software such as compilers, but it didn't get specific about products.

The DEC VAX license was generous in its bundle of software:

ACMS, ALL-IN-1, HP Ada, HP BASIC, HP C, CMS, COBOL, DCE, DCPS, DECmigrate, DECram, DECwrite, DFS, DQS, DTM, DTR, DECnet-Plus, DECnet Phase IV, DECwindows Motif, FMS, Forms, Fortran, GKS, LSE, MACRO-64, MAILbus, MMS, Notes, Pascal, PCA, PHIGS, RMS Journaling, RTR, SLS, SQL, TCP/IP Services for OpenVMS, VAXcluster, OpenVMS Clusters, Volume Shadowing for OpenVMS, X.25, X.500.

For MPE/iX, the emulator license to create new 3000s based only on PC-Intel hardware never showed up in time. HP inserted a clause that said such a license could only be purchased when an emulator was being sold. Then the vendor closed out the offer by saying it would sell no MPE/iX licenses of any kind after 2010.

The deal stands in sharp contrast with the OpenVMS lifespan engineered by HP Enterprise. An independent company, VSI, holds the rights to the OS. Now it's going to be able to distribute an OpenVMS for hobbyists.


Making today's switches handle 9x7s?

Series 9x7 Family
For any manager outside the HP 3000 ecosystem, it's hard to fathom: a business server last sold during the 1990s hosts a scheduling app today. Yes, it's a 9x7 Series HP 3000, the servers that launched the second generation of PA-RISC computing at HP. First, there was the Series 930 in 1987, followed quickly by the Series 950 and the 925. In a blink of an eye, HP built the 9x7s, known as Nova servers at the time.

MPE/iX 6.0 is as current as it gets for a Series 957, the system that Jim Maher is trying to keep in play at his company. That's an HP 3000 first shipped 29 years ago. These are usually the RX models that sold for about $63,000 new. That configuration gets you 64 concurrent users. Back in those days, a 3000 was sold with a fixed number of users.

"Has anyone experienced issues, or had to make configuration changes, to their HP 3000 when upgrading Cisco switch IOS to version 16.09.05?" Maher asked on the lightly-used HP3000-L list.

He explained that "it's a 957 running 6.0 that runs an old scheduling app developed years ago. We have been trying to get off it for years. We connect through a transceiver on the multi-function board. Pretty simple, I'm told. The last time they updated the Cisco switch they had some problems. Any help would be much appreciated."

For the most part, development on the 9x7 Series ended in 1997. That's when HP rolled out the Series 997 along with the recently updated Java/iX. The version 4 of Java turned out the be the last one included with MPE/iX. 

Maher didn't get a reply on the 3000-L to his query, so if a reader here has Cisco-plus-MPE/iX 6.0 experience, please pass it along to him. Meanwhile, marvel at a 29-year-old design managing to keep up with 21st Century switches — with a little help from the 3000's friends.


Old hardware dogs use newer tricks for mail

Mailbox in field
HP 3000s can surprise us with their tenacity. A consultant to a financial services company is managing mail exchange from an HP 3000. The work relies on the Telemon MAIL software, created in the 1990s by the well-regarded data transfer company.

Telemon gave the world the Typeahead Engine during the 1990s. The hardware device improved HP 3000 connectivity speeds. When the Internet rose up in the next decade, MAIL made its way into some 3000 shops.

In the years that followed, MAIL found a place in many other IT shops because it had been released into the wild. Stein said MAIL, installed on a 3000 today, shows as being from 1998. "They would like to send email out via a service, such as SendGrid, instead of a local exchange server."

The HP 3000 in the equation is timeless enough that it doesn't have a formal database. It uses Keyed Sequential Access Method files. "They are big on KSAM," Stein says. "KSAM is definitely a different animal."

Emailing data from a 3000 is a different animal, too. The Telemon software is at the heart of MAIL.MAIL.ESP from Beechglen. "Addressees can be configured with SETVARs," says Tracy Johnson from TE Connectivity. "It sends via our company exchange server and is routed from there."

"Beechglen's software uses Telamon's email program. MAIL was shareware. If SendGrid uses SMTP relay, I believe you can configure it to use SendGrid." Johnson offers to cut a DDS tape of MAIL and snail mail it to Stein.

Mark Ranft of Pro3K says, "I’ve used the Telamon mail.exe program for years. The mail hosting server must be configured to allow mail forwarding from the IP address of the HP 3000. Keep in mind, your mail/security teams may not permit this.

"I am not familiar with SendGrid, but it may allow mail forwarding. I see it has an option for Address Whitelist setting, which allows a specified email address or domain for which mail should never be suppressed."

MAIL and the Beechglen software were created by utility software firms. Meanwhile, Netmail/3000 was built by an Internet pro who focused on well, email: Chris Bartram at 3kassociates.com. Netmail was as full-featured and standards-based as an email package ever got on the 3000.

“They are big on KSAM” is a phrase I never thought I’d hear again. Of course, people think there’s no more MPE enterprise computing, either.

People have been deploying email for decades on MPE/iX. From 2009, this question sits on the Web: Is there a job stream for using Telamon's MAIL program that produces an email with multiple lines in the email body? 

Donna Hofmeister replies, "Put the body into a file, then use the '-m' switch. Alternatively, load the body text into a CI variable and cite/de-reference the variable when you run the program.

Additionally, take advantage of the variables that the MAIL program
recognizes:

MAILSMTPHOST
MAILFROM
MAILTO
MAILCC
MAILBCC
MAILSUBJECT

Using them will help shorten your run line.

Photo by Mikaela Wiedenhoff on Unsplash


3000 emulator marks 10-year run

Zelus logo 2010
One decade ago this week, the Stromasys PA-RISC emulator made its debut in the market and on our webpages. The founders of the project were Dr. Robert Boers and the company's CEO in 2010, John Pritchart. Their interview with us remains useful. The talk, published a couple of years in advance of the release of what Stromasys called Zelus at first, shows the path for replacing HP 3000 hardware remains sound.

Newswire Classic

A long-awaited 3000 hardware emulator appears to be on its way to market, as Stromasys this summer announced a development, test and shipping timeline for Zelus. The product is described as a “cross-platform virtualization system” by the company that was founded as a spin-off from the Digital Computer European Migration Center in 1998. Stromasys, which called itself Software Research International until last year, has thrived on an emulator for DEC customers, those who need to keep using Vax, Alpha and PDP-11 hardware to support legacy applications. HP put the 3000 effort at Stromasys on ice for more than a year while it cleared the transfer of MPE boot technology for the emulator.

The software has more to offer than making companies able to use 3000s indefinitely. Stromasys says Zelus will buy time for the sites which are migrating and need more connectivity and power for their interim 3000s during a migration.

Robert Boers headed up the company during 2009, but this year brought on John Pritchard as CEO so Boers could focus on the tasks of being the firm’s CTO. In the wake of the company’s announcement about Zelus at the recent HP Technology Forum, we interviewed the pair via Skype, bridging the gap between Texas and their Swiss headquarters -- even as the company works out details to bridge what will be an 8-year gap in 3000 manufacture when Zelus goes on the market next year.

Your press statement on Zelus says the product “ensures continuity after the phase-out program of the HP 3000 hardware.” Do you believe that’s how your customers will view the situation: phasing out the 3000?

Pritchard: For people who have mission-critical legacy systems, they believe all of their hardware are on life support. What we’re offering is to shift their focus away from worrying about hardware maintenance to giving them a software platform life that is independent of a hardware platform.

When it ships next year, will this product bridge the gap between 3000 hardware last built in 2003 and the newer technologies such as iSCSI?

Boers: Things like iSCSI will work out of the box. We do that for our VAX and Alpha emulation routinely, because iSCSI is elegant and useful. You tell Windows to create a virtual disk which is an iSCSI disk. You can tell the emulator that this virtual device is your SCSI drive. You can map to new hardware, so if you have serial ports, for example, you can map them to an Ethernet-based remote serial multiplexer. Most of this stuff is mapped standards.

So does that mean that the controlling environment for the emulator will be Windows?

Boers: It can be anything. For the time being, we typically develop under Windows 64 bits. But we provide these products under Linux as well. The customer only sees MPE. Basically, these things behave as virtual clients. From a usage point of view, you don’t have to know where they run. In Linux, we remove what we want, so you have something that runs on the footprint of VMWare. But for all of these choices, we need to know more about what the customer is looking for.

Pritchard: One of the purposes of this announcement to start to invite a dialog with the community. We want to select a few sponsor companies who’ll say, “Here’s my application, I want to be one of the first to migrate. Here’s my configuration, and here’s what I need.” We want to focus our development team on just a few specific customer applications.

We’ve gotten far enough in our prototyping to know that it really works, and what we need is a lot more market feedback and a couple of sponsor customers to work with, to get a few successes under our belts.

What is being a sponsor customer going to look like?

Pritchard: We’ll select a couple of companies that will give us complete access to their environment for their 3000 application. The customers we’re looking for in early adopters should be lower-risk environments.

Boers: Let me give you a couple of examples. In dealing with Hewlett-Packard, the issue they had the most difficulty with was the whole physical licensing process, their hardware-enforced licensing mechanism. They have given us two device ID strings which we can use in out emulators, a low- and a high-end machine.

The other issue is something that HP is washing it’s hands of: Unlike physical hardware, you can run this emulator on a number of different platforms with different performances. A lot of the third party licensing is based on performance. If we don’t do anything, then there’s no performance information there. I want to know from the third party software providers if that’s okay, or what we can do technically with ease, provide information about relative system performance [of the emulator.]

We can emulate a system ID string as a standard. Every time you install an emulator you buy another license key.  Whether to some extent software vendors want to link to that.

We addressed this a couple years ago, when we did our first attempt. I didn’t really get information in that area — except for comments that it should really be HP, as part of their software transfer licenses [of MPE/iX] who should take care of that. But obviously, HP is pretty much out of the game by now.


Worthy, worthless, or antique: 3K iron on tap

Ad1986_Oct_7978B_Interact-40
Hewlett-Packard manufactured countless hardware devices over the 31 years that it built HP 3000 gear. The earliest systems could heat rooms while running and buckle pickup truck beds when moved. In time, the 3000s could be carted in a luggage carrier (remember those at airports?) and even held under an arm.

People hang on to these creations for several reasons, not the least of which is the boxes get forgotten. This treatment was common even where the servers were at work, since the systems themselves rarely needed tending and disappeared into closets and under staircases.

The gear continues to surface, long after the last manufacturing line shut down at HP in early 2004. Peripheral devices like tape drives and disks were built for several HP lines including the 3000. A few of these bits of 3000 iron floated across the horizon recently.

Free to a good home: This A-Class A400 server recently used by Michael R. Kan, retired MPE/iX support engineer now enjoying a post-HP life. The A400 had a dual boot capability and include a C1099 console terminals and cables. This was especially worthy of genuine care and affection. "I was on the MPE/iX support team before transitioning to XP/P9500 support," Kan said.

HP didn't want the A400 back when Kan left on a retirement buyout. "Since I was a ‘remote’ who was working, no one ever followed up on the equipment and I couldn’t find anyone to take it. MPE/iX had wound down and no one or group with HP wanted the extra 3000 stuff."

Kan's A400 made its way into a Bay Area workshop. As a penultimate model of the newer PCI-based 3000s, the server's worth is still something that can be tracked by hardware resellers. Only the A500 is newer.

On the other end of the value scale sits the HP 7978B tape drive. A working model surfaced on the 3000-L newsgroup last month. This was a $22,000 device in its heyday that backed up onto a 33.75 MB 9-track reel. One of these behemoths appeared in the 3000 community not long ago. The owner was reporting about taking it to its natural finish line: the scrapper. We'd call them recyclers in a more current term.

Tracy Johnson has owned this backup device since 1998. Just sitting in his garage, he said, when the day of community junking came around. He managed to fit the device in the back of his minivan for the 7978's last ride.

A $22,000 tape drive, sitting in a minivan (for now). Think about the resale life of those two devices. How much could you get for a 36-year-old minivan? No, it’s just parts on wheels there. Maybe some useful ones.

The van only has to navigate through gravity and traffic markers, while it avoids taking up the same space as other vehicles and pedestrians and structures.

The tape drive has a lot more to do. It’s almost like a clown car compared to the minivans of today. It has file formats, tape locations, and network-serial connections to navigate. There’s calibration to consider, plus the age of the media. All more complex than staying on the correct side of yellow lines on asphalt, or following the routing from one address to another.

The drive needs an operating system. The minivan’s operating system includes a driver, plus a set of maps or memories about how to get where the driver intends to appear. To be fair, it will be the rare minivan of 1984 that could still run. I don’t think the first minivan arrived in the world until a few more years after that.

Between those two points lies the XP line of storage devices. An XP12 started this run, and XP9500 wrapped it up. One of those surfaced in the community, too. Worthless? Not as much as the 7978. More of an antique, honestly. Without monetary value, unlike the A400, but able to store a thing or two. Headed for its last ride in a minivan, maybe.


Where HP sells legacy OS's, and why it did

Spacex-rocket
Apple soared through a $500 per share mark yesterday. The market confidence comes from assessing the outlook for Apple's business model. The computers and devices Apple sells are powered by proprietary chips, either today, for phones and tablets, or next year for the rest of the company's line.

The operating systems for these devices are also Apple's specialized OS's. Software created for iOS or for MacOS will not operate on other devices. Soon, the Apple-branded chips will demand rewrites of applications.

Does this sound familiar? It should for customers who recall the state of HP's Year 2000 business plans. Proprietary operating systems all around for MPE, VMS, HP's Unix, and NonStop. HP-only chips powering all of those servers. Software rewrites needed as newer HP-proprietary chips entered to replace PA-RISC.

In a tale of two companies, HP's valuation at $70 a share in 2000 could be compared to Apple's $3.68 per share. Then there was a 3:1 split for Apple, and now there's a 4:1 split coming next week.

Making its own hardware and OS has been a good business play for Apple. HP turned away from this model to embrace commodity computing. Today only NonStop and HP-UX operating systems are sold by HP.

OpenVMS has been licensed by VMS Software Inc. MPE/iX licensing ended in 2010. Hewlett-Packard has a split over those two decades, indeed; the company is now halved into Enterprise and Inc. The size of its wide-ranging mission was too inefficient to maintain as a single entity. Commodity couldn't carry HP into a higher orbit.

Legacy strategy has often been powered by vendor-specific technology. Many factors apply to this year's soaring valuations. Apple became the first company ever valued at $2 trillion this month.

There's still value in legacy enterprise. The HP-UX and NonStop environments can be purchased from HP Enterprise today. Tru64, the Unix built by Compaq before HP bought the firm, is sold through indie outlets like Island Computing.

The last two decades seem to have proven there's no harm in engineering proprietary hardware and software environments. The crucial element is innovation and market reach. The invention within OpenVMS and MPE/iX keeps working for corporations that invested in legacy designs. Apple is releasing its 16th version of MacOS this year. Version number 14 of iOS rolled out this summer.

HP was able to create about 14 major releases of MPE/iX over the 20 years it sold the OS. It just hasn't been able to sustain growth using its own designs. That's a mission its legacy customers have accomplished.

Photo by SpaceX on Unsplash


25 Years: Ready to paint the 3000's future

Paintbrushes
In this week of 2006, HP was readying its first updates on how to manage the forced 2006 migration date for MPE/iX. The president of the only remaining international user group, Chris Koppe at Encompass, had picked the key sessions from the upcoming HP Technology Forum.

The 2006 Forum would be HP's first trade technical show for its enterprise customers to make its appearance as scheduled. The previous year's Tech Forum was bounced out of New Orleans when Katrina blasted in. August is a dicey time to schedule anything in the Gulf. This week we hear that the Gulf will host two hurricanes at once next week.

In '06, customers could come to an HP conference in Houston to hear

HP e3000 Transition and Migration Customer Panel
Successful Migrations: Making Them Happen
HP e3000 Business Update
OpenMPE: A Current Status
HP e3000 Peripheral and High Availability Environment

HP would cover a lot of ground in the 75 minutes that Dave Wilde would speak along with Jennie Hou, who became the 3000's final Business Manager. They'd cover

A high-level summary of developments in the HP e3000 business during the past year, recent news, and a review of what customers and partners can expect from HP during the next couple of years.

How HP was helping customers and partners transition to other HP platforms

How HP is supporting companies’ business-critical environments as they transition

There would be some frank discussion for the 3000 customer who was not well-along on a migration path, or even considering that road:

Address the concerns of companies that may continue to depend on the HP e3000 to meet some business needs beyond HP’s end-of-support date.

2006's show marked the last time the HP 3000 got so much airtime at a conference.

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay


Where the pieces of OpenMPE have landed

Screen Shot 2020-08-24 at 3.55.03 PM
Heading to OpenMPE.com was once an accomplishment. The open source advocacy group needed a .org at the end of its web address for the first seven years of its lifespan. The OpenMPE.com domain was parked, a resource to be used at a later time. The site tracked a list of companies using a 3000, papers devoted to MPE/iX technology. There were minutes of the monthly meetings OpenMPE was holding with HP's 3000 division.
 
The group also hosted Invent3k. That public HP 3000 development server was being shared outside of HP's labs, in that era when Hewlett-Packard was dialing back its 3000 operations. Even today, I could make a purpose for such a thing: a training platform for the few companies which need to pass along their 3000 administration to a new generation.
 
Until last year, Invent3k still churned away in a datacenter blockhouse near Lake Travis in Austin. The Support Group's Terry Floyd had generously hosted the hardware that had been donated. Being old 3000s, the Invent3k servers were power-hungry and virtually unused. Invent3k went offline in 2019 and nobody even noticed.
 
If ever there was something that OpenMPE was supposed to do, Invent3k was it. Infighting between the group's directors and a dismissed Matt Perdue, including lawsuits, blew up the group during 2010. During that first year after HP had closed up its last bit of MPE labs there were many more 3000 sites than today. It was still a time of opportunity.
 
OpenMPE might have been profitable, with some marketing. It’s a lot like a book, in that way. My memoir hasn't earned a profit yet, either. But neither have the VMS wizards at VMS Software Inc. Doing something you love is not enough to make it compensate you. It has other rewards, though, like preserving a legacy.
 
Today when you go to OpenMPE.com you get Web-style crickets, the 404 listing. The community Invent3k server files are now in Keven’s Miller's hands, and he hasn’t re-hosted Invent yet. He's rehosted the OpenMPE.com data, though.
 
OpenMPE.org, which then became OpenMPE.com after Perdue held the original domain out of the group's hands, is on Miller's 3kRanger website. It's worth a visit to see the full range of what advocacy proposed for MPE/iX in the years after HP gave up its futures for the OS.

HP's server hardware mirrors OS choices

Mirrored lake mountains
Michael Kan, retired from HP support, recently reported his A-Class HP hardware goes both ways. He can boot his server with either HP-UX or MPE/iX.

"I simply configure HP-UX as my MAIN boot path," he says, "and specify the PATH on BOOT for my other disc, which is MPE/iX 7.5.5." His use of the HP designs is in line with HP's intentions for its enterprise hardware. One set of engineering was supposed to serve all: MPE, Unix, and RTE real-time environments.
 
For most 3000 customers, their A-Class can only boot into MPE/iX with the correct processor dependent chip in the unit. This was the issue at the center of SS_EDIT access — some hardware brokers were using it for unauthorized access in the late 1990s.
 
Kan moves from OS to OS with the fluidity HP probably engineered for at first. For years I wrote articles reporting that some processor-dependent code on ROM was forcing the HP 3000-styled K-Class systems into MPE/iX boot only. Software created by well-regarded MPE vendors made its way into unscrupulous hands, defeating passworded HP utility software, resulting in a way to designate an HP 9000 system as an MPE-bootable server. We might have called it re-flashing the PDC ROM at the time. It’s been a few years.
 
That software was SS_EDIT. The password-protected utility was being used by HP’s support engineers. The passwording was defeated, HP’s iron could be configured any way a customer wanted. Selling much-cheaper K-Class 9000 boxes as if they were 3000s became a way to buy a resold K-Class from a broker and save tens of thousands of dollars, and in some cases even more. It led to the HP lawsuit against the rogue brokers like Hardware House (the worst offender). There were jail sentences handed down to two other brokers (house arrest) while one of the Hardware House owners turned in state’s evidence in exchange for dropped charges.
 
Quite the cause celeb, the move seemed to show the MPE customer base that HP still recognized the inherent value in its MPE-related intellectual property. The lawsuits and HP’s High Tech Crimes Taskforce rose up in 1999 and 2000. It was a time when Y2K remediations and rewrites gave the 3000 some cover in the war over the datacenter and business computing. An HP business decision not two years later made the battle over the MPE IP moot, though.
 
Once the A-Class and N-Class servers arrived, a different program, SSCONFIG, began to be used. It couldn’t be defeated by outside software. HP had also shifted to a processor-linked pricing model for the 3000 and MPE. That meant the outrageous markups for the K-Class 3000s, the regrettable tiered pricing, disappeared for the newest 3000s. To escape the tiered-pricing jail, customers could buy new servers.
 
It hardly matters the way it once did. The upgrade HP created to PA-RISC, Itanium, is being discontinued by Intel any day now. The rewrite of MPE for Itanium was shut down after an estimate of the cost didn’t pass executive approval. HP 3000s might now number less than 5,000. But knowing you could pull an HP server from a packing crate, and boot either OS on it, feels like the magic the 3000 market needed. An HP 9000 sold for a fraction of its identical counterpart, right up to the end of HP sales of the 3000.
 
HP’s argument, a good one in concept, was that MPE and Image made the 3000 worth so much more than a 9000. A big problem was that the servers were being sold against one another by the HP sales force. The commercial application lead that MPE once had over HP-UX was gone. The pricing disadvantage HP put these 3000s at did its part to drag down the growth of the line.
 
One report I heard was that the 3000s paltry customer growth, compared to the success of HP-UX and the VAX line at Digital, is what led to HP’s cutoff of MPE’s futures. “If it isn’t growing, it’s going” away, was the statement someone heard echoed out of an executive meeting.
 
A support engineer, or any HP technical worker, has nothing to do with HP’s regrettable decision to kill off its MPE business. That’s a business decision based on a forecast of an ecosystem that HP controlled with its alliances, marketing, and engineering designs. At one point in the 3000’s history, though, the inability to buy raw K-Class hardware and designate it MPE or HP-UX mattered. It’s a delight to hear from Kan how the legacy engineering was supposed to work.
 

25 Years: 3000 Poster Project Kicks Butt

Largest Poster Project
August 5, 1996

It was a simple Monday assignment. Fill more most of a football field with 2,809 sheets of paper, each printed from an HP 3000 in four colors, to make a pattern of football players. "MPE Users Kick Butt" was tacked down with gutter-sized roofing nails to show HP's top executives the system could still do great things. The point was to make sure HP knew its 3000 could be connected to Postcript printers to print an enormous job, and that its customers were devoted to the product.

This was the World's Largest Poster Project, a brainchild of Wirt Atmar. The owner of AICS International made his bones in the word processor application field before shifting to reporting tools. QueryCalc was a ultra-spreadsheet for 3000 applications, giving its users a way to view and organize reports as easily as any Excel sheet set could. The volunteers wrapped the poster design around the name of the 3000's OS, which probably baffled some HP execs of the day.

This was also an important day for the still-new 3000 NewsWire. The poster was assembled at the Loara High School Football field in Anaheim, the town where we put up our first exhibit stand at the HP World conference. Interex had licensed the rights to the new conference name from HP. The NewsWire would be showing off its July, 1996 issue the next morning at the conference. We were also catering the volunteer effort with an array of Subway sandwiches and Domino's pizzas.

The poster was much splashier than anything we could order from fast food places. We engaged the high school's booster club to man the feeding tables, cementing the new relationship between school and 3000 community. Winds pick up by midday in Southern California in summer, so the dozens of poster builders getting a suntan from the bright sunlight glaring off the paper were racing the clock. Just after the stunt was completed, a helicopter was chartered to take a photo that Adager paid for, and then pitched to the Orange County Register.

Nothing is perfect, of course, so the panels of paper peeling up in the wind led to some hard feelings that a few volunteers took out on the catering menu. A typical 3000 tech expert — the Register called them nerds — can be picayune and exacting. "What do you mean you don't have a vegetarian kosher option for pizzas?" Domino's was unaware of how to make a pizza that fit both of those bills. Of such gripes were our debut day made in that sun. All were fed, and the newspaper smacked the photo and a story onto the front of its Local section.

We chronicled the record with an article in the August issue, the first-ever NewsWire edition to make its way in full to the World Wide Web.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- More than 100 HP 3000 customers and channel partners succeeded in assembling the world's largest printed poster here, building a document of about 36,000 square feet on a high school football field. The poster was generated by an HP 3000 driving an HP DesignJet plotter, producing 2,650 3x4-foot sheets joined with tape and roofing nails.

In conjunction with this year's HP World '96 Conference and Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, intensely loyal users of HP 3000 high-performance minicomputers bettered an existing world record by more than 35 percent. The HP 3000 mega-poster covered a 159 by 238 foot layout on the Loara High School football field just a few miles from the site of the HP conference. The completed poster weighed more than 670 pounds, and completely covered the area of the field between the 10-yard lines.

It was an accomplishment crafted from extraordinary cooperation. Born of Internet discussion and pushed along by a broad supporting cast of customers, the World's Largest Poster Project succeeded in attracting attention to the loyalty and satisfaction of HP 3000 customers, with only the support of a few channel partners to fund its material needs. And in the last hours of the record breaking effort, the poster was held together by the combined energies of a few dozen avid volunteers and thousands of two-inch roofing nails.

Fewer than three dozen volunteers were at work within a few hours of the start, rolling out strips of three-foot wide printer paper along the grass of the Loara High School football field. Fastening the paper to the field took more nails than the team had brought to the site, and soon several volunteers were dispatched to supply more of the most critical element in the project.

Meanwhile, the winds continued to climb, testing the resolve of a growing number of volunteers. Panels would spring up in the breeze, which seemed to appear from every possible direction. Project organizer Wirt Atmar (above, pointing out details to a volunteer's son) had printed the thousands of panels over a six week period and the driven the rolls of paper in a U-Haul truck from New Mexico. He stood alongside the poster's edge and gave instruction on holding it in place.

By 11AM, no more nails were on hand, and the question was on everyone's lips -- where are they? The winds climbed with the sun in the sky, and volunteers were forced to use shoes and poster tubes to hold the panels in place. As a section would rise up, dedicated customers would call out "It's coming up!" and race to tack it in place, an organic version of a fault tolerant system.

In succeeding to break the existing poster record, the HP 3000 customers started with virtual relationships. Unlike the previous record, which was done as a product promotion for HP and Disney, this poster was put together by a collection of individual HP 3000 users. There was no single corporate entity behind the poster -- the idea to put it together was born on the Internet. The group which grew to 100-plus volunteers assembling the poster each thought the event was an ideal and enjoyable way to make a gentle, irreverent statement about their belief in their chosen operating system.

Continue reading "25 Years: 3000 Poster Project Kicks Butt" »


User groups stay afloat with collaboration

Doug.mecham.interex_intervi
Newswire Classic

The first Interex board chairman, Doug Mecham, served for the initial five years of the user group’s existence. In 1974 he first gathered the group at Ricky’s Hyatt House hotel in Palo Alto. When the 31-year-old group failed to host its annual lifeline conference and slammed its doors shut suddenly in July 2005, we wanted to talk to the founder of that feast, to hear his views on what makes a good user group serve both vendor and customer at once. Now retired to the Oregon coast, Mecham made himself available by phone within a few days of the Interex announcement.

How do you feel this week, now that Interex has closed its doors?

I knew there was contention for a while. I’m not necessarily surprised. I think it’s highly unfortunate that HP chose to be competitive; obviously Interex chose to terminate right before a major conference. Obviously they didn’t have the money. It’s very disappointing. I could handle it intellectually, but it’s like a child you’ve created. You see the child and then the death. It takes its toll, deep down in your psyche.

An era has really passed. People have changed, the situation’s changed, the world has moved on in many ways. Interex ran for so long that a lot of people marveled that it had done so well. It was a high tech company, and it had a long life with a lot of people passionately involved.

How essential was the HP 3000 to the existence of Interex?

It began with the 3000. That was the genesis. The 3000 had a couple of problems when it came out. It was a real new adventure for HP. They thought it was going into the engineering world. It had FORTRAN, no COBOL, and a 16-bit integer. You know how long that lasted in the engineering world? About two nanoseconds. The one small hitch was when it first came out it had some bugs and was crashing a lot. I sort of initiated communicating with a bunch of people around the world, saying, “Look, we’ve gotta talk, because we’ve got to find solutions to these problems.” So we developed a users group and called it the HP 3000 Users Group.

Was a computer user group a novel idea when Interex was first created?

There was SHARE, GUIDE and DECUS. They were all there already, but DECUS was company-owned, and SHARE and GUIDE were IBM captured. Our approach was going to be entirely different. We wanted to be very collaborative. We knew the relationship had to be A, independent, and B, very collaborative. We never beat up HP like DECUS, GUIDE and SHARE did with DEC and IBM and waste a lot of energy. In fact, our technical group headed by Ross Scroggs actually met with the HP lab quarterly over two or three years to sit down and work out the issues. Boy, did that make a difference to the HP 3000. HP pulled it off the market, redid some things and brought it back out as the Series I.

So do you mean the user group played a key role in the 3000 becoming a usable system?

I would like to think that’s true. But certainly there was a lot of technical expertise and software put into it. The users group grew users, and it grew vendors. There were a lot of contributions made in support of the users, who needed tools and software. I feel that over the 31 years that a great deal has been contributed. We got HP to perform the miracles that make the HP 3000 probably the most stable business machine on the face of the earth.

Do you believe the machine’s stability will allow it to outlast HP’s interest in it, or the lifespan of this user group?

Absolutely. The HP 3000 lasted a long time, because it kept getting upgraded, and it’s still a fine machine today.

Do you think the Interex shutdown is something that will reflect on HP and on the HP 3000?

Probably. It’s an older computer, so when the user group goes away, who’s going to get out there and support each other and swap stories? The 3000 users may form their own group. Remember, Interex expanded into Unix and all of the other HP computing platforms.

How will it affect HP? If you were a customer out there and they suddenly pulled the user group from you, and then the next day they said they were going to lay off more than 14,000 employees, what would you tend to think? It probably broaches the concept of trust in a vendor. It certainly doesn’t help it.

What’s at the heart of running a successful users group, well past 31 years?

Interex has never had the propensity to challenge the vendor, at least in terms of the old user groups. Collaborate with the vendor, yes. To confront them? Not in an adversarial way. They were advocates for HP, and probably facilitated billions of dollars of sales. In the early days, the salesmen used to bring customers by. Those customers saw the user group’s customers having great successes, and that was a great motivator for sales.

The essence of the user group was a collaborative process. One reason Interex was running so long was that the user group grew its members. People were programmers, then they became vendors. Many users helped other users. They pushed them up the ladder. That was essential to the success of Interex.

Do you think the HP 3000 needs a user group to replace Interex?

I think someone will step in and do something, and there will be some sort of meeting. There’s still a bunch of 3000 vendors out there. They may want to get together and discuss the 3000 because they want to make their investment last longer. That’s happened with other groups, like HP’s calculator group that kept on with a small cadre of interested users.

Should we have another users group like Interex? It would certainly take a different format, because it’s no longer super-technical, because the technical problems for the most part have been solved. You’re interested in applications now. The issues are how can you use the 3000 better and what software can I run on it.

Do you believe the Internet stepped in to do the work that the user group did for HP customers?

That’s pretty simplistic. There’s still a need for face-to-face meetings. Look at how big the conferences became. Some of them have topped 8,000, and they came from all around the world. They came for face-to-face integration with other users, as well as with the vendor.

I’m sure that over time the technical aspects began to diminish, because the systems became very stable. The application software became far more important. The 3000 had a lot of technical issues to begin with, but they were resolved, and it grew into a technically stable platform. There were some problems, but not like the early days, when it crashed every half hour.

So do in-person meetings still deliver special results?

They always have and they always will. With the advent of the Internet, it’s provided a wonderful means for communication. But it still does not take the place of the face-to-face, one-on-one, seeing the other person. There’s something about people meeting people. You don’t run a marriage 10,000 miles apart by the Internet. You can do a lot, but when it comes right down to it, then it’s much better to have your wife right next to you, right?

What kind of a substitute do you think HP’s Technical Forum will be for what Interex did with its conference?

It’s obviously going to be a vendor-driven affair, right? The downside is that the vendor is going to drive his own agenda. How open are they going to be? If they’re truly open and collaborative, then it may work out fine. But if you look at the core competencies, what’s HP’s? Engineering. Can they run a users group? Maybe if they get the right people. The core competencies of Interex were user groups and user advocacy and vendor advocacy.

We’ll be able to see, once HP’s conference is over, what things result from it. It will be interesting to see, that’s for sure.

Since collaboration remained popular at Interex right up to the end, do you think collaboration with user groups has become unpopular at HP?

HP’s changed a lot in the last five years, haven’t they? The HP Way is no more. I think Interex ran very much along the lines of the HP Way. When I met with David Packard, he assured me they supported our group. HP went for many years with lots of ups and downs, and they got through every one of them. You have to ask why.

So you think HP’s competing conference contributed to the Interex shutdown?

They tried to split the pot, and pot just wasn’t big enough to support both. What surprises me is that HP didn’t come to Interex and say, “We want to accomplish this — will you help us do it?” They always had before, but this time they wanted to do their own thing. That’s their call, and they have to accept the consequences.

The support of Interex depended on the Interex conference. Why didn’t HP throw in with Interex, when user conferences are not part of HP’s expertise?


How OpenVMS Escaped the MPE/iX Fate

Fire escape
VMS people got a better deal than 3000 folks. The operating system for DEC minicomputers mirrors the 3000's OS in many ways. The most important way was the goal for getting an OS into the market during the 1970s: servicing business computer users. VMS was also built to support science and technology computing, which was really more of a matter of who Digital chose to sell to than any technical advantage. HP tried to sell MPE to the sciences and tech firms, but DEC got more applications needed to embrace those markets.
 
It was a big advantage for VMS. Once the Unix drumbeat got loud it was being called OpenVMS, in the same way that HP tried to rebrand the HP 3000 with an "e" at the front of the number. Not "e" for excellent, but e for Web-ready. It doesn't make a lot of sense now, that naming, but at the time "e3000" was clever paint on a pony that already had plenty of victories around the business track.
 
Years earlier, HP changed the suffix behind the new MPE. Instead of MPE/XL, it became MPE/iX. The new letters were there to show the OS had Posix bones. That was an era when putting an ix at the end of anything was supposed to give it good coverage. They were times when proprietary operating systems were in full rout, except at IBM.
 
OpenVMS wasn't special enough to save DEC from being purchased by Compaq, though. DEC had no small business products to rival the Compaq servers, but it had plenty of customers running corporate and business organizations. Selling to business, especially overseas, was supposed to be easier for Compaq once it acquired the Digital salesforce. Neither Digital or Compaq were Microsoft, though. A few years later, Compaq had to wade into the arms of an HP that was eager to be the biggest computing company in the world. Size, that HP believed, really does matter.
 
While HP had opened its exit door for MPE, Digital OpenVMS customers were looking over their shoulders at the Windows-heavy HP now being run by Compaq executives. HP put money into VMS for more than a decade after HP stopped selling 3000s. Then they sold the rights to the OS to a private company that’s staffed by former DEC/HP people. The company, VSI, has served VMS support calls for HP since 2017.
 
That company has been rewriting VMS to run on Intel x86-64 processors. It will take another 18 months before VMS Software Inc. will release the first production-caliber release. They’ve been working since 2017. Yeah, a full five years. VSI is bankrolled by Teradata, which has been plowing millions into gathering control of the OpenVMS futures. VSI has been told to at least break even pretty soon.
 
OpenVMS customers are just as ardent as MPE brethren about the prowess of their OS. The ecosystem, as HP liked to call the collective of vendors and hardware providers around its 3000, was larger for the OpenVMS boxes of various flavors. First there was the PDP hardware, then VAX, and after HP's three years of engineering, an Integrity-Itanium release of OpenVMS. All of these were proprietary hosts, however, something that Intel and AMD have reduced to footnotes on the business computing legends.
 
VSI's port of OpenVMS has been a fascinating look at a future that might have been for 3000 owners. The company is thick with tech legends like Chief Technology Officer Clair Grant. The labs are in Bolton, Mass. just 15 minutes down MA-117 from the DEC mothership town of Maynard. Funded by the investment of a multinational business software corporation, VSI began with a close relationship to HP.
 
Relationships between vendors and OS manufacturers can be prickly. Lots of smart people in boardrooms together can make for contentious meetings. Or you might look at vendors at the Interex Management Roundtables, eager to tell HP how it should be taking better care of MPE/iX and 3000 customers they have in common.
 
Size did turn out to matter to the future of OpenVMS. It was the crown jewel of Digital's throne room, tended to with a care that MPE could only envy at HP. Enough of the sciences, technology firms, and businesses like manufacturing chose DEC to give it a massive lead in the installed base count over MPE/iX. HP had to choose something to preserve from Digital when it bought Compaq. That decade of development in the HP's labs -- well, those offices in Massachusetts — gave VMS experts the means to build a support talent needed for a stable legacy system.

Photo by thr3 eyes on Unsplash


Fewer voices fill the 3000's air

Mic in studio on air
There are still working 3000s out there. Some of the systems are paired with retiring staff. Boeing isn’t the only company paring down its IT workforce. In places like those, however, there may be some chances for a support company or consulting practice to be of service to a site that doesn’t have MPE/iX expertise anymore. We keep hearing about companies now servicing legacy app users with co-lo and the like.
 
Finding the opportunities can be a matter of listening for a call for help. Inside our world, the voices are growing fewer and fainter. It used to be that even 3000-L was good for an on-topic subject or two every month. Over the past 30 days, 3000-L has 18 messages. More than half of them are about how to use Linux on a home machine. The other two subjects evaluate the remaining worth of old disk arrays and an even older reel tape drive.
 
The metadata for the list — which by the way, started just a year before we launched the NewsWire — says that 368 people still get the messages. Last week, one message tried to figure out if a 7978B tape drive was worth saving. The week before, a brief exchange showed that XP drives are becoming recycle-only devices.
 
Summer traffic in our tech community is always slow. Stories from other July dates note how still the waters can be. This was the month that once preceded a North American Interex conference. In the run up to those shows, everyone took time away from community exchange.
 
The 3000-L chatter of late is about old and really old hardware -- the is a 1984 introduction date for the tape drives. Reel to reel storage feels like something out of Terminator 2, a film from 1992 where The Terminator shot up a computer room full DEC equipment that was old even in that year.
 
Some people are still using the classic gear. One company in Cleveland has "an HP 3000 957 that still chugs away. Just yesterday I had to pull some information off of it. It's surprising how the needed commands can still come to me just before I type them. I had to use Query, Quad, and Business Basic.”
 
That might be an archival system. During many weeks, keeping the archives alive here seems to be my primary mission. Your support and continued interest helps. Raise your voice if you're still listening. Share a story.
 
Photo by Fringer Cat on Unsplash

 


25 Years: Surviving beyond HP's wishes

Pontiac survivor plate
As the 3000 NewsWire closes in on its first 25 years, our 25 Years series tells stories from selected days in history for the 3000
.

In 2002, an emulator to enable an open MPE was fresh on the 3000's table. A group of the same name, OpenMPE, took its first mission as taking hold of the 3000's OS futures. HP's Dave Wilde met with Jon Diercks shortly after HP's "we're quitting" news surfaced. Diercks launched the idea of a group to promote an open-source MPE/iX. With Linux soaring, open source would lift all ships.

Even the ones that were drifting along at the end of three decades of success.

The emulator question rose when the community appraised its options to keep its legacy choices alive. Millions of lines of proprietary HP code couldn't stand a chance of becoming open-sourced. Quickly, OpenMPE's mission became saving the HP hardware that could run MPE. In 2002, HP drew a firm line that no emulator could ever mimic the PA-RISC chips unless the hosting hardware wore an HP badge.

During the summer that led to the first Interex conference where HP had to face angry customers, the HP-only mandate stuck in the community's craw. Patrick Santucci, working with systems at Cornerstone Brands, shared his frustration on Sept. 27. "HP still seems to be saying, 'Die, MPE, Die!' Why not let the company writing the emulator decide what hardware they will support it on? After all, they're the ones doing the work."

From that conference during that week in Los Angeles, I reported, "HP gave customers the first ledges of opportunity to continue their climb with their HP 3000s, announcing it will allow a 3000 hardware emulator project to continue as well as creating new MPE licenses."

Nothing changed about HP’s beliefs about the proper future for HP 3000 owners, however. HP’s leader of its 3000 operations, Dave Wilde, still believes that every customer must begin planning for a transition of some sort. But the company’s HP World announcements represented its first realization that staying on the computer platform is the best course for some companies.

HP won’t let a [licensed] version of MPE be used with a hardware emulator before the 2003 end of sales date, although that kind of timing of releasing an emulator would be a remote possibility anyway, according to Allegro’s Scott. Another company, SRI, has said it considers creating such an emulator to be a less lengthy project. SRI sells an emulator for the Digital VAX hardware.

Almost 18 years later, that SRI emulator is Stromasys' Charon, which boasts an HP 3000 PA-RISC version. Charon began serving 3000 owners about a decade after that HP move to permit emulators. From the very first months, HP's PCs did not power the 3000 emulator.

Image by rjlutz from Pixabay


Logon advice launches new 3000 admin crop

Row of Lettuce
By George Stachnik

There's a new crop of people taking over management of these machines. Many of the people who have managed and championed HP 3000s in the past have moved on. Today's HP 3000 system manager is now more likely to be young and have little HP 3000-specific experience, knowledge, or training. New HP 3000 system managers have been successful managing environments that include Unix, and Windows. Now they've been given responsibility for an HP 3000, a machine about which they know little or nothing.

If you fit in this category, take heart; I think I have some understanding of what you're going through. When I encountered my first HP 3000 in 1983, all of my experience had been with IBM machines. I was glad to hear that the HP 3000 is comparatively simple and elegant to use (at least compared to a mainframe), but I was still expecting a long learning curve.

For many customers, information about the HP 3000 — especially beginners' information — can be hard to come by.

Logging on

In Lewis Carroll'sThrough the Looking Glass, Alice is encouraged to "Begin at the beginning." This always seemed like good advice to me, and that's what I'll do now. Let's begin by exploring how one logs on to an HP 3000. We'll also see how to explore your system, and find the programs, files, and information that are available to you. We may even learn a few other things along the way.

You're likely to have a PC or workstation sitting on your desktop. In that case, you need two things: a physical connection between your desktop and the HP 3000, and a piece of software that lets your desktop computer act as if it were an HP terminal--a terminal emulator.

The desktop-to-3000 connection can use the same RS-232 protocol used by terminals. But a network connection using standard IEEE 802.3 or Ethernet is preferable. All you need to know is that the HP 3000 supports industry-standard telnet services, and you can use them to log on to an HP 3000 from your desktop computer.

If you're using a Windows PC on your desktop, a number of HP terminal emulators are available. Among the best are WRQ's Reflection series from Attachmate, and Secure92 from Minisoft. PC-based terminal emulators support industry-standard telnet services to connect to hosts like the HP 3000. Reflection and MS92 also support the NS/VT proprietary protocols.

Regardless of what kind of terminal or terminal emulator you've connected to the HP 3000, pressing the RETURN key (on a PC, it's usually labeled the ENTER key) will cause the HP 3000 to transmit the string "MPE/iX:" back to you. This is a prompt from the HP 3000 inviting you to log on. It's analogous to Unix's "login" prompt.

Incidentally, if something other than "MPE/iX" appears on your screen, don't panic. The system prompt is configurable and your system manager may have changed it. Regardless of the prompt that appears, the command you'll use to log on is always the same. It's called the "Hello" command. (Didn't I tell you that the 3000 is a friendly little machine?)

The HELLO command you enter will typically include two parameters separated by a period. These two words identify you to the system. The first one is your user name, and the second one is your account name. When you log on, at a minimum you must specify a user name and an account name. If there are passwords associated with your user and account (and there should be!), you will be prompted for them.

Continue reading "Logon advice launches new 3000 admin crop" »


Automated messages track 3000's orbit

Satellite ISS
A few weeks ago, an email arrived with an offer to connect me to HP 3000 matters. It's an automation option that the classic mailing lists use. About once a month, the email asks if this is still a good address. If it reaches your box, the email does its job. If the list server gets a bounce from your address, you're a no-show. You drop from the list.

This is the kind of automation that has powered the 3000 as long as it's run in businesses. The server is built to withstand ignorance. The prospect of becoming invisible at a company does not tip the server into failure. The email came from the OpenMPE mail server, once a resource for news about getting MPE/iX into open development.

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga is the host for 3000 mailing lists. The best known is 3000-L, plus another private list for masters of 3000 development. Then there's OpenMPE-L, starting in the 2000s. It was never a lively spot like 3000-L. OpenMPE was a defiant flag waving in the breeze of the 3000's future. 

A decade ago this month, the days devolved into the time of disputes. The formal mission of the group, to liberate MPE/iX code and take it to a community of developers, was emerging at last as a reality. However, OpenMPE could not count itself among the license holders of HP's select source code distribution. HP code on a CD sat on a desk for a while, but the $10,000 fee went unpaid by OpenMPE. The organization spurred the existence of a community-level license. It could not hold itself together long enough to become the repository of 3000 code it wanted to be.

A decade later, though, those automated emails still arrive. We are still on a trajectory toward a future, they say. Like a satellite bound for Mars and beyond, the automation and adherence to routines of the 3000 itself remains ready. A few decades ago, Alfredo Rego of Adager said his company's product had to last beyond reasonable maintenance resources.

Adager still tends to its database power tool, but a spacecraft can get far away from repair depots. That's the situation for the 3000 and MPE/iX today: still orbiting customers' planets, needing little tending. That list and its automation is a similar sign, listening for anything related to OpenMPE.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay


Un-parking HP 3000 ERP systems

Free Parking square

This week is the end of the line for MANMAN support from Infor. A migration company once offered a webinar on leaving behind servers that delivered manufacturing data. The focus at Merino Services was not on MPE, or HP's 3000. The company wanted to help with an exit off MANMAN. In specific, this was a march from "MANMAN/ERP LN to Infor 10X."

While many manufacturing companies will recognize MANMAN ERP, it's the LN tag that's a little confusing. Terry Floyd, whose Support Group business has been assisting MANMAN users for more than 25 years, tried to pin it down.

"The ERP LN is Baan, I think – it’s very difficult to tell anymore. It’s not MANMAN, anyway." The target is Infor's 10X, more of a framework for the migration destinies of Infor's parked software. Such parking keeps up support, but nothing else changes.

Merino, not a company on the 3000's radar, might not be blamed for conflating a couple of ERP names, or just running them together in a subject line. The lineup of ERP applications has been declining. An ERP Graveyard graphic lists the notables and the little-known, next to their current undertakers. Infor, which is the curator of both Baan and MANMAN, has made a business of this less than active retirement for more than 15 years. Younger, more adept alternatives have been offered for MANMAN for several decades.

Floyd added, "They have bought a lot of near-bankrupt companies," Floyd added bout Infor. "As you know, a lot of people have been trying to migrate companies off of MANMAN." It's a testament to the sticky integration of ERP and the customization capability of MANMAN that it leads the graveyard in the number of times it's been acquired.

Continue reading "Un-parking HP 3000 ERP systems" »


ERP surrounding advice still serves 3000s

Drill-bits
Earlier this week we marked a milestone on the NewsWire blog. A half-million pageviews ticked across the counter on our dashboard. I also noted that the pageview number didn't include the pageviews served off the original 3000newswire.com website. We didn't call it a blog when we started in 1996. The articles always started in print during the 1990s.

Google still tracks the performance of the original site. It's not paltry, either, even though nothing new has been posted there in more than 10 years. Google says 9,000 pages have been served during the month of May.

One of the most popular covered MANMAN advice. Cortlandt Wilson, whose pedigree on ERP goes into the 1980s, answered the question, "Is there still life left in the old MANMAN?" His conclusion was that a surround strategy would be keeping MANMAN vital, even though its owner of the time had curtailed development.

"Surround strategy," Wilson wrote, "extends the useful life of existing investments without sacrificing the business requirements for additional capabilities."

He added that "Bridging" is what I call a surround strategy that brings best-of-breed solutions to MANMAN today that are already being used by leading 'next generation' applications from the BOPS manufacturing providers (Baan, Oracle, PeopleSoft, and SAP)."

During the last 15 years, Baan has been absorbed by the current MANMAN vendor, Infor. PeopleSoft is now owned by Oracle. SAP remains the only one of Wilson's best-of-breed products whose ERP portrait is unchanged.

Sure enough, SAP is a regular choice for 3000 sites leaving MANMAN. TE Connectivity, one of the biggest MANMAN sites in the 3000 world, might be ready to cut off its last 3000 ERP databases in 2021. SAP will take over at TE when its 3000s finally go dark, 43 years after they first booted up MANMAN.

It's only a few clicks away from that article on the original 3000 NewsWire website to find reports on 3000 reporting tools, for example. If your 3000 is getting its first look by a new IT pro, because you're retiring soon, understanding what's on the server could make accessing the 1999 reports easier. Wilson wrote a roundup of reports, too. We've been fortunate to click on experts like him.

Image by Michael Schwarzenberger from Pixabay


This blog turns 15, logs a half-million views

Screen Shot 2020-06-16 at 2.16.21 PM
Earlier today, this blog served up pageview number 500,000. That's a half-million times that some business computer expert needed to learn about, repair, or plan for using MPE/iX or the HP 3000. Content at this web address still serves a community.

The straight-up math tells us that the total amounts to 33,333 page views a year on average. These days, the pageviews are closer to 16,000 per year. None of those pageviews are included among those off the website at the original 3000newswire.com. It's the repository for the 1996-2005 Newswire, the Online Extra newsletters, plus a record of 122 monthly FlashPaper supplements. That site goes back 24 years.

A half-million blog page views, all since the year before HP's original support shutdown, shows remarkable devotion. Not even necessarily to the NewsWire; that half-million illustrates how long a server can remain vital and useful. We've been telling the 3000's stories for more than 18 years since HP started to quit on it. We reported for six years while the product was still a part of HP's futures.

Although the news from that 2005 monthly roundup might seem like history, it reinforces the choices 3000 managers face today. Solutions not tied to a single vendor continue to face a steep decline. Going independent of a system vendor is the default move.

The 2005 news reports showed an HP trying to find relevance in a changing IT landscape. June was the summertime after CEO Carly Fiorina left HP. She departed after throwing the vendor's weight behind high growth, low-margin computing. PCs, laptops, and printers were ascendant in the HP of 2005. HP was finding new enterprise business elusive, unless the new systems ran Windows. Unix served some 3000 sites that migrated from MPE/iX. Many more of the departed had migrated to Windows. Some were taking a chance on Linux.

The 2005 customers were moving away quickly from the OS at the heart of their companies. By mid-year, only 43 months had ticked away since HP's exit announcement. There were not a lot of customers already exited by the month the blog opened for business. We surveyed customers to discover that a close to half were replacing a 3000 with Windows 2003 Server.

That was not HP's plan at all, figuring enterprise features of HP-UX were going to snare the ex-3000 sites.

This blog gave us the avenue to report survey updates immediately. One of the first five blog articles that kicked off the page view deluge updated our migration target survey with fresher results.

Customers expressed reluctance to put mission-critical computing onto Windows. But Windows’ familiarity won it many converts. This made HP's exclusive tech advantages less popular. “We are moving to a Windows 2003 Server environment," said programmer supervisor E. Martin Gilliam of the Wise County, Va. data processing department, "because it is the easiest to manage compared to Unix or Linux.” 

Hewlett-Packard was casting about for a plan to keep growing. In 2005 HP announced it would separate its printer units from PC segments. HP's 1990s management assumed everything was supposed to thrive on the business model that drove its laser printer success. A smaller direct sales channel, with less room for different and superior engineering, was the result of chasing commodity computing sales. HP was reorganizing, back toward a business plan that acknowledged not all products can use the same strategy.

Printers and PCs got their own leadership. At the time I looked into the future and saw that the HP 3000 customers were forced to leave might see another spinoff. A separate enterprise computing business. "An HP with non-Windows servers running HP-UX and OpenVMS could be just around the corner."

Nine years later, HP decided to break up the brand. Enterprise servers split off from the low-margin products. It didn't make HP more relevant to business IT. By 2014 even OpenVMS was flagging — and it remains the product line with the biggest number of customers not using Windows or Linux.

Our first month of blog reports included more tactical advisories. Some remain useful today. Keven Miller, who still supports 3000s and gathers MPE resources for the community, updated his 3000 firmware without the aid of HP's support engineers. It's the unusual site which doesn't need outside support help. After all, Miller's 3K Ranger firm serves 3000 customers. But the how-to about changing Processor Dependent Code is still on this blog's site, ready to serve its goodness through another page view. You will need patches, where the independent support firms can make them available.

We said at the time that "Miller's experience represents the level of admin skill a 3000 owner is going to have to call upon once HP's support leaves the field. If you're uncomfortable with this kind of admin, but need to keep your 3000s in service, there's a good lineup of 3000 service providers who can help you, all in the third-party market." There is still a healthy group of service companies working 15 years later.

Onward to the next half-million page views. It ought to happen around 2051, if we can keep up the current pace. I'll only be 94, while the 3000 will be 77. I hope to age as well as MPE.


Emulated 3000 box will outlast MPE expert

Nick-fisher-9QxOmRLDTvs-unsplash
Boeing has employed an HP 3000 for decades. The software was so embedded that MPE specialist Ray Legault got the corporation to approve a Charon HPA emulator, eliminating the need for HP's PA-RISC hardware.

Now Boeing is eliminating Legault's position. The MPE/iX app which he's cared for will remain in service, for now. It raises the question of who will be on the Boeing IT staff to keep MPE/iX's service on target in the years to come.

Legault, who's taken an early lead in implementing Charon at a major corporation, calls the work being curtailed "activities in supporting the four applications."

"My internal replacements will not know the HP3000 MPE/iX OS and may not be much help to the IT Finance analysts that support the applications.

"They will not know how to correct job aborts, create and submit finance batch files, or a lot of other routine tasks."

Legault's last day at Boeing is July 31. He may be the last expert with his level of expertise in HP 3000 operations and maintenance. The operating system has now outlived the HP hardware as well as the expertise at Boeing.

Photo by Nick Fisher on Unsplash


Interex director Chuck Piercey dies at 85

Chuck Piercey
Chuck Piercey, executive director of the user group Interex during its greatest era of the 1990s, died last week peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his wife of 64 years, Charlene, as well as children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. His memorial last weekend during our viral times was held over Zoom. That kind of essential innovation would have been in step with his vision for Interex.

He held his Interex post more than a decade, longer than any director in the 31-year group's history. Piercey helmed the organization that gathered thousands of Hewlett-Packard community experts under one roof after another, in city after city, for each year's biggest exchange of 3000 technology and commerce.

Piercey would be quick to point to his staff as the reason for those successes. He came to his post from executive work in Silicon Valley at Perkin-Elmer, a semiconductor firm with roots nearly as deep into HP's. Piercey grew a multimillion-dollar user organization that launched new conferences and established a digital footprint into the Web. New publications emerged during an era when paper was still the dominant means of information exchange. But thick volumes of tech papers made their way onto CDs, too. Panels of HP's top executives sat for tough questions from 3000 customers during a time of uncertain futures. 

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 9.23.24 AM
By the close of Piercey's era, Interex had moved firmly into the promise of development over the Web. HP created an MPE/iX Shared Source project, which Interex hosted for the 3000 division. HP started in a very timid way with Editor, Query, and the TurboIMAGE class libraries. Members of HP's labs collaborated with users to check source code modules out and check them back in after revisions. It was akin to the Github repository, mapped onto MPE's essentials.

The growth took place while HP was sacrificing its 3000 vision to the promises of Unix. That strategy was driving a stake into the hearts of Interex volunteer members. Those actions made Piercey's work complicated in a way that reflected the industry's era of change. Terminals were the predominant access to 3000s when he arrived at Interex. By the time he left the group in 2000, the dot-com boom was reshaping the way 3000 users shared expertise. Windows was the driving force as Interex's work opened windows to an HP future that relied less on vendor-specific environments like MPE.

Piercey managed Interex with a series of volunteer board members voted in on three-year terms. In a continual change of Interex leadership, Piercey was the constant for that decade. Boards often better steeped in technology than business presented challenges to the needed changes, evolution that Interex accomplished nevertheless.

He came to the position with no direct experience in managing an association, but Interex pursued him relentlessly in 1989. With a mechanical engineer’s degree and an MBA from Stanford, Piercey worked at Silicon Valley firm Ultek during the first 20 years of his career. As he described it, the middle section of his career was being the founding partner of three startups, doing turnaround management at the bidding of venture capitalists. He was doing his own business consulting when Interex won him to its mission in March of 1990.

Piercey took the wheel at an association facing as much of a transition as HP itself in the 1990s. The group’s roots and its volunteer strength lay in the 3000 community, but HP’s attention was being focused on the world of Unix. Platform-specific user groups were under siege in the middle of the decade. He pointed out that even the 32,000-strong Unix group Uniforum eventually withered away. But Interex persevered, forming a tighter coupling with the changing HP and broadening the group's focus. The Interex user show and news publication were both rebranded as HP World to tighten the HP relationship. The conference was ranked as one of the best in a Computerworld survey.

His retirement from Interex was supposed to bring him into full-time grandfatherhood, but a educational startup devoted to molecular biology carried into his final career post. When he announced his resignation, board member Linda Roatch said, "He is largely responsible for bringing Interex forward to what it is — the most successful vendor-centric independent user group in existence."

Before he left his work at the user group, Piercey reflected on the future of single-vendor organizations like Interex. He had enough vision to see that a multivendor IT world could render well-established user groups obsolete. In board meetings and in public, Piercey would ask, "What is the role of a vendor-specific group in a multivendor world?" Asking hard questions was one of Piercey's talents that kept Interex on its feet during a trying time for user groups.

In a NewsWire Q&A from 2000, Piercey's final year with Interex and the final year HP proposed 3000 growth, he summed up the changes that challenged the user group. "Customers don’t have the luxury of focusing on the HP 3000 like they did 10 years ago," he said. "We have less mindshare, and we have to be more effective with the mindshare we do have. It squeezes the value proposition: you have to deliver more value cheaper and faster. What they really want is wise filtering of information."

The transfer of that information grew as a result of his work. Last weekend's celebration of Piercey's life was transcribed, including photos. It's hosted on the Web as a Google Doc, an eventuality of sharing that he would have foreseen.


iPads still ensure 3000 terminals connect

TTerm Pro Screens

Terminal emulators began early. On the day I first met an HP 3000 in 1984, the box for the Walker, Richer & Quinn product Reflection sat on top of a PC in my HP Chronicle office. HP climbed into the field soon enough. HP AdvanceLink didn't do anything more than Reflection to emulate 3000 terminals, and often less. AdvanceLink had the system vendor's label, though. WRQ did very well selling against the HP product. HP relented and started to sell and recommend Reflection.

Terminal emulation launched itself into the iOS world about 25 years later. One vendor sells a product that emulates a vast range of legacy terminals. In 2013 TTerm Pro entered the market as a solution for fully mobile legacy terminal use.

Finding such a terminal in the wild can be rare today. The software that needs it, though, may still be on the job. Development started in 2013 for TTerm Pro. The iOS app from TTWin, all of $19.95, is getting maintenance and bug updates once more. TTWin has repaired the ALT key issues for several European-language software keyboards, including those for HP 3000s.

There's an interesting range of fixes. In this year's version 1.5.0, Bluetooth scanners no longer inject CR characters midway through barcode scanning. The fact that Bluetooth has anything to do with vendor-specific hardware such as terminals is worth a closer look.

It's mind-boggling to consider that an HP 2392, launched in 1984, is emulated 36 years later. That text-only terminal, if you can find one, cost $1,295 when it was new. The terminal's 12 inches of CRT screen produced characters on a 7x12 dot matrix. HP included a tilt and swivel base for each terminal.

It was a different world in 1984. "The most common cause of failure," says the HP Computer Museum's collector notes, "is a bad power supply. The first step in refurbishing these terminals is to remove the top case and remove the power supply PCB. (Printed Circuit Board) This PCB contains some metalized paper capacitors that are prone to failure and smoking with age. These capacitors are easily replaced."

That replacement is true if you've got a source for paper capacitors. Not so much? Today there's a resource for legacy hardware in many forms. For example, Stromasys sells Charon to use Intel servers for emulating PA-RISC hardware. And TTerm employs a $1,250 iPad Pro, about 13 inches in size, to carry terminal access anywhere we find a cell signal.

That's 13 inches of terminal you can carry around like a book.

Hardware never dies when good emulation engineering keeps it alive. Download that TTerm Pro app and marvel at the time machine bounty. In 1984, that $1,250 delivered 7x12 matrix characters. Nothing else on that 12 inches, not like the iPad Pro of today. One important reason to preserve legacy terminals: Companies continue to use the software that relies on them.


Infor cuts off MANMAN support by mid-year

Cut rope
More than four decades after its launch in 1970s, MANMAN marks a milestone at the end of this month. On June 30, 2020, the app's vendor will terminate all remaining support contracts. Other will be available on a time and materials basis, either.

In a world where legacy datacenters continue to contribute thrive, losing support is not a crushing blow. MPE/iX and OpenVMS are the two environments where MANMAN dug in. Tim Peer at Envy Systems supplies good independent support for MANMAN on OpenVMS. Terry Floyd at The Support Group, along with his son David, bolsters HP 3000 MANMAN users. Terri Glendon Lanza of ASK Terri is another good resource for MANMAN on MPE. By all accounts, support from the MANMAN lab is minimal today.

When June 30 arrives, Infor will end its journey with MANMAN. The application has had at least five vendors own it. Created by ASK Computer Solutions in 1977, the suite moved item data from untold billions of products and materials across many midrange systems. 

Infor has thrown in its official towel. "Finally, upgrading MANMAN to newer hardware would require a complete rewrite of the MANMAN software," an Infor release stated in 2018. "Unfortunately, after analysis, that is not an economically viable option."

One interesting element of the support shutdown is how Infor wants customers to consider sticking with the vendor. Infor has a cloud ERP solution. CloudSuite Industrial would be a good alternative, according to the marketing department at Infor.

"If your organization has not considered cloud, now is the time to start," Infor's end of support notice suggests. "We plan to offer an attractive and affordable program for MANMAN customers that want to move to one of our cloud products. For example, we recommend that you explore Infor CloudSuite Industrial."

Infor goes on to tell its customers that legacy computing is the problem. "MANMAN is based on legacy technology using hardware platforms that are no longer supported by their vendors," Infor's notice states. "As such, Infor believes there is a real risk in using the MANMAN software to manage your enterprise."

Yes, it's always the risk that a vendor is watchful about, especially when it cancels an enterprise-grade product. Minimizing risk can maximize a vendor's opportunity to replace an app that continues to work

MANMAN is supported by knowledge and code from the CAMUS user group at camus.org. Infor's internal requirements are getting in the way of continued support. Make no mistake: the HP 3000s without vendor support from HP have been that way since 2011. All through those last nine years, Infor has collected support revenue from MPE/iX customers.

Everything grows old, sometimes too old to turn a profit. CAMUS has resources to help MANMAN feel younger.

Photo by Douglas Bagg on Unsplash


Sorting Strategies for COBOL

By Shawn Gordon

Newswire Classic

How many times have you just had some simple data in a table in your program that you wanted to sort? It seems like a waste of time to go through and write it to a file and sort the file and read it back in. COBOL has a verb to allow you to sort tables.

I’ve actually gotten a few e-mails recently asking me about this verb and sorting strategies, so I thought I would go over it. What I have this month is both a simple bubble sort, as well as a more complex but efficient shell sort. The bubble sort in Figure 1 only requires that we have two counters, one save buffer, and one table max variable, on top of the table data.

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Here's the code in text, if you want to copy and paste, and apply your own formatting.

WORKING-STORAGE SECTION.
01 SAVE-CODE PIC X(04) VALUE SPACES.
01 S1 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 S2 PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 TABLE-MAX PIC S9(4) COMP VALUE 0.
01 CODE-TABLE.
03 CODE-DATA PIC X(04) OCCURS 100 TIMES.
PROCEDURE DIVISION.
A1000-INIT.
*
* Do whatever steps are necessary to fill CODE-TABLE with the values
* you are going to use in your program. Make sure to increment
* TABLE-MAX for each entry you put in the table.
*
* Now we are going to perform a bubble sort of the table.
*
PERFORM VARYING S1 FROM 1 BY 1 UNTIL S1 = TABLE-MAX
PERFORM VARYING S2 FROM S1 BY 1 UNTIL S2 > TABLE-MAX
IF CODE-DATA(S2) < CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE CODE-DATA(S1) TO SAVE-CODE
MOVE CODE-DATA(S2) TO CODE-DATA(S1)
MOVE SAVE-CODE TO CODE-DATA(S2)
END-IF
END-PERFORM
END-PERFORM.

As you can see, this is a pretty trivial and easy to implement solution for simple tables.


What we have in Figure 2 is a macro that does a shell sort. I got this originally from John Zoltak, and the following text is his, with some slight edits from me.

He says, “When I want to sort the array I use

MOVE number-of-elements to N-SUB.
%SORTTABLE(TABLE-NAME#, HOLD-AREA#).

“Figure 2 below uses the shell sort, faster than a bubble. Also since it’s a macro, I can sort on any table. The only real constraint is that it compares the whole table element, so you just have to arrange your table element so it sorts the way you want.”

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Again, here's the text from the routine for you to copy and paste

* SHELL SORT ROUTINE
*
* This macro expects parameter 1 to be the element of the
* table to be sorted. This sort compares the entire element.
* Parameter 2 is the element hold area. Can be a higher
* element of the table if you wish.
*
* To use this sort macro, you must COPY it into your program
* in the 01 LEVEL area. Four (4) variables will be declared
* and the $DEFINE for %SORTTABLE will be defined.
*
* Before invoking this macro you must set N-SUB to the
* highest table element to be sorted.
01 I-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 J-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 M-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
01 N-SUB PIC S9(4) COMP.
$DEFINE %SORTTABLE=
IF N-SUB > 1
MOVE N-SUB TO M-SUB
PERFORM TEST AFTER UNTIL M-SUB = 1
DIVIDE 2 INTO M-SUB
ADD 1 TO M-SUB GIVING I-SUB
PERFORM UNTIL I-SUB > N-SUB
MOVE !1(I-SUB) TO !2
MOVE I-SUB TO J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
PERFORM UNTIL J-SUB <= M-SUB OR
!1(TALLY) <= !2
MOVE !1(TALLY) TO !1(J-SUB)
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB
SUBTRACT M-SUB FROM J-SUB GIVING TALLY
END-PERFORM
MOVE !2 TO !1(J-SUB)
ADD 1 TO I-SUB
END-PERFORM
END-PERFORM
END-IF#


Do Your Bit for the Pandemic Emergency

Keep calm and carry on
HP 3000 managers have ample experience with COBOL. The language built the business world, but newer-tech owners tend to hoot at the venerable tool. COBOL experts found themselves in high demand during another crisis point. Y2K may represent the high water mark for COBOL hiring.

In the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, COBOL is proving once again it is an essential IT tool.

COBOL's roots hail from the 1960s. It has been a crucial part of legacy computing ever since MPE servers took their roles in enterprises. Now we learn that COBOL is at the heart of business systems at the IRS. You know, the organization that's trying to send up to $1,200 to every adult in the US right now.

In the middle of a pandemic, where the emergency funds are flowing to checking accounts, COBOL is the conduit. Some databases at the Internal Revenue Service hail from 1962. Nobody could anticipate that the COBOL that runs those databases would need modifications. Addresses of taxpayers are now different. Some bank accounts, like the temporary ones from H&R Block tax services, kicked back 300,000 of those IRS deposits.

COBOL is being called an ancient language. As it turns out, the expertise is still available. The state of New Jersey is running employment ads that ask for COBOL experts. Many are retired, but like doctors around the world, some are returning to duty.

In the MPE community, one significant customer is still using COBOL. At Boeing Corp., 17 COBOL programs serve on a virtual HP 3000. The air travel industry is under siege, but aircraft are still being sold and built.

COBOL college training is in short supply, to the point of being a mystery to find. Out on the Udemy training website, however, a $59 course promises students can "become an expert on COBOL programs by coding." The training says the course teaches how to "run COBOL programs with JCL."

Job Control Language is essential to lots of legacy computing. It also seems to be essential to getting up to speed using the Udemy course. "You should know at least the basics of TSO/ISPF and JCL," the description says. "I have provided a few basic TSO/ISPF commands and some amount of JCL as well. If you are not comfortable, you can take my courses on TSO/ISPF and JCL first before taking this course."

In the world's time of greatest need, so are servers like those using PA-RISC, and mainframes. When trouble arrives, the proven tools take a leading role. It's survival IT. Legacy owners should be proud of doing their bit, as the British say about wartime.

Image by Prawny from Pixabay


Tips on Using FTP on MPE/iX Systems

By Bob Green

Newswire Classic

Starting with MPE/iX 6.0, it has been very easy to enable the File Transfer Protocol server on your HP 3000. Once enabled, the FTP server makes it possible for you to deliver output to your own PCs, Linux servers, MPE boxes or Unix boxes, even to servers across the world. These can be your servers in other parts of your company, or of your suppliers, or of your customers.

MPE File Attributes

When transferring files from one HP 3000 to another there is no need to specify the attributes of the file, such as ;rec=-80,1,f,ascii

MPE keeps track of that for you. When transferring a file to an MPE system from a non-MPE system, or transferring through a non-MPE system, you will need to specify the file attributes on the target MPE system as in:

put mympefile myfile;rec=-80,1,f,ascii;disc=3000

The default file attributes can be specified for a file transferred to your MPE system by changing the corresponding line in the file BLDPARMS.ARPA.SYS which is shown below:

;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;DISC=204800
;REC=-256,,V,BINARY;DISC=204800
;REC=,,B;DISC=16384000

Only the first three lines are read; everything after is ignored.

You may modify the first three lines as long as you keep the same syntax, i.e., you may change the numbers, or F to V, but don’t add anything bizarre. Anything after a space is ignored, so don’t insert any spaces. If the file is missing (or any line in it), the old hard-coded defaults will be used as a backup. These are:

;REC=-80,,F,ASCII;DISC=204800 for ASCII mode,
;REC=-256,,V,BINARY;DISC=204800 for binary mode.
;REC=,,B;DISC=16384000 for byte stream mode.

Also, if either the REC= part or the DISC= part of either line has bad syntax, the default for that part will be reverted to.

Users may make local copies of this file and set their own defaults via a file equation:

:file bldparms.arpa.sys=myfile

Host Commands

You can execute commands on your local 3000 by putting a colon in front of your command such as:

ftp> :listf ,2

You can find out what commands you can do remotely with the remotehelp command:

Typically we just stream jobs on the remote system with FTP’s site command by doing the following in the FTP client:

ftp> site stream robelle.job.robelle

200 STREAM command ok.

Site is a standard FTP command, but what host commands the FTP server at the other end supports varies from server to server.

In fact the Qedit for Window Server installation has its own FTP client which FTPs the server and streams the “robelle” job to set the attributes of the Robelle account.

Filenames

On MPE the default namespace for a given file is typically the MPE namespace. For example if you put a file to your MPE system with the following FTP command:

put myfile mympefile

The file will go to the group you are currently logged into.

If you want to put files into the HFS namespace then you can just specify using the typical Posix notation:

put myfile /MYACCOUNT/MYGROUP/mydirectory/myhfsfile