Migration

Giving gratitude for 3000s and survival

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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.


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. 


How a 3000 news blackout helped preserve owners

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I’m writing to you from a blackout. It’s a willful one, because I’m staying clear of the election vote totals until later today. It’s too soon to tell what the results might mean to people like me, hoping for change, or at least trying to hold back the chaos.

HP 3000 owners were in blackouts back at the start of this century, the last era we had a contested election. It wasn’t all that rare to hear about somebody just learning, quite late, about the November 2001 HP decision on the 3000. A few years later, even into 2005, a vendor would tell me they’d run into another site where time had stopped at the early-2001 marker.

They were so isolated we might have called them willful in their blackouts. They self-maintained, so the greatest source of news, from people like any indie support company on first response, was outside their view. These blackout customers had long ago left HP in all but spirit, buying hardware from the used market. The newer stuff would’ve returned their investment faster, considering parts and repair time they’d spend on their own. They shopped as if it was the Depression and they were strapped for cash.

Their software vendors hadn’t heard from them in a long time. Not because the support from the vendors had lapsed, although it often hadn’t been renewed. When you buy support as if it’s insurance you never use, not much changes in the viewfinder.

While I didn’t expect this blackout to last as long as it did, the lack of death march music helped preserve all of us in the 3000 world longer, so we could grow stronger. I stood on the train platform in Switzerland with a phone in my hand on the 2001 night when Abby told me what HP was about to do. “Don’t worry quite so much,” I said in the dark. “Lots of people are going nowhere soon.”

I then applied the term "homesteader" to those who would choose to push back migration. Eventually HP adopted the term, because their customers started using that. Once in awhile, something from the press sheds a new light on a decision.

There was a virtual blackout, too. Those who knew that HP’s tastes for MPE had run dry didn’t think that would alter their career or their company. HP said most would be migrated in five years. It was more like 10. At the end of that blackout run, lawyers might have become involved. Companies needed valid support contracts from HP, some of them. I guess leaning on lawyers at the end, and then judges, is the endgame for lots of important decisions and turning points.

In a few hours, I’ll wire back in and see what has happened in the election. So far, anyway — it's easy to believe this one will have a long road to settlement. Things will change a lot less than we think, no matter what the courts give us later on. Come to think of it, for quite awhile, 3000 things changed a lot less than Abby thought.

Customers didn't get a vote in that 2001 decision. Democracy promises everyone's voice will be heard. Capitalism and commerce doesn't operate by democracy, though. We'll see if we can manage our government any better than HP handled its 3000 endgame.


November is a month for 3000 owners and nonstop regrets

NonStop News

NewsWire Classic

We've marked the end of HP's passions for the 3000 many ways and many times over the last 19 years. The month of November is upon us again, and once again filled with changes. From 10 years ago, the story of the 3000's could-have-been fate, reflected in NonStop and its then-current division leader, rubbed some salt into an old wound.

November is a month filled with memory for many a 3000 owner and user. Some of the sting of watching HP stop its futures for the 3000 is sparked by the enthusiasm offered by HP's NonStop general manager, Winston Prather. NonStop enjoyed its first exclusive conference this fall, while Prather is finishing up his fourth year as GM of the server's Enterprise Division.

Prather held the very last post of General Manager for the 3000, a job where he said it was his decision alone to announce the "end of life" (as HP loves to call it) of the server still running more than a few  major firms. You can pretty much see the retread from his 3000 talks in his message in the NonStop bimonthly magazine, The Connection, from his intro for this Fall's issue (pictured above; click for details).

With all the changes we've made... we've stayed true to the what NonStop has always done best: delivering the scalability, availability and integrity you rely on to run your business. It's a NonStop, not a Tandem. The difference is real, the fundamentals remain.

Fundamentals remain on duty at many HP 3000 shops which Prather predicted would be long ago migrated. But the struggle continues to eliminate an IT asset as quickly as he eliminated 3000 futures. One customer wrote us -- and didn't want their name used, for fear of risking a severance package -- about a second attempt to replace a custom-built application. "The packages that we’ve been sold, complete with rosy allegations of full asset management functionality, simply don’t have it," he said.

Some kinds of applications are custom-written all over the world, the manager added, and "whole concepts of our line of business are obviously brand new to the programmers."

This manager retired a few weeks after the organization's “conversion staff was only now asking for descriptions of the old database. They’re obviously not converting anything; they’re just going to archive the data and hope they can refer to it later."

In the meantime, the company's management dropped all support for the HP 3000s, even though one lost a disk drive and failed to boot from it. Other than a daily full backup, there's not even a shadow of support for the systems. Without a tool like Adager to rely upon, "the database will overfill (work order lines keep on coming!) in about four weeks." Of such high-level organization's decisions -- running a 3000 until it careens into a ditch -- are a system manager's nightmares conjured.

"I’ll return to the fray seeking work," said this 3000 pro. "But what I’ll do is in the air -- obviously not much 3000 development going on, but I may be just the ticket for maintenance projects, or I can probably be valuable in a conversion. I know I’m employable and there are a few 3000 community residents who know I’m reasonably smart; I’ll be okay."

HP's hubris hovered on the dream that any 3000 app could be moved or replaced. NonStop made it to the other side of the 2002 merger with Compaq, and the 3000 didn't. Along the road, the scalability, availability and integrity relied upon by some businesses fell into in the hands of the migration and conversion companies assigned to muck out the mess.

Perhaps the product name of the NonStop line will keep its customers from looking backward at the last business decision which HP put in Prather's hands alone. That's his story of your November history, even to this day. The buck stops at his GM's desk, right up to when he decides to dismantle the furniture that might still have a future.


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

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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


HP 3000s play like the Rays, without stars

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The World Series is on stage this week, seven games of baseball as rich in legend as anything the 3000 represents. In midsummer, the Series appeared to be a longshot to be played. COVID and its threats were reducing the baseball season to a mere 60 games, and even those were in question. Big stars were driving the Players Association, which had to approve the limited schedule.

The stars must have seen a better outcome in playing fewer games for less money, because now we have a Series pitting a mighty payroll against a tiny one. The LA Dodgers have the second-highest payroll in the game. The Tampa Bay Rays sit three slots from the bottom of the payroll rankings. The mighty Yankees lead the list. The Rays spend more than $80 million less per year on players, developing talent and making wise trades and signings.

The no-stars approach is far from old-school baseball. But one classic supporter of the old-school HP 3000 likes what he sees in the Rays and the Series. Steve Suraci says, "Old schoolers do not appreciate what the Rays do on the field. I am not in that class! I find the no-stars approach refreshing. Every player's willingness to put the team ahead of self is unheard of in this day and age."

That fits a professional who runs Pivital Solutions, an HP 3000 support company that was the last distributor to sign on with HP to sell the servers. That was back in the early Nineties, an era when salaries began to explode after the horrific 1994 strike that wiped out that year's Series.

The concept of the 3000 itself has always been everyday goodness. We saw that during the first year after the strike, when we launched the NewsWire. Within a year we were spreading the word about everyday excellence. We used a Willie Mays quote to describe the 3000. "It isn't hard to be good from time to time in sports. What's tough is being good every day."

Steve and I are betting on the Rays to make the team concept a winner in this Series. The Rays are the underdogs, but they ran up the best record in their league during those 60 games, avoiding COVID troubles even though they play in Florida. That kind of resilience echoes what the 3000 has amassed in its many innings of the IT game.


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.

 


In-person meeting's fate traces 3000's track

Empty office

It remains uncertain when everyone can return to an in-person office. For the HP 3000 manager, this kind of return may not even be necessary. With few exceptions, nearly every hour of maintenance, configuration, and development on MPE/iX can be virtual. And virus-free, unless you consider the kind of viruses transmitted over the Internet.

The HP 3000 often had its vaccinations to resist such viruses up to date. Security breaches continue to be rare, too. Securing passwords is usually enough to prevent uninvited traffic in the 3000's processors. Even configurations on Intel servers — through the Charon HPA emulators — can be secured in a way that gives 3000 managers few intrusions to talk about.

The conversations about security took place over the 3000's mailing list. In our articles we often called it a newsgroup, one that serves a need the face-to-face meetings served. Online does it more efficiently, and at less cost. It’s the kind of thing I wished we would have sponsored earlier. We had to start with print, because ink on paper made it real. Even today in the book world, reviewers demand a printed book at times. Anybody can publish an ebook. Paper makes the author more select.

But by the year 2001, there was room for the newsgroup. 3kworld.com, and a website plus paper for the NewsWire. This year the news exchange on 3000-L has slowed to a trickle. We made our transition to survive by broadening beyond paper for the 3000. There were opportunities. The 3000-L newsgroup begat the NewsWire. For a time, we even licensed our articles, the reporting and content, to a website operated by the biggest North American 3000 distributor. 3kworld didn't last long, but it continued the tradition of getting what you need to know remotely. For decades, August was a big month for in-person training, and September hosted a lot of conferences, too. Web access has filled those opportunities

Long ago, the 3000 experts could work safely from a laptop to administer and repair 3000s. Some of these support pros even had a customer carry around a phone to show the hardware racks and insides of cabinets. Parts that had been shipped to the datacenter, where that phone was running a FaceTime session, were customer-installed. We figure out what we can do that can be helpful to a community whose people are still serving.


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.


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" »


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.


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.


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


SSD devices head for certain failures

Western Digital SanDisk
A solid-state storage device is not usually a component of HP 3000 configurations. However, with the onset of virtualizing MPE servers, those drives that do not move, but still store? They are heading for absolute failures. HP is warning customers.

The problem is surfacing in HP storage units. It's not limited to HP-brand gear, though. SanDisk devices cause these failures. One fix lies in HP Enterprise firmware updates.

HP Enterprise disk drives face a failure date of October 2020, unless administrators apply a crucial firmware patch. Notices from HP Enterprise warn the owners of some disks about failures not earlier than October. Other Solid State Drive (SSD) disks are already in danger of dying.

Some SanDisk SSD drives have already rolled past a failure date of last fall, for those that have operated constantly since late 2015. The failure of the drives is being called a data death bug.

For some, HPD7 firmware is a critical fix. HPE says that Western Digital told the vendor about failures in certain Serial Attached Storage (SAS) models inside HPE server and storage products. Some SAS SSD drives can use external connections to HPE's VMS Itanium servers.

The drives can be inside HPE's ProLiant, Synergy, and Apollo 4200 servers. Some of these units could serve as hardware hosts for virtualized 3000 systems. The SSD problem also exists in HP's Synergy Storage Modules, D3000 Storage Enclosure, and StoreEasy 1000 Storage. If the disks have a firmware version prior to HPD7, they will fail at 40,000 hours of operation (i.e., 4 years, 206 days, 16 hours). Another, even larger group of HP devices will fail at 3 years, 270 days 8 hours after power-on, a total of 32,768 hours.

The numbers mean that the failures might have started as early as September of last year. The first affected drives shipped in late 2015. HP estimates the earliest date of failure based on when it first shipped the drives. Another batch of HP drives shipped in 2017. They are also at risk. These are the drives looking at an October 2020 failure date without a firmware update.

Beyond HP gear

The devices are Western Digital's SanDisk units, according to a report on the website The Register. Dell has a similar support warning for its enterprise customers. Dell lists the SanDisk model numbers:

LT0200MO
LT0400MO
LT0800MO
LT1600MO
LT0200WM
LT0400WM
LT0800WM
LT0800RO
LT1600RO

RAID failures will occur if there is no fault tolerance, such as RAID 0. Drives will fail even in a fault tolerance RAID mode "if more SSDs fail than are supported by the fault tolerance of the RAID mode on the logical drive. Example: RAID 5 logical drive with two failed SSDs."

Adding to the complexity of the SSD failures, firmware to fix the issue has two different numbers. HPD7 repairs the 40,000-hour drives. HPD8 repairs a bigger list of devices. Leaving the HPD7 firmware inside drives among the larger list of disks — which have a death date that may arrive very soon this year — will ensure the failures.

Full details from HP's bulletins for the 40,000-hour and for the 32,768-hour drives are at the HPE website. There are also instructions on how to use HP's Smart Storage Administrator to discover uptime, plus a script for VMware, Unix, and Linux. These scripts "perform an SSD drive firmware check for the 32,768 power-on-hours failure issue on certain HPE SAS SSD drives."

A list of 20 HPE disk units falls under the 32,768-hour deadline. Four other HPE devices are in the separate 40,000-hour support bulletin.


MPE file equations and Unix equivalents

Blackboard equation
HP 3000s, as well as MPE, employ a unique tool to define the attributes of a file. That tool is file equations, a 3000 speciality. Robelle calls these "commands that redefine the attributes of a file, including perhaps the actual filename."

In any migration away from HP 3000s (an ill-advised move at the moment, considering the COVID-19 Crisis) managers must ensure they don't lose functionality. Unix doesn't have file equations. Customers need to learn how to make Unix's symbolic links report the information that 3000s deliver from a LISTEQ command.

3000 managers are used to checking file equations when something mysterious happens with an MPE file. Dave Oksner of 3000 application vendor Computer And Software Enterprises (CASE) offered the Unix find command as a substitute for file equations. You need to tell find to only process files of type "symbolic link."

Oksner's example of substituting find for LISTEQ:

find /tmp/ -type l -exec ls -l {} \;

which would start from the /tmp directory, look for symbolic links, and execute “ls -l” on the filenames it finds. You could, of course, eliminate the last part if you only wanted to know what the filenames were and get

find /tmp/ -type l

(I believe it’s the same as using ‘-print’ instead of ‘-exec [command]’)

Beware of output to stderr (if you don’t have permission to read a directory, you’ll get errors) getting interspersed.

Jeff Vance added that the command interpreter in MPE also can deliver file information through a listfile command:

Don't forget the CI where you can do:

:listfile @,2;seleq=[object=symlink]

:help listfile all shows other options.

Our former Inside COBOL columnist and product reviewer Shawn Gordon offers his own MPE vs. Unix paper, and Robelle's experts wrote a NewsWire column contrasting Unix shell scripts with MPE tools.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


TE turnoff date for 3000s could be 2021

Light switch
For a long time, TE Connectivity has been one of the biggest users of MANMAN software running on HP 3000s. That might be on the way to a permanent quieting — sometime next year.

Terry Simpkins at the firm was patching a Series 918 not long ago. It gave him a chance to check in with the remaining 371 subscribers to the 3000 mailing list, once he got the know-how he needed to patch.

"The force is once again calm," he said. Simpkins found a converter that allowed him to replace his old single-ended 2 Gb disk drives with the newer 36 Gb LVD drives. "I now have more disk space than my little 918 will ever need, plus a few spare drives to ensure I’ll never have a disk fail. Now to dust off the old CSL tapes and see what I want to restore."

TE measures its 3000 footprint by the number of databases online. "We’re down to four active MANMAN databases, from a high of 22. Three will convert to SAP at the end of June, so the last five-plus months will be a single MANMAN DB in Germany. I suspect we are going to be extremely bored at that point."

As to the shutdown date of 3000 operations, Simpkins said, "Right now that looks like somewhere between November 2020 and March 2021." 

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash


Deep pockets? Maybe not for MPE positions

Pants pocket
Even in the earliest days of 2020, consultants and programmers are hunting down chances to earn money servicing the 3000. When Doug Hagy looked into joining the LinkedIn HP 3000 Community, he wanted to see if the group was a source of related work opportunities. "I developed on the HP 3000 continuously from 1981 to 1999," he said. "At its peak of popularity, it was a pretty solid platform. Companies who chose HP 3000 usually had deep pockets."

Hagy isn't wrong altogether. An HP 3000 investment can be traced to Fortune 100 corporations like Boeing, or a part of the L'Oreal beauty empire. It's far more likely to see an MPE/iX server running as a place like a Texas title insurance company, or a manufacturer of saw blades.

We had to reply that we didn't know of new work opportunities for 3000 experts. Certainly, his 18 years of development experience qualifies Hagy as one of those. From time to time, opportunities surface in places like the 3000-L mailing list. Fresche Legacy has a stable of 3000 people who help in migrations as well as perform some system maintenance for 3000s.

FM Global was looking to hire a Powerhouse developer on a contract basis in January. Pay was $50 an hour for the job in Rhode Island, on a six-month set of contracts "extended for years to come." The company even advised applicants of a $62 a night rate it had for contractors' lodging at Extended Stay America. It didn't look like the lodging was fully compensated, but there was a $23 a day per diem.

Just this week we heard from Birket Foster, whose MB Foster firm is still assisting in migrations of data from 3000s. Some of those are contract-driven, while others can be sometimes project-specific engagements.

LinkedIn has a 3000 Community with 674 members, which makes it twice the size of today's 3000-L membership list. LinkedIn's groups used to have an attached Jobs feature, but by now the Jobs are spread across all of the site's resources. With that said, a post for Programmer/Analyst for the City of Lawton, Oklahoma was listed in November. MPE/iX was among the requirements.

Hagy was enthusiastic. "If I found someone wishing to migrate an app from a 3000, that could be interesting. IMAGE, V3000, COBOL could be an interesting project. Lots was developed for this platform."

The deep pockets are mostly gone from 3000 enterprises. Migrating Image, VPlus, and COBOL II was a project for the previous decade. Companies are migrating data for use with cloud computing and alternatives involving Linux. Archival 3000 systems are running, and some others are managing production on a timeframe to allow companies to migrate.

Hagy, who operates Twin Lakes Consulting, "a nimble micro business" based in Greensburg PA, says he last touched MPE around 1999 or so. "I was doing Y2K prep and providing backfill support for businesses moving to new platforms," he said. I wasn't thinking there'd be any HP 3000 action out there now, until I saw the group you moderate. I'd make time to assist if someone wanted to port a novel app from MPE and needed someone to dissect its inner workings. Before MPE I did RTE work on HP 1000s."

Some companies will need a programmer or consultant whose experience goes back to the days of real-time systems with HP badges on the front of the server. They emerge from the shadows of an era where reliable service, on an unhackable server, that simply worked, could be enough.

Image by ds_30 from Pixabay


3000 market maven Charles Finley dies at 70

CharlesFinley_8_2_2013
Charles Finley, whose career in the HP 3000 community spanned eras from powerful regional user group conferences to trusted HP reseller status, then led to new success as a migration maven, has died at age 70.

Finley built a reputation with the community from his first steps in the Southern California 3000 market. Buoyed by the remarkable manufacturing community in the area, by the middle 1980s he was operating the ConAm reseller and worked to establish the Southern California Regional User Group. SCRUG hosted conferences successful enough to rival those from Interex in scope.

Finley also played an essential part in founding an invitation-only MPE developer conference, using a novel format called the un-conference. It delivered information that otherwise would not be presented if only one person were in charge of the agenda. In the early times for groundbreaking tech, the 3000 community had a forum to explore new choices. "Things that could be overlooked like NT, Linux, VMware are noticed, because one person in the group happened to notice it and think it was important," he once said. "The rest of us benefitted by it."

Once HP curtailed its 3000 futures, Finley evolved the ConAm reseller business into Transformix, owned and operated with his wife Deborah. She assumes the post of president of the firm that has created and deploys a migration suite for carrying legacy applications from MPE/iX and other environments applications onto new platforms, especially Linux.

Finley was a Vietnam-era Marine Corps veteran. His widow said the CEO of Transformix delivered his skill and innovation with a duty to the work and the customer.

"Charles was unsurpassed in his passion for the business, his drive for perfection and professionalism, and his commitment to the integrity of customer relationships," Mrs. Finley said. “I saw that every day in the way he spoke about his work."

"This is both a personal and professional loss for many of the people who have known and loved him. Everyone who knew Charles regarded him as a man devoted to his family, his employees, his customers, and his friends."

Condolences may be sent to Deborah via email. The family requests that donations in lieu of flowers can be made to the charity Charles held close: Copley-Price Family YMCA 619.280.9622. Deborah asks to please designate that your donation is in memory of Charles H. Finley, Jr.

The company he leaves in her management is an integration, reseller, and consulting organization specializing in migration of legacy systems to current hardware and software. Transformix is headquartered in San Diego.

Mrs. Finley said the passing was unexpected. Charles Finley is listed as a speaker at next month's SCALE 18X technology conference. His seminar, Transforming Legacy Applications to an Open Source Modern Technology Stack, was the latest in a line of talks at the Southern California Linux Expo.

This year's seminar would "provide attendees with an understanding of the steps involved to transform legacy applications by retargeting them to an Open Source Java Framework. The seminar shows how the CUBA-Platform framework—which was designed for development of modern web application—is also well suited to enhance and extend legacy applications."

Finley was a significant voice in the migration community. While outlining differences between legacy migration, modernization, and transformation,
his experience smoothed the way for legacy applications to use modern technology stacks, including Java.

His SCALE seminar for this year was "a hands-on workshop transforming a legacy application for those who want to know more."

"If you have a PostgreSQL database already, you can generate a working Java web application in minutes using the CUBA-Platform. Moreover, you can do this without knowing any Java! Also of interest is the fact that professional developers and 'citizen developers' can use the platform for development."


Calendar date issues are already surfacing

Hurdles
The 2028 date hurdle for MPE/iX has been well documented and thoroughly discussed. Although the January 1, 2028 deadline — when MPE/iX CALENDAR processes will start to report dates as January 1, 1970, and so on — seems like it's years away, it's much closer. Calendar issues emerge as programs call for dates.

Programs that call for dates in the future are already facing the hurdle. Systems that use Unix, Linux, or other operating systems this month have triggered these involuntary date rollbacks already.

In one recent case, a top 100 pension fund had a nightly batch job that computed the required contributions, made from projections 20 years into the future. It crashed on January 19, 2018 — 20 years before Y2038.

HP 3000s have been key tools in many financial and resource planning operations. While dates are usually used to track transactions as a matter of history, some ERP users look forward to forecast their resource needs.

MPE/iX has a Y2028. Unix and Linux have a Y2038. This is important to know for a legacy system manager's planning and tactics. There's no good reason to tear down a legacy system if its only show-stopping flaw is date handling. A solution for the 3000 community is already at hand in several spots. 

Stromasys reports it has been working with an independent developer for a 2028 fix, something available to its Charon emulator sites. That update was shared with us in July of last year. It's not public yet, but that indie developer confirms the work is in progress. Beechglen has a 2028 solution it is selling as a service.

There are additional developers and consultants who say they're ready to repair 2028 issues with MPE/iX systems. It's important to know that the HP 3000, as one of the older legacy systems still working in businesses, is in no worse shape than systems driven by Linux or Unix. It's only a matter of when, not if, a date handling process will need to be addressed.

The legacy of an operating system is a condition defined very broadly. Legacy systems have been successful for a long time, and the vendor's focus has usually slipped away from these legacies. It can remind us of that term "proprietary" that was hurled at the 3000 for a decade before HP quit on its futures. Nearly all technology has a proprietary aspect, even if it only amounts to a support clause that makes one knowledge resource crucial to the OS health. 

Photo by Interactive Sports on Unsplash


Even in apps retirement, 3000 data survives

Aging hands on keyboard
A notable manufacturing datacenter in the 3000 community is making changes to its application lineup over the coming year. Although the profile of the apps and their status is changing, there's no talk of removing MPE from the datacenter yet.

Al Nizzardi is part of the IT command at TE Connectivity, the company that has more MANMAN instances running than any other in that ERP ecosystem. There's been a devotion to the 3000 that's extraordinary. Terry Simpkins has been the face of using 3000s in manufacturing since the 1990s. The IT director at TE even appeared once in a magazine ad promoting the 3000.

At TE, plans for the future of ERP applications have been aimed at SAP for several years. It's a migration, but one with echoes. SAP shares a customization practice with MANMAN: both apps are better choices when they're tuned to individual business practices.

After a few decades of use, the data repository for a MANMAN site becomes an asset that deserves its own curation. Data from a 3000 goes back to the late 1970s. The final cutover to SAP is likely to take place in late 2020 or sometime in 2021, by Nizzardini's reckoning.

"Databases are slowly migrating to SAP," he said. "I believe the final cut over will be 12 to 24 months out from today. That does not mean the end of the HP 3000. Historical data will reside on a HP 3000 of some sort."

TE runs a production N-Class, a test N-Class, an N-Class disaster box, and an A-Class. The datacenter does some Netbase shadowing, Nizzardini added. "We are still formulating a plan on our options, whether it's using an emulator or the N-Class we have" for archival MPE computing. "Either one of those options will be moved to a co-lo."
 
Experts on managing MPE/iX computing never stray too far from a place of helping. "We will be ready for when the Phoenix arises," Nizzardini quipped. "I've often said they will have to yank that HP 3000 out of my cold dead hands."
 
Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay

Gift wishes heading into the future

Christmas tree
Today's the day when generous people tuck presents underneath a holiday tree. Not so long ago, the only museum devoted fully to HP's computers was looking for gifts of classic hardware to flesh out its collection.

The HP Computer Museum is based in Melbourne, Australia. Its founder Jon Johnston passed away but left behind gift requests. The museum is downsizing now, like a lot of the owners and managers of HP 3000s. It's worth noting, though, that HP's breakthrough 3000 designs were among the most desired of museum gifts.

A table provides a listing of major hardware products the museum was seeking. This matrix lists the items by rarity and product category. Near the top quadrant: HP 3000s first released 45 years ago.

HP Computer museum needs
The white boxes represent the most needed items. The museum has no samples of these items. Pink boxes are most rare.

An HP-built 3000 server is old by definition now. The freshest pieces of hardware were manufactured more than 16 years ago. The craft and design of the HP iron, of any vintage, was legendary as well as being a gift of legacy. Even if MPE/iX is the only thing in use at some sites in 2020, because Stromasys emulation has taken over there as the hardware platform, HP's hard goods made that environment a classic.

Several resellers still trade in HP's MPE/iX iron. Cypress Technology's Jesse Dougherty continues to leave reminders about his 3000 system stock. Ebay is another reliable source, a place where the systems are often being sold by a reseller like Cypress. A Series 969 220 was for sale this week at $1,450.

Happy holidays. We're taking a break until just beyond the new year, when we mark the start of the 47th calendar year of MPE and 3000 service.


Welcome to Year 19 of the Afterlife

Cheated Death on printer
You remember where you were, perhaps, on the day you learned Hewlett-Packard was done with MPE/iX. You might have been in a meeting, or checked your email before heading home. You might have been installing something a 3000 needed to keep serving your company, or even ready to order a new server to replace the old 9x8 box. Some unlucky vendors were holding orders for new systems.

People did all of that and more on the day HP revealed its 3000 era was on its way to a finish. By 2003 the community was calling the new era The Afterlife. The lifespan of building new HP 3000 hardware was ended when a box rolled off the line at the Roseville plant in early November that year.

Afterlife shirt

And so, on November 14 of 2001, the afterlife of Hewlett-Packard's lifetime started with dismay, anger, and then resignation. The five stages of death proceeded through discussions in a lively 3000 newsgroup. Taking a cue from the horrors of 9/11 in that season, programmers and vendors howled about the relatively unimportant death in their lives.

Doug Greenup was leading Minisoft in that November week. The CEO of a software company whose products were on thousands of systems, he became aware of the HP pullout with just one day's notice.

Alvina Nishimoto from HP called me. She was in charge of third parties with HP at the time. She asked me to sign a non-disclosure which she'd just faxed me. She said she had important news. I signed it and faxed it right back. She called to tell me HP was announcing they were discontinuing the HP e3000, and that HP-UX was their future direction.

HP might have been worried the story was going to get into the world without its influence. The news had been roiling through the 3000 community for more than a week before I learned about it. I'd been away on a vacation in Europe when I got the call from my partner Abby. HP wanted to brief me. Wirt Atmar, the founder of AICS and a 3000 stalwart, threw off the lid 10 days earlier about the pullout by posting to a developers' mailing list.

I spoke to two of our oldest, most trusted customers yesterday, one a ten-year customer and the other 15 years, about this upcoming announcement. Their first reactions were that it simply sucked their breath away. When I told them about HP's proposed plans of migrating their applications to HP-UX — which as an option has all of the practicality to them of trying to establish a penguin colony in Death Valley — their second reaction was "the hell with HP. If we move, it will be to anything but HP." I think that that's going to be the general reaction.

HP learned a great deal about ending a product line with the lessons that began 18 years ago. Earlier this year the company made a graceful transfer of responsibility for OpenVMS, sending the software as well as support opportunities to an independent firm, VMS Software Inc. HP won't sell any more OpenVMS licenses, although it continues to build Itanium servers that will run the apps created for that OS.

This was a vision that the HP 3000 community took to heart during the first of the 18 years that followed. A similar group of OS experts, organized and led by Adager, wanted HP to transfer the future of MPE/iX to new, independent stewards. HP didn't know how to do this in 2001 or in 2002. The offer took another form in the OpenMPE advocate organization, but eight more years had to slip past before HP's source code made its way into independent software labs.

A new history began 18 years ago today, a chronicle of a group of customers who kept their own counsel about walking away from a corporate computing asset. The next two years or so will show HP Enterprise customers what might have been possible had MPE/iX found a third party home. VSI is predicting that it will have production-grade OpenVMS ready for a late 2021 release on Intel hardware.

This is more than a shift away from the HP Enterprise resources. VSI is carrying OpenVMS to a new chipset, a commodity home. In 2001, Atmar told HP's business manager for 3000 operations, Winston Prather, such a move was what the 3000 customers deserved.

Opening MPE up and migrating it to an Intel platform offers at least some real hope for a continued and bright future for MPE. More than that, it keeps a promise that most customers believe HP has made to them, and that is very much the nub of the moral and ethical question that faces you now, Winston.

Migrating MPE to Intel hardware would have permitted MPE to run on inexpensive but high-quality servers. Earlier this month, VSI announced a timeline for such a thing to happen with OpenVMS. A different HP paved the way to that decision—a vendor perhaps chastened by the past—than the corporation that launched the 3000's afterlife.

In the beginning, the launch of this server took place during this month. The slogan at the HP 3000 lab in 1972 was "November is a Happening." Nothing can change what happened nearly 30 years later. But the VSI transfer shows the decisions over what to do with a loyal enterprise customer base have changed in the years since 2001's happenings.


Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit

Chris Gauthier  Jackie at Wake
Simpkins  Nizzardini  Johnson Wake redux
Above, a 2019 commemorative lunch today at Tide Mill Café in Hampton, VA with Terry Simpkins, Al Nizzardini and Tracy Johnson, all 3000 experts and veterans of MPE. 3000s are in use at their company, TE Connectivity. At top, a 2003 World Wide Wake picture with Chris Gauthier and his co-worker Jackie Mitchell, both supporting 3000 customers as contractors to Terix.

Today we're marking the 16th anniversary of the World Wide Wake. The event was a marker of the end of HP’s 3000 manufacturing on Oct. 31, 2003. Alan Yeo, who passed away recently, organized the Wake and posted photos contributed from attendees onto what we were still calling the World Wide Web. A Web gallery for 3000 people was groundbreaking at the time.

Yeo said back in 2004, a few months after the event that drew more than 400 devotees to meetings in 15 countries, “We have created a simple single Web page that by country just lists the venues and who attended, and also has a link to any pictures for that venue," Yeo said. “The information will be condensed into a single Web page, linked to a directory of about 75 images. We have had several offers to host the information, so rather than try and pick a single host, we thought that allowing any interested attendee to host it would be best.”

Thanks to good Web hunting from Keven Miller, the Wayback Machine link to the original Web page tells the tale of who attended, and where, along with some of the photos.

Our own archive of the photos, sans captions, is here on the blog.

The photos from that day look like party pictures, even though nobody in them was celebrating anything except Halloween. The memories were on the minds of everyone in the frame, though. The future without any more new 3000s didn't seem to scare anyone on that day, at least not for the cameras. It was a coincidence that the building of new computers, as well as the licenses for the MPE/iX that made the boxes genuine 3000s, stopped on the spooky holiday. HP's fiscal year ends every year on October 31.

The Wake gatherings were all across the globe. New Zealand was the furthest away from the Epicenter of Grief, as the 3000 faithful had dubbed Lori's Little Shack in Roseville, the town where HP's 3000 factory was ending its birth of the servers. 

Loree's Epicenter Grief

Continue reading "Wayback Wed: Leaving a Wake on an exit" »


HP's kids: Children who can't say yes, or no

Merry-go-round amusement parkPhoto by Marjorie Bertrand on Unsplash

Editor's note: Developer, vendor, and advocate Alan Yeo has passed away at age 65 after a lifetime of work for the 3000 community. His essay below was written in 2005 amid the early years of the computer's Transition Era. He wrote about the damage done after migrations were first triggered by HP's 2001 pullout, then postponed on a fuzzy timeline from the entity the community was calling the virtual HP division for the server, vCSY.

Vendors like Yeo who weathered HP's stormy strategy took on a lot of water because of HP's revision of its end of service deadline. Yeo's use of metaphor and allegory here are a fine tribute to his wit and intelligence that the world has lost. ScreenJet, his company, followed his insight to survive the turmoil.

By Alan Yeo

That's it, children, just give the merry-go-round another shove, just when passengers thought it was stopping and they could get off it and get on with planning the rest of their lives. Oh yes, some of the children will be happy; the period before they have to decide which ride to take next has been extended. But for the adults either already behind schedule, or struggling to get attention-deficit children to concentrate on important decisions, it's just another frustrating delay.

Now it wouldn't be too bad if the very Careless Stupid Youngsters ("vCSY") nudging the merry-go-round on weren't the same vCSY who had planned its retirement, and had then encouraged its customers and partners to seek out new more exciting future-proof rides. But no, to compound the disappointment they caused their passengers when they announced the ride was ending, they now have to say, “We lied, we didn't mean it, the ride's not ending yet!”

Is this because they think their passengers are still having the best ride in the fair? Perhaps they think they can just keep it spinning under their control for a while longer, that there are another 3000 pieces of silver to be extracted for their parents, the only Happy Party ("HP") in this.

And what of vCSY partners, and the encouragement they received to help transport the passengers to other rides when the Merry-go-round stopped. Or even those they encouraged to build an organisation to help those passengers that wanted to stay on the Merry-go-round and even maintain it after the ride had stopped.

For yes, there was an organisation of such Open Minded Passengers Established ("OpenMPE") that hoped to provide counseling and support for those who chose to stay, and even to build a work shop to repair the Merry-go-round Physical Environment ("MPE") for them. What of OpenMPE's chances now? Why would anyone invest in them when they need it, if the HP and vCSY are going to keep the ride spinning and the MPE supported?

And what of those who vCSY encouraged to build the transport for the passengers to other rides — their parents (the HP) had no transport of their own. Those vendors built the busses the planes and the trains, and even migrated some of the passengers to new rides. What are they to do now, just sit there with the engines running for a couple more years whilst the merry-go-round spins on?

And what of those partners vCSY encouraged to build infrastructures to keep old merry-go-round's functioning and provide support for the MPE? For them, the ride has been delayed for two more years, and it has reduced the number of potential passengers to the point where it may not be economic to hang around and wait.

Continue reading "HP's kids: Children who can't say yes, or no" »


Alan Yeo, 1954-2019

Yeo at Reunion

Alan Yeo, a software vendor and developer whose business ultimately led to success as a nexus for the 3000 community in its Transition Era, has died at age 65 after a battle with a small cell cancer. He is survived by his wife Helen, a lifetime of creations he designed with partners, and a gripping voice that gathered and rallied MPE customers after HP quit on their marketplace.

Yeo’s company Affirm, Ltd. rose up in the 1980s as a resource for manufacturers who used the HP 3000 to manage their enterprises. He served a group of customers across the UK and began to move in wider circles with the advent of ScreenJet, his software to modernize the 3000’s bedrock VPlus application interfaces.

ScreenJet arose in the years just before Hewlett-Packard scrapped its business developing 3000s and MPE. While the HP decision left Yeo undaunted in his business aspirations, it also led him to a new role as a leader for a 3000 community that was dissolving after the implosion of the Interex user group in 2005.

His first effort surrounded the final date of HP’s manufacture of the system. On Oct. 31, 2003, he organized and led the HP 3000 World Wide Wake, a collective of gatherings to celebrate the server and the people who’d made it their life’s work. Across North America and Europe, customers and managers held parties and met at pubs, bars, and restaurants. Photos from the events poured into a web server that Yeo hosted. Earlier in the year, Yeo asked out loud where else the HP 3000 community might gather in a user conference — a question he posed in a meeting at the Atlanta HP World, where few 3000 customers had appeared.

In the year that followed, he shared his strategy of being a master of one. It was built around the nugat of collaboration that led to his ability to connect.

"We’re starting to see more collaboration between migration tools providers and migration service partners," he said in a NewsWire Q&A. "To get some of this stuff right, you really, really need to know it. I think it’s too big for any one person to do anything right. If you want good fish you go to a fishmonger. If you want good meat, go to a butcher. If you just want food, go to Wal-Mart, and if you just want to eat, you go to McDonalds."

Community meets and reunions

Many of the stranded customers using the HP 3000 got an introduction to Yeo’s voice in those first years of the 3000’s Transition Era. He commissioned an editorial cartoon during 2002 that became a mainstay in his company’s ads, one built around the HP move to end its MPE plans and sever relations with the thousands of companies that grew up using the 3000’s extraordinary solution. The CEO of the company at the time, as well as the 3000 division’s GM Winston Prather, caught the brunt of the brilliance in a cartoon that compared killing off HP's 3000 futures to the evil in a Disney movie.

WinstonDalmations
A few years later, after the user group Interex folded its operations overnight and stranded users’ plans to meet at the now-canceled annual conference, the first of a series of Community Meets sprang up for 3000 owners. After an impromptu gathering in the Bay Area for community members already stuck with nonrefundable hotel reservations and air tickets, a single-afternoon lunch gathered several dozen managers, developers, and owners.

The first Bay Area meet was replicated and expanded twice more with single-day meetings in 2007 and 2009, organized and underwritten by Yeo and his business partner Michael Marxmeier of the database and language vendor Marxmeier Software. Other companies contributed to cover expenses, but the largest share of the organizing always went to Yeo.

In 2011, he and Marxmeier teamed up with some help from the NewsWire to mount the HP3000 Reunion, a multiple-day event with a meeting at the Computer History Museum. In addition to seminars and a group tour of the exhibits, a catered dinner, a briefing on the upcoming 3000 emulator, and a meeting of enterprise resource planning software users made for a busy weekend with dozens of community members.

Alan_Yeo_at_Reunion
Yeo was pragmatic while keeping his lights on for every software customer who’d invested in his products. Marxmeier Software has taken over support and services for ScreenJet Ltd. in the wake of Yeo’s death. ScreenJet and Marxmeier Software have had close ties for a long time. Yeo was a valued board member for Marxmeier Software and Michael Marxmeier is a director at ScreenJet.

To ensure the continuation of ScreenJet products and services, as of June 2019 support, license renewals and upgrades have been administered by Marxmeier Software. "This will not affect any ScreenJet customer product licenses or agreements which will remain with ScreenJet Ltd," said Marxmeier. "The teams at ScreenJet and Marxmeier will combine their long time experience and resources to guarantee efficient and reliable ongoing support and services."

Alan Yeo with dogsWith his beloved dogs at his Gloucester home

Ever-prepared, Yeo worked out the details of a smooth transfer over the months when his cancer recovery had failed. He'd rallied after treatments and recovered enough to race vintage cars on rural road rallies in 2018. In his last months the disease progressed to cut off motor functions of one arm. He resolutely typed long messages one-handed.

Failures were always a topic he could approach with candor as well as compassion. “Most software on the HP 3000 was too expensive, compared with other platforms,” he said in a 2004 interview examining the collapse of HP’s ecosystem. “However, because people could reliably write applications for the system, many of these were developed far too cheaply. Many customers got far too much for the money they actually spent.”

A reach for personal connections

The ScreenJet product was a recovery from a valiant effort to make the 3000 a vital part of the dot-com PC world. Millware was to deliver software that gave 3000 customers a way to make their VPlus interfaces behave like modern graphical interfaces. The software was to be free in exchange for giving over some of the screen real estate to messages from vendors. Before that user base could be established, dot-com computing staggered, a blow to the vendor element of the formula.

Yeo also picked up the pieces from the effort to market ScreenJet, developed as a connectivity product and sold by Millware.com until that marketing company went bust during the dot-com implosion. ScreenJet earned an award for migration solutions from Acucorp. But for all of his effort toward helping migration customers, Yeo was clear-eyed about 3000 transitions. ScreenJet achieved its best technical release just one month before HP announced its withdrawal from the 3000 market — and the product’s development up to that point was not driven by any need to move companies away from the platform.

Yeo also took a role as producer in a new feature for 3000 customers long abandoned by HP: Transact users. The advanced development language was kicked to HP’s curb in the middle 1990s, but sites continued to run extensive Transact applications, long after the “strategic” badge fell off the language. The TransAction software from his team give Transact sites service and tools to move programs to COBOL, a way to prepare for the journey away from the HP 3000.

Marxmeier, who reached out to break the news about Yeo's death, said he would miss his ally's organizational gifts, but even more so, Yeo's ability to write and speak with, well, eloquence. After drafting a heartfelt letter to inform the ScreenJet customers about the founders' demise, Marxmeier said he already felt a gap in the story. "It's something I would have liked Alan to read, before I released it," he said.

Yeo said he wanted no florid speeches of eulogy at his passing. Months before he died, he said if there was any afterlife at all, "I could be a little sprite, one who could occassionally make it rain on somebody who was being pompous, that would do me quite nicely." It's fair to say his narrative for the 3000's transition era was rich with the words that rained on misfortune and miscalculation.

Carly_cartoon_dalmations


How to make databases live past shutdown

Index card file drawer
Photo by Maksym Kaharlytskyi on Unsplash

In 2011, a systems manager for the power utility at the City of Anchorage was looking toward a shutdown of the municipal HP 3000. It's a situation that surfaces from time to time even now. Back in 2011, the manager could see another 10 years of useful service for the 3000. His management had other ideas. This might sound familiar.

Wayne Johnson said, "We have an HP 3000 that we are going to decommission, sadly. I have powers that be who want it turned off sometime next year, although I think it will be longer than that. Is there a service that will read DLT IV tapes or convert them to some other usable format on a Windows platform or some Unix server?"

He went on to say that most of his data files were TurboImage database files. They were for archival purposes only. "Of course, the simple solution is to run the HP 3000 N-Class, probably for the next 10 years. It never goes down. But that call is not mine to make. They want to unplug it."

Alan Yeo of ScreenJet supplied a database tape migration solution that still works today.

"One very simple but elegant solution is to get a copy of Marxmeier's Eloquence database which is very inexpensive for your choice of Windows, Linux, or HP-UX and just load the databases in. Then either with the Query3K tool or with ODBC, you can just access the data as and when required.

"You could copy the volume sets to Network Attached Storage. I'll make a bet that the smallest NAS device you can buy for less than $400 will comfortably store more data than you managed to create on the HP 3000 in its lifetime.

"Allegro has a product, Rosetta Store, that will directly load Eloquence from databases in STORE format on tape, if you want to skip the step of restoring from the 3000 tapes and then unloading for import into Eloquence. I think the Allegro product will also do flat file conversion."

Beyond the Marxmeier and Allegro software, there was another suggestion offered in 2011 about a product that has come to change the way MPE databases live on beyond hardware shutdown. HP's iron, after all, isn't the final resting place for 3000 applications and data.

Continue reading "How to make databases live past shutdown" »


Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World

10 000th
In 1982, 10,000 servers shipped was a milestone at HP

This month our friends at Stromasys are building a roadmap of the best prospects for their emulator. HP customers have been showing up for years. The software there will soon include a Unix PA-RISC edition of the Charon emulator, too. It's designed to bring the same kind of longer future to companies running Unix on the classic RISC systems that HP released alongside HP's 3000 iron.

Just as a note: The HP 3000 customer who's not on the final generation of Hewlett-Packard hardware can use Charon to replace Series 900 servers. We're always suprised and a little pleased when we see a Series 928 holding its own in a world where more and more servers aren't even on-premise. Cloud-based emulation is an option for replacing old 3000s, too.

Analysts might be surprised at the use of hardware a decade and more in age. The 3000 was never the biggest share of HP's computing, in terms of numbers of systems. Where the 3000 has always had the edge has been in hardware durability. That longevity has been underscored by sound design of the OS. The HP iron is expiring, leaving the operating environment as the durable asset for businesses still using it.

Again: Do not think only small companies are using MPE/iX in 2019. Stromays knows about the size of prospective emulator customers. The nature of the product's pricing suggests that significant companies have emulated the HP 3000 iron. Now an HP-UX market could mean hundreds of thousands of more systems they might emulate. Unlike a 3000, a single 9000 installation could run to dozens of servers.

Why care, as a 3000 customer? Well, the fact is that any extra connection to HP business servers, no matter what the OS, will be good for the future of Charon — and by extension, the lifespan of MPE/iX. That's PA-RISC being emulated there, regardless of the 3000 or 9000 designation.

How many PA-RISC boxes are out there to emulate? It's all educated guesses. Once upon a time, HP cared about the number enough to assemble employees outside the Roseville manufacturing facility to celebrate the first 10,000 in the photo above.

Continue reading "Taking a Stab at the Size of Your World" »


Where to go for better 3000 census numbers

10 000Cover
Thirty-seven years, ago, HP celebrated 10,000 servers sold. PA-RISC was still five years away on the day everybody stood outside the 3000 HQ at HP.

Outsider estimates on the size of the 3000 market are going to be flawed. By outsider, I mean the ones that come from analyst companies, such as the ones that IDC prepared in the 1990s and early 2000s. Nobody can really be sure where that data came from. You can only hope they've talked to firms who were actively selling HP 3000s.

Those companies didn't have an HP address. Most of the 3000s were sold through resellers and distributors. This was a small business solution, in so many cases. Not that there aren't servers running in places the size of Boeing. But for every Bullard — makers of the iconic hardhats with three ridges — there were three or more companies like Peerless Pumps, or even a good-sized but not giant company like Disston Tools.

For the 3000, though, it was never about the numbers of servers. The tally of companies was more impressive. A Unix shop could have a few dozen HP systems, because the nature of the Unix world was to dedicate a server to each application. A single 3000 could host many apps.

In searching for better data on how big the 3000 market might be, I reached out to Steve Suraci of Pivital Solutions. A 3000-focused company, Pivital sold 3000s and is among one of the freshest resellers of servers. Suraci said HP had a number which they used while describing the size of the market.

"I recall HP telling us there were 20,000 to 25,000 units in service at the end of [HP's] 3000 life," Suraci said. "That was the last time I recall hearing anything close to official."
 
Considering how hard HP sold its Unix servers against the 3000 base, it's remarkable that anything that big could show up on HP's hardware tally. HP's "end of life" could be calculated from the end of manufacturing, or even the end of support for MPE/iX. No matter where the line is drawn, that's a lot of worldwide systems to be shut down over the last nine years. Even an 80 percent shutdown rate would leave the census at 5,000 servers.

Curating a Collective of MPE Advice

70and930
LinkedIn is the Facebook of business professionals. The service operates as a de facto resume repository; business people who search for jobs are often invited to use their LinkedIn profiles to provide a CV.

The service is also a collection of groups. Several are online as HP 3000 meeting spots. One is a private group that has served 3000 needs from inside HP. Nineteen members make up a group devoted to the Empire role playing game that runs on MPE and MPE/iX systems. A Connect HPE User Group Community is at LinkedIn; lots of members in there have HP experience that includes no MPE expertise.

Then there's the 677 members of the HP 3000 Community. I started it 11 years ago when LinkedIn was popular but not so essential that it was serving up resumes. We had 80 members in a few months and several hundred a few years later. The group is still growing. It's not growing as fast as some applicants to it would like, however.

LinkedIn still gives group moderators the choice to curate members of a group. The HP 3000 Community has always been a curated group. I remember a complaint a few years ago from an applicant. "He only approves people with have HP 3000 experience in their work histories." Indeed. There are a smattering of recruiters among those members, but nearly everyone on the group has worked on or with MPE.

LinkedIn gives groups a platform for publishing content, as well as forums for open discussions. There's a nice link at the top of the current feed about a Stromasys white paper, one that explains hidden costs of operating HP's MPE hardware. These are not the main feature for the HP 3000 Community, though. The 3000-L mailing list and this blog serve those needs better, but we're always glad for new content anywhere in the community. LinkedIn's group is the biggest collection of curated MPE professionals by now. If you're looking for someone who knows your environment, it's a good place to begin

And if you're not yet a member, stop by and apply. The door is always open to pros who can count upon MPE knowledge as a way in.


MPE vendors walk wooded path into futures

Forest-931706_1280
The HP 3000 world has been active long enough to see death visit the floors of its forests. Death is the great leveler in a crowded forest. Trees that go down provide rich soil for their survivors to flourish in. Software, the trees in the ecosystem of MPE/iX, has been growing and declining for decades now.

The community still ripples with products for development, for management of data, and even some off the shelf applications. There's less rippling today, of course. It's the result of the operating environment's abandonment by its creators. When you tell the world as HP did more than 17 years ago, "We're leaving this market," then products begin to retreat. So does newer and younger talent.

Such a retreat was also a natural event while HP still plied its 3000 trade. A company would shift focus away from the 3000 market, like Aldon Computing did when it embraced the AS/400. In some cases, a vendor would be acquired and the products stripped out of the new owner's list. Infor has retired many a software suite for ERP, although MANMAN has survived that fate that other Infor products have endured. In one case from the earliest days of the NewsWire's sponsors, the owner died and his widow had no succession plan in place. Cosmosoft was a casualty.

A more current event will be the retirements of small and focused companies, operated by a bare handful of experts. It's good work to be serving customers of many years. At some point, though, some of the majordomo managers of software vendors will earn their retirements. A report in Bloomberg News today says that 24 percent of all people 65 and older in the US will continue to work in 2019. Some of them will be software vendors and programmers. A lot fewer, though, than the food service or retail workers in that age group. Check the age of the experts at Home Depot if you disagree.

When a software vendor retires, without much prospect for selling its products to another software company, something's got to be done for the customers using the products. In the past this has been managed with a donation of some kind to a vendor who's friendly enough to keep answering the phones or emails on support issues. Sometimes a product can move into a free status — it's happened in the job scheduling segment, for example.

Expect to see more of this as the market matures. Make a plan, if you're one of the Double Digit MPE managers headed beyond 2027, to see what your software providers have in place. Lots of the software vendors who know MPE/iX are using a workforce in their 60s. A retirement of a key technical resource can trigger new plans for the product's future. Stay in front of this development. These engineers of enterprise are aging. Some can afford to park their products.

This aging of the 3000 marketplace has been the genuine current carrying companies toward migrations. Nothing was permanently wrong with MPE tech when HP pulled out of its futures. The years that have elapsed since then have done nothing to turn back the hands of time. Everything ages. The wetware of the wizards is not replicated easily.


How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look...

Start-finish-banners
Ten years ago a system admin who used a 3000 explained why emulation seemed to be a bad idea. In the era of 2009 there was no software to emulate PA-RISC processing on an Intel system. The problem really didn't need repairing, said James Byrne of Harte & Lyne, because "The world has moved on considerably, since 2001, while MPE/iX has not."

At the time his firm was still using two 918LX systems, a primary and a hot spare at an off-site location. Many a 3000's life has been extended because one key application was working with no need to invest in it. There were other things to be said about the suitability of MPE/iX now, as well as 10 years ago. There are things to be said in reply, too, because in life and IT, few things are as straightforward as they seem.

One expert who's supported HP 3000s and MPE is Donna Hofmeister. In 2009 as well as now she supports companies at Allegro. Byrne's problems with MPE/iX in 2009 as well as today didn't seem quite as serious when she examined them. Caution is required while using an operating system that was last patched a decade ago. As in traffic signals, caution does not mean stop.

Even in the year 2009, when I pointed out that seven-plus years of no emulator didn't mean "no emulator, ever," Byrne kept to his course. "It does seem to me the prudent way to bet nonetheless," he wrote me. Whether you believe in an emulator's promise or not, MPE/iX is the deal-breaker here in 2019. It doesn't have as many fundamental shortcomings as it seemed a decade ago. I asked Donna about it, saying "Here we are in 2019, still caring about the 3000 and its OS. You could’ve won a good bet about that one."

Nobody is doubting that the world has moved on since the end of 2001, but "there are still plenty of companies running MPE." Hofmeister adds that "MPE is not as up-to-date as other OSes. There are ways, however, of dealing with that."

Continue reading "How far behind is MPE/iX, really? One look..." »


Date upgrade deadline: now in single digits

Countdown-9
When MPE/iX systems, both virtual and physical, see their clocks tick over tonight at midnight, it will be a significant date. The end of Dec. 31 puts MPE/iX, as crafted by its creators — into single digits for years remaining. Nine is tomorrow's number.

Whether that's nine years until end of life depends on your IT plans. If like more than a few managers you're retiring clean -- with configurations in place to survive into 2028 — the nine years will show you're prepared. You've made your changes to work around the loss of accurate MPE/iX date keeping. At least one vendor is taking orders for this service.

Others, meanwhile, are doing the work and leaving the credit to others. Stromasys has a lot at stake in the 3000 market to make 2028 a year of smooth pavement. We've gotten word they're ready with a software solution to carry MPE/iX beyond HP's wildest visions.

For the IT manager who's retiring without a 2028 plan — and leaving Dec. 31, 2027 as a shutdown date — tomorrow is the start of the final nine years for that HP 3000. It goes without saying these managers have no current interest in the Charon virtualizer for HP's MPE/iX iron.

Everything ends sometime. 2018 wraps up this evening. Lau Tao wrote in another century, "New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings." May your year to come be a new beginning without such pain. We'll see you in a future where options are still emerging for a suprising decade-plus to come. Some 3000 managers will be joining the march toward a Double-Digit Future for MPE/iX.


What to say back to "Your system sucks."

Rolling-stones
There are still moments out there waiting for the homesteading 3000 manager. The ones where someone in IT who's pretty sure they know better about systems says something like "MPE sucks." Or anything equally glib, dressed up little to hide the ignorance.
 
"MPE sucks" is something like "the Stones were hacks." It’s a matter of taste and what you know. There’s too much legacy software out there doing production work to dismiss anything out of hand. I find that the more technical the IT administrator, the more they seem to like the clean choices, those with shorter pedigrees and clearer parentage. MPE/iX, being in its late 40's of existence, feels like it's just too out of date.
 
If that were true, then a company like Stromasys would have failed at selling an emulator into the MPE/iX marketplace. Charon is working and moving data where it needs to go.
 
I’ve talked for thousands of hours to people who cut code and build application suites. The dance between developer, administrator-CIO, and end user is interesting and frustrating. Using something older is not an ignorant move. What sucks, if anything, is a tunnel vision about the best tool to preserve a company's investment.
 
I've read the following in the last 24 hours, shared by a vendor who really needs you to see that cloud IT is your next best future.
The person in charge of the software isn’t generally involved in the day to day. The only thing they know is that the job is getting done, and “If it ain’t broke, don’t ax it.” They’re too removed to realize that it is broken, and there’s no one questioning them about whether something could be done 20 percent faster or 10 times easier.

Neither of these stakeholders is in a position where they can see the problems. What
they need is a different perspective.

When a different perspective can respect the investment in MPE/iX, and acknowlege how much less faster or easier an alternative is once you factor in the cost of change — then it might be time to talk futures and alternatives
 
People like the tools that they like. I don’t try to win the PC vs Mac debates anymore. It does annoy me to see a tech expert dismiss something. I have a friend who loves Android and slams iOS, who uses Linux and hoots at Windows. For him, the ability to flip a million software switches and manage his own filesystem is the smartest way to go. The 3000 marketplace started to see this when SAP crept in to try to replace MPE/iX. That's why Kenandy has been able to stand in at a few 3000 sites. Its switches are already set in positions that let work get done.
 
Advocates of the more complex choices usually don’t understand how smart they are in relation to everybody else. I encountered this in our editorial business just a few days ago.

Continue reading "What to say back to "Your system sucks."" »


One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs

Charon Portfolio
In a webinar this week, Stromasys made its case for how shutting down HP's 3000 hardware can reduce an IT budget. Using data from Gartner analysts and other sources, the company estimates that downtime costs companies $1 million per year on average. Any alternative to 15- to 25-year-old servers is a good shot at making the future more stable.

There still hasn't been a computer system built that will never fail. Hot-swap backups with automatic server failovers were never a big part of the 3000 datacenter experience. If you had to handicap which server was a likely failure candidate, HP's MPE/iX hardware would give you short odds of failure. In this case, short is not a good measure.

One million per year in losses is a big enough number to get the attention of a corporation's C-level. It's the same number, coincidentally, that Stromasys used this week to describe the costs of migrating MPE/iX apps. The text circled in the slide above "implies investments of $1 million+" for migrations.

These millions, lost through downtime or surrendered in datacenter budget, are averages. Smaller 3000 customers may not approach the $1 million in yearly lost revenues. Migration costs track closer to that number, but they're a one-time hit. The alternative is Charon, of course. During the webinar we learned that an additional HP market is coming online to use Charon. HP's Unix PA-RISC servers will be the latest Stromasys virtualization segment, according to Dave Campbell.

Continue reading "One Alternative to $1 Million of 3000 Costs" »


HP 3000 dream tracks close to virtualization

Railroad switches
An HP 9000 HP-UX virtualization product is in development. In that kind of design, a single Intel server with enough computing power (concurrent threads) could host both HP 3000 and HP 9000 virtualizations. HP had the same objective almost 20 years ago for its largest enterprise platforms.

Early in 1999 HP's Harry Sterling spoke at an all-day user meeting in the UK hosted by Riva Systems. Sterling, who'd retire before the end of that year, said a multi-OS server was within HP's vision for the 3000 and 9000 customers.

Sterling’s mentioned the possibility of running MPE, NT and Unix concurrently on the HP 3000 "sometime in the future." There was even the possibility of a “hot-swap” version of MPE alongside the production system. John Dunlop reported for us at the time.

The passing mention indicated that separate processors in one box would be able to run different operating systems. Sterling did suggest that a hot-swap version of MPE might be a valid use, so that there would be some redundancy with the live operating system.

This seemed to lead to the subject of more uptime. From these comments, it’s possible that HP is looking at allowing online changes to a hot-swap system and then just switching it over to achieve the so-called “magic weekend.” This is a system upgrade that occurs seamlessly and transparently to both the users and management.

That would be a dream not realized. Hot-swap didn't make it any further into the customer base than architect discussions. Sterling noted that in 1997 customers expressed concern about the future of the 3000. To counter that feeling and give the customers more confidence, he outlined in 1999 a five-year roadmap for the 3000.

Marketing was on board as well in that year that led to Y2K. It would take another 13 years before a multiple OS host for MPE/iX would emerge.

Continue reading "HP 3000 dream tracks close to virtualization" »


Shifting Data Off the 3000, Easily

NewsWire Classic

By Roy Brown

Tool-beltWhether you are migrating data, or just wanting to present it in a more portable format, be aware of how you can manipulate it using those all-pervasive Microsoft tools. When your consulting role takes you across a wide range of HP 3000 sites, you rapidly learn that not everybody has all the add-on tools you might like to see – Qedit, MPEX, Adager, Suprtool, and so on. You can rely on what’s in FOS, but there are a bunch of things you are brought up short by, that are not so easy without the armory above.

So, when I needed to extract and massage data from a bare or nearly bare HP 3000, I pretty soon learned to rely on what I could bring to bear from my laptop, equipped with Reflection and the MS Office suite.

Actually, the product I really missed isn’t one I listed above – it’s MBF-UDALink, from MB Foster. Perhaps because I’ve never quite mastered its rather quirky interface, I find it’s often easier to rewrite a query than to modify one. But they are so quick to write that it really doesn’t matter – especially for multi-set, multi-key extracts.

And as it can make your data extract, put it in the format of your choice, and transfer it to your PC via your termulator, all in one go, it lets you skip a whole bunch of what I describe below; stuff you need to do only if all you have is FOS in this area.

Extraction

Mostly, when grabbing stuff on an ad-hoc basis, I like to list it out in Query, and watch it scroll by in Reflection, with logging to a PC file turned on. I know that I could file equate the output to QSLIST with DEV=DISC, make a file and copy it that way, if I wanted. But this way, I get to see problems as it runs. And if it runs okay, it’s already on the PC for me.

I use Query because it’s always there. I figure I don’t need to do a Query tutorial here – though you can email me at [email protected] if you’d like a copy of one – but suffice to say that you can usually walk the paths you need, and pick up the data you want. I generally set LINES=0 or NOPAGE, and I pay attention to numeric field formatting with Edit masks where needed, but I only output Detail lines. Dates I leave in CCYYMMDD format, just as they come. And I don’t need to do any math – I can save that until I’m in Office.

But I do hit the 80-character line limit, which is where the first neat WinWord trick kicks in. I use multiple lines, and I mark the end of each line except the last with a string like ### - something that I know won’t ever occur naturally in the data – ending at position 80.

Continue reading "Shifting Data Off the 3000, Easily" »


Where have all the migrations gone?

Wilted rosesIs the bloom finally off the rose for migrations away from MPE/iX? I had lunch today with a support provider for third party maintenance who sees a lot of activity in the 3000 market. He said that as far as he can see — and of course nobody can see everywhere — the HP 3000 migration activity is pretty much done.

Nobody has complete visuals on the full marketplace. It can be difficult to know much about migration projects in progress. So if 3000 migration is done, maybe what that really means is that all of the migrations have been started by now. For example, I wrote about a company last month whose 3000 expert says they’ve been migrating for awhile. The project is supposed to be over by the end of the year. Then this 3000 veteran of many years added, “but you know how that goes.”

Like lots of 3000 experts, that IT pro is retiring from his company. At year's end he'll be leaving behind a 3000 app that’s working. Whoever’s got the job of getting that replacement app online will have to finish it in 2019 without as much MPE expertise on staff. I'm guessing that even retired, the expert will be able to bill for some consulting. "You know how that goes" usually means there's some unresolved issues, like there are in every migration. You never know what you've done well in a migration until you get to the testing phase. Birket Foster used to say that testing was at least 30 percent of the workload in a migration.

Once a migration team's testing gets serious, knowing the MPE app and the 3000 technical infrastructure can show off its benefits. It might even be like the way COBOL skills got valuable in the years leading up to Y2K. Getting that kind of independent expertise into the contract-procurement market can be the big hurdle for 3000 veterans. Lots of great 3000 experience has worked inside a company. Being for-hire is a different gig.

Migrations can be pretty secret. Some datacenter managers don’t want to talk about having a genuine legacy app (what, you use MPE?) still serving in production. Other 3000 managers don’t have control of the migrations their company is doing. Therefore, little knowledge they might share with 3000 friends (or writers). That migration might be done by the supplier of the new app, or the Platform as a Service (PaSS, or what they like to call cloud) such as a Salesforce reseller.

Finally, there's the IT management that's going on at the C-level by now. The guardians of the datacenter are sometimes not connected to the 3000 at all. The CFO just wants an outside company to take that putty-colored HP server box out of the shop, because nobody knows enough about it anymore. That's the circumstance where outside migration services can help. You've got to find those CFOs, though. A list of former 3000 sites might help. Someone just offered us one—but it was from 1988. There are dead people on that list.

Just because it's hard to see 3000 migrations doesn't mean they're not there. You can say the same thing about spirits and faeries and even some religious powers. If you're hoping for migrations to appear, it doesn't hurt to believe. Get your shingle out there and explore. Verradyne is a collective of experts who've done 3000 migrations.


The Migration Dilemma

3000-migration-penguins
This article first ran in the opening month of the 3000's migration era. For the companies still working through a migration, most of the issues remain in play. More to the point for the homesteading 3000 site: These are high-level reasons why a migration isn't on the horizon.

Newswire Classic

By Curtis Stordahl

Well, the other shoe has dropped. Hewlett-Packard has given their HP 3000 customer base just five years to migrate to another platform. This is a daunting task that is full of risk.

The biggest migration risk factor is probably that the complexity of the applications on the HP 3000 may have been severely underestimated. These applications can be over 20 years old, and some have had scores of programmers continuously evolving the original application without any supporting documentation. Consequently, it is possible that nobody knows just how big and complex these applications are. Many migration projects are also led by personnel with no experience on the HP 3000 platform, who have a perception of it being something like an old dBase application on an IBM PC.

Many organizations will be lured by the “flavor of the month” technology and want to completely redevelop their HP 3000 applications accordingly. This is also full of hidden risks.

A major redevelopment is going to essentially have three project teams. The first project team is going to be responsible for the development of the new application. This team faces multiple risks: of underestimating the complexity of the legacy application they are replacing; or of completing the development only to find it does not meet the minimum requirements and cannot be implemented without extensive rework.

At that point, the team could then find it impossible to obtain the resources needed to complete the project. The technology they choose may not meet expectations and so will not satisfy the minimum requirements. If you go outside your organization for new application development, the vendor you contract to do the work could go bust.

A second project team needs to migrate the data to the new platform. A radical change in design could make this difficult if not impossible.

A third project team needs to provide ongoing support to the legacy application. A major redevelopment could be years in the making, and you can’t stop the business from evolving during that time. This introduces additional risk into both the development and migration project teams because they must aim at a moving target.

There is an overall risk that a migration project could fail, leaving you with no additional funding or time to recover from the failure.

Continue reading "The Migration Dilemma" »


Why and When to Leave Platform-Land

Goodbye Tin Man
Life in the 3000 community revolved around platforms. We used to think about these as operating systems. Long ago it was time to change that thinking and call the combo of servers and the OS a platform. You could think of that era as the Land of Oz, instead of OS. It might be time for 3000 owners to change their thinking about computers as platforms. It depends on what else is doing service in your datacenter.

For a small percentage of 3000 owners, the servers built by HP are all that runs in what we once called the computer room. They live in what one storage vendor, one who knows the 3000 well, calls platform-land. Everything in platform-land is connected to a 3000, so the homogenous benefits of multi-server storage just aren't needed.

Companies that live fully in platform-land are using HP-branded devices built exclusively for the 3000. That's the way HP used to qualify its peripherals: tested for MPE/iX. For a while during the years after HP's "we're outta here" announcement, the vendor asserted that any other storage device was risky business. We covered those debates. The results showed the risks were not substantial.

HP's outta-here movement caused movement in the 3000 community, of course. Some of the movement was inbound instead of an exodus. Companies have turned to using Linux servers, more Windows Servers (2008 and later) and even some Unix boxes from HP, Sun, or IBM. That's the moment when a company starts to leave platform-land. You should leave it once you've got multiple OS servers and need to leverage networks and peripherals across all servers. That's the When.

The Why is a little more complicated. 3000s and the Stromasys servers that have replaced the MPE/iX hosts are cradles for the applications that companies don't want to drop. The companies shouldn't drop an application just because it's on the wrong platform. Applications need to exit when they don't serve the business logic anymore. Leaving platform-land supports the continued service from MPE/iX apps. Like I said, it's complicated.

Continue reading "Why and When to Leave Platform-Land" »


Data migration integrity can be in the garage

RulesoftheGarage
In the world of book publishing, a customer with a legacy of using HP 3000s is pushing users through a migration. The Nielsen name has long been associated with TV ratings, but that former HP 3000 customer tracks so much more. This month the book sales service BookScan is getting a migration to a new system. The old system was called Nielsen and the new one is NPD's Decison Key. The transfer is expected to have its bumps. Some might have impact who's on this year's bestseller lists.

Publisher's Marketplace reports, "BookScan will complete its transition from the old Nielsen platform to the NPD system and at outset, the biggest adjustment for users may be getting accustomed to system updates on a different day of the week. "

As the story unfolds there's more changes expected. NPD Books president Jonathan Stolper is predicting high integrity. "We're going to get it right," he said in a Publisher's Marketplace article. The Marketplace resells Nielsen data to authors, publishers and booksellers—so the forecast would of course be bright. Many data migrations have had this forecast.

But the data on this Nielsen system, some of which goes back to the HP 3000 era there, has deep roots. From the Marketplace report:

We're talking about millions of titles, a system that goes back to 2004 in detail. There is a ton of data within this system. So it's only natural that there's probably going to be some – I don't want to call them hiccups, but some variances. Whenever you switch systems, there's some slight variance. People are going to have to realize that it's not an absolute match."

Then comes the upshot of the migration. Some books are going to "sell" better than others, depending on the data integrity for this year's sales.

Continue reading "Data migration integrity can be in the garage" »


Planning to migrate has been the easy mile

Postman3000 owners have made plans for many years to leave the platform. The strategies do take a considerable while to evolve into tactics, though. The planning stage is easy to get stopped at, like an elevator jammed up at a floor. 

For example, take a company like the one in the deep South, using HP 3000s and manufacturing copper wire and cable. The manager would rather not name his employer and so we won't, but we can say the 3000 is dug in and has been difficult to mothball.

In fact, the only immediate replacement at this corporation might be its storage devices. The datacenter employs a VA7410 array.

We do have to replace a drive now and then, but there hasn't been any problem getting used replacements, and we haven't suffered any data loss. I think if we were planning to stay with MPE for the long term, we might look for something newer, but we are planning to migrate. In fact we planned to be on a new platform by now, but you know how that goes.

More companies than you'd imagine know how that goes in 2018. We're nearing the end of the second decade of what we once called the Transition Era. The final mile of that journey can be the slowest, like the path of the postman who must carry the mail on foot through urban neighborthoods.


Where to go when the app vendor is gone

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The cozy corner of your world that's the HP 3000 Community on LinkedIn has many reports about where users are working. One story that's slid onto our desk from that community illustrates the work a 3000 owner faces when a software vendor leaves them behind. For many sites with few resources, this is the situation that triggers a migration.

This is a story of what happens when the Hewlett-Packard hardware outlasts vendor applications. It's not that the app has stopped working, not at all. But the manager of the 3000 knows his employer has limited time to plan for a future while using software that can't be modified, because there's no source code — and not much documentation, even though the software's been customized.

3000s stay in service long enough to get to the point where the most durable piece of the solution is MPE/iX. Hardware can die off and be replaced by Charon from Stromasys. Expertise can be hired on contract for administration and operations. Development, though, is the hardest asset to maintain. When expertise dwindles for a third party piece of software — in this case, the IBS/3000 (Integrated Business System) financials package from DeCarlo, Paternite and Associates — a migration is usually in order.

The 3000 manager said he came on board at the company and learned about IBS being a key business component. "I Googled it to see if there was a user forum, vendor site, or any information. All I found was Irritable Bowel Syndrome."

Even if there was still vendor support available, it would be of limited use because there are so many in-house modifications and enhancements. The app has served us well, but is not sustainable for the long term.

He reports that the migration project will have to survive bad decisions, woefully inadequate management support, bad consultants, and a lack of expertise. "New leadership is in place with more realistic expectations. I hope we can hit a 2019 target." This manager of an A500 system is counting down to an end of 2018 retirement — and doing his best to ensure the system can outlast him.


Licensed MPE source solves OS mysteries

Rathbone-holmesIn early 2028 I’ll be 70, and some MPE/iX apps could be 40 years old. I can hope retirement is in my rangefinder by then, but at the moment it looks like I’ll be writing until I can’t make sentences anymore. (Gotta remember, first noun, then verb.)

Well before that year, though, the roadblock of 3000-MPE date handling will be cleared. The companies most likely to have a comprehensive workaround are the ones which have licensed MPE/iX source. Or, the companies which are allied with the source licensees. Fixing the use of the CALENDAR intrinsic doesn't need to be a source-level repair. Having source access, though, only makes the fix more robust.

The 3000 owners and managers are all about robust. That's why they're still making use of a computer the vendor hasn't sold since 2003. Many of the companies who don't self-maintain are relying on support services now working more than seven years since HP left that support business, too.

The established independent support companies will be glad to collect money for building a 2028 solution, customer-by-customer. They should be paid. There are some IT managers out there in the 3000 world who see leaving their existing systems in a future-proof state, software-wise, as part of their job whenever they get to retire. Those are the real Boy Scouts, I’d say. On the other hand, you will hear arguments they’re not doing their jobs by leaving their companies running MPE/iX, even today.

The heart wants what it wants, though. If a company hasn't got heart for a migration right now, then the adminstrative work to be done is preparing for a forever journey for MPE/iX. Or at least until I'm 80, when the Unix 2038 roadblock appears.

Nobody should be building a 2028 fix unless they’re going to be paid. This issue is important to the Stromasys customer base. Not all: some Charon 3000 emulator installations are holding a place for a migration that's underway.

The community's elders care about the future. So long as the old managers can get a new expenditure approved, the game's afoot, as Sherlock Holmes would say.


Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world

Penguin-shorelineThe Newswire's articles can sometimes be evergreen, even in the hottest months of the year. This week we got an email about a 2001 article that introduced Linux to our readers. A companion to the article from 17 years ago, A Beginners Guide to Linux, includes one outdated link, along with timeless advice.

Linux was already a juggernaut on corporate IT whiteboards and it had a strong following in the field, too. Shawn Gordon wrote a pair of columns about Linux as a 101 course for 3000 experts. The first article was published in the first weeks after HP's exit announcement about the 3000 business. Gordon, who founded a software company built around Linux applications, connected the dots.

To be honest, you can go another seven years quite easily with your existing 3000 system, which is a long time for a system these days. But if you were looking for a change anyway, now is the time. So what does this all have to do with Linux?

Linux seems to be the great equalizer. It runs on watches, set-top boxes, PDAs, Intel chips, PowerPC chips in Macs and IBM systems, Itanium chips, IBM mainframes — the list goes on and on. IBM and HP both are moving their customers towards it, and IBM has done some fantastic work helping Linux on scalability.

In our HP 3000 space we mostly know the players and we are comfortable where we are. Jumping over to Linux required that I learn a lot about things I never cared about before — like the GPL, GNU, Linux, RMS, ESR, and other things that I will explain in a bit. One of the bits that has been floating around a lot on the various 3000 discussion lists is Linux.

The update for the two-part article comes from a company that has a free Linux education website. Alex Nordeen, Editor of Guru99.com, hopes to get your web visits.

Continue reading "Wayback: Linux re-enters the 3000's world" »


Ways to make SFTP serve to a 3000 system

Waiter-serviceEarlier this month a seasoned veteran of 3000 development asked how he could get SFTP service supported for his system. He's been managing a 3000 that's been ordered to employ file transfers that are more secure than FTP.

Secure FTP works well enough outbound, thanks to the OpenSSL software ported to the 3000 in WebWise. But incoming SFTP is tougher. Some say it's not possible, but that answer doesn't include any potential for a proxy server. Or a virtualized 3000.

Versions of OpenSSL that were ported to run on native MPE probably won’t satisfy an audit, nor do they have some of the current crypto capabilities that would satisfy things like PCI requirements. There are no developers signed up to continue the OpenSSL port project.

That leaves the proxy solution.

In this solution, a manager would set up a Linux SFTP server with two NICs. NIC 1 goes to the outside world. NIC 2 is a crossover to the HP 3000. From the HP 3000, SFTP to the Linux server via NIC 2.
 
In another scenario, you can FTP between the HP 3000 and a Linux virtual machine. One developer said that on the Linux VM "we have a small application that talks to the HP 3000 via FTP and forwards to and from other machines via SFTP or SSH." He added that the app on the Linux system is written in Java.
 
Migration often includes this kind of expertise. Charles Finley, a veteran of HP 3000 matters since the 1980s, recently raised his hand to offer notes on using an SSH tunnel. "It does not involve coding, the use of libraries and—although you can do it with Linux—does not necessarily involve Linux." He drew a link to an example employing a Windows host, adding that "we use Linux or Windows for this type of thing. Here's a description of how connect to an FTP/SFTP server which can be accessed via another server only, using PuTTY, "something we make use of a lot," Finley said.
 
There's also a simple way to use SFTP by employing Stromasys Charon. Other servers can SFTP to a Linux partition. Charon is hosted under Linux as it emulates the 3000 hardware. This hosted MPE server can then pick the files up internally.

Continue reading "Ways to make SFTP serve to a 3000 system" »


July's IA-64 news, delivered by the Sandman

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Twenty years ago this month the 3000 community got its biggest assurance of a long future. The system's lab manager said that the IA-64 architecture would be fully supported in future 3000 models. New compilers would be built for a new MPE/iX. Channel partners and resellers got the news from the labs two months earlier at a swell retreat.

The man delivering the news for that July article is a familiar name with 3000 customers. He was Winston Prather, head of R&D at the time—and three years later, the person who decided the 3000 community didn't need the computer. A weak ecosystem was supposedly the reason Prather could be the Sandman and help put HP's MPE/iX business to sleep.

Three summers earlier, all the news we could report in the NewsWire was good. 

"The 3000 customers who experienced the move from Classic to MPE/XL know exactly what they’ll be looking at as they move forward,” Prather said. “One thing that makes me feel good about it is that it’s something we’ve done before. I think we pulled it off pretty successfully, and we learned quite a bit. We’ll use some of the same learning and techniques as we move to the new architecture."

Prather said that by early in the 2000s, 3000 customers would be able to buy and use an operating system to run with both PA-RISC and IA-64 processors,  "Customers who need the additional performance of IA-64 will then be able to buy IA-64 processor boards to plug into HP 3000 processor slots on the new systems." It was an audacious design. HP bragged of the bold move.

“Prior to the IA-64 boards or chips," Prather said, "there will be complete new boxes available at the high end and the midrange, and then potentially at the low end.” The new 3000s would use new IO systems, giving customers a way to step into new hardware technology incrementally. The IO arrived, late out of those labs, in the form of new PCI bus architecture. IA-64 on MPE was put to sleep.

Watching the whiplash as HP first promised a future, pre-Y2K, then took away the hope of 3000 site, in 2001, baffled a lot of us. The system deserved a big tech investment. Then it didn't.

Continue reading "July's IA-64 news, delivered by the Sandman" »


Still seeking expertise for 3000 work

Port of VirginiaFresche Legacy floated a request this month for 3000 experts to contact the company which was once called Speedware. Eric Mintz runs the services group there. 

Fresche Solutions (formerly Speedware) is looking for HP resources (related to MPE, HP-UX, 4GLs, COBOL, IMAGE, Eloquence, knowledge of the common third party utilities, etc.) for various engagements and start dates (some almost immediate). Mandates may include onsite, remote, short to long term. I can't be more specific than this, so please reach out to me directly and I'll work to facilitate next steps.

Some long-term HP 3000 shops have used the services at Fresche. One of them, Virginia International Terminals, has worked with the company long enough to know it as both Speedware and as Fresche. Late in 2016 the organization was doing its final push away from the 3000. The Windows version of Speedware was the target, with the organization moving off of five MPE apps.

The VIT project was moving ahead of schedule when we last checked in with Mintz. We chronicled the pace on that migration during the earliest phase of the Transition Era, once more as the work ramped up,  and again not long ago. MPE was fully dug-in at the organization, which is now part of the Port of Virginia. That's one reason why 3000 expertise was essential to a successful migration.

VIT was fully locked in over all of the last 15 years of its migration. Even still, when HP dropped Carly Fiorina in 2005, it made the IT manager at the time wonder about a twist in the 3000's fate at the time.

Continue reading "Still seeking expertise for 3000 work" »


Recovering a 3000 password: some ideas

I have an administrator who decided to change passwords on MANAGER.SYS. Now what's supposed to be the new password isn't working. Maybe he mis-keyed it, or just mis-remembered it. Any suggestions, other than a blindfold and cigarette, or starting down the migration path?

The GOD program, a part of MPEX, has SM capability — so it will allow you to do a LISTUSER MANAGER.SYS;PASS=

If your operator can log onto operator.sys:

file xt=mytape;dev=disc
file syslist=$stdlist
store command.pub;*xt;directory;show

While using your favorite editor or other utility, search for the string: "ALTUSER MANAGER  SYS"

You will notice: PAS=<the pwd> which is your clue.

It's said that a logon to the MGR.TELSUP account can unlock the passwords. The Telsup account usually has SM capability, if it wasn't changed.