HP 3000 First
uses his firsts to lead a mission of preservation and migration for
the HP 3000 community. The outgoing chairman of the Interex user
group board of directors, Beauchemin is wrapping up five straight
years of service on the Interex board, an unusually long tenure.
Hes well-known as a prolific source of technical advice and
passion on the 3000-L mailing list going so far as to set up
an annual luncheon for that virtual communitys members at HP
World, where 3000 managers often met each other in person for the
Hes posted his share of firsts for that community. The first
time he saw an HP 3000 was in 1977, when one of those
pizza-oven type of systems was running in a Montreal service
bureau where he worked with the 3000s predecessor, the HP 21MX.
One year later as a freelance consultant, he replaced a pair of old
accounting machines at a clothing factory with the first HP 3000
Series 33 sold in Canada, writing an application that is still
Beauchemin was first on the scene during a crucial time for
the 3000; he was one of the first to put a new PA-RISC HP 3000
system, then called Spectrum, into production. The experience he
shared was important to stabilizing HPs new investment in RISC
computing. For more than five years from his post at Northern
Telecom, Beauchemin participated in numerous beta tests for HP 3000
systems and software, such as the first Native Mode port of
TurboIMAGE, new LANs, as well as the earliest releases of MPE/XL,
HPs first port of MPE to 32-bit systems. In 1990 he used that
early PA-RISC expertise to join Bradmark, redesigning and rewriting
major functions of DBGeneral to take advantage of the PA-RISC
architecture and provided dramatic performance improvements.
Denys, as hes known in the community, moved to Texas
for Bradmark, then joined Hicomp and soon became an expert on
multi-platform backup software and strategies. In 2003 he left Hicomp
to strike out on his own once again with migration services and
network installation and support.
After his years of work as the program director of many
Interex North American conferences, and as he stepped down from
leading the Interex board, we wanted to ask him about whats
made the HP 3000 so special to him for close to three decades, and
what Interex has in store for the 3000 community in the years to
come. A man whose community voice often appears in writing, he
replied to our interview questions by e-mail over the year-end
holiday season and reviewed the edited version that follows.
What are your proudest accomplishments for the HP
I see my 28 years with the HP 3000 through three windows. The
first is from the end-user point of view. I should say that my work
on the Spectrum beta in the 1980s was a good contribution. The second
window would be from the vendors point of view, and I am very
proud of the groundbreaking work I did on DBGeneral, moving it into
the PA-RISC world. The third window is my volunteer work with Interex
over the years.
Speaking of Interex, you signed up for a second
term on the Interex board. Not many do this. Why did you want to
extend your service?
There is a very good reason why very few people sign up for a
second term: the board consumes an awful lot of ones time. The
reasons I chose to run for a second term is that Interex was
approaching a perilous time in its history, and I believed that I
could be of assistance helping steer it through these times by
bringing in my long-time user bias. It remains to be seen if this was
the right thing to do.
What was the most fun during your early Spectrum
experience, and the scariest challenge you overcame?
I was at the Software Evaluation and Migration Center at the
HP Cupertino campus for a month, migrating Northern Telecoms
main COBOL application to Spectrum, MPE/XL and HPIMAGE. After that
migration, I demonstrated to HP that HPIMAGE was not going to be
suitable for us. I pleaded with them to migrate TurboIMAGE to native
mode, explaining that HPIMAGE was a disaster in the making.
Later on, we received a Series 930 HP 3000 at Northern
Telecom. I was in charge of the beta program for the entire company.
We belonged to the patch of the week club. The pressure was enormous.
Our Series 68s, which later grew into Series 70s had reached their
limit. We had a dozen or so in our computer room and they ran flat
out, all the time.
Management saw that MPE had reached a brick wall. There was a
lot of talk about going to another platform. My team and I were
caught in the middle. In 1987, HP told me they were going to migrate
TurboIMAGE to native mode, in effect canning HPIMAGE. Sam Prather,
head of CSYs labs, asked if we wanted to beta-test TurboIMAGE
when it was available, and we said, Bring it
I attended that years 1987 Interex conference in Las
Vegas closely accompanied by my HP-SE, because I was under deep
non-disclosure. I had been told we would be receiving HPs very
first Series 950 to replace our Series 930, and I was told to keep my
mouth shut about it. Imagine my surprise as I heard HPs Bill
Murphy announce in opening keynote that HP was finally shipping the
very first Series 950, and it was coming to Northern Telecom. Talk
When we finally migrated our application to the 950, the
system had some performance issues. The next night we migrated back
to the Series 70 and the recriminations began. A co-worker and I flew
to Cupertino to have it out with HP management. We flew back a few
days later with two sets of Series 955 boards in our carry-on
luggage. A few weeks later we migrated again, but to a 955 maxed out
at 256MB of RAM. Under the watchful eyes of many CSY techies present
in our computer room, the migration went smoothly. Then we had to
migrate back, because we discovered a nasty bug in our application.
The next time we migrated a week later, it was a non-event.
This entire episode was a series of challenges with
unthinkable consequences as a reward for failure. We were
exhausted after years of fighting with everybody and the systems. It
is all a blur now, but in those days, the blood pressure ran high.
You did all that work when Spectrum was fighting
for respect. Is Itanium going to make the same kind of stand at being
HPs small-to-medium business platform in a couple of years, or
is it going to struggle?
I think the big difference is that Spectrum brought in
several new things at one time: PA-RISC, MPE/XL and HP-UX; HPIMAGE,
TurboIMAGE/XL and Allbase/XL databases; and HPs optimizing
compilers. On MPE, there was also the Transaction Manager. In other
words, Spectrum was a massive sea change at HP in all aspects.
Success was accomplished in about a lustrum, say 1983-88. By 1988,
Spectrum was well on its way both on HP-UX and on MPE. I understand
that a lot of the work came from HPs cancelled Vision program,
so you might want to add a couple of years to that. All this to say
that it was well under a decade for Spectrum.
It is my belief that Itanium is a CPU chip, the follow-on to
PA-RISC, if you will. Apart from the compilers, there is no major sea
change in the rest of the environment, as far as I know. I think
Itanium is very long in coming, but I also know people who are using
it now simply love it for its performance. Beyond this my crystal
ball is fogged up. The issues between HP and Intel probably
complicated and lengthened the process, perhaps needlessly, but that
is not for me to say.
Should the HP 3000 community keep holding out for
an emulator, or a post-2006 MPE license?
Personally, I believe that a pure HP 3000 emulator will
probably never see the light of day not that its
unfeasible, but rather that it may not be financially
The board and I have been talking with vCSY management about
[emulator and licensing] issues since 11/14/2001. So far, there has
been virtually no movement in any direction. Interex has proposed to
HP that Interex be a repository for the MPE source code, alongside
the erstwhile RTE and HP-UX, when its time comes. Interex is not in
the business of supporting software; this repository would only be
for historical and perhaps hobbyist purposes.
Some say that MPE will be just fine for many
companies as-is, frozen at todays functionality. Are there a
few emerging technologies that MPE had better get pretty
IPV6 is about the only thing that comes to mind. Then again
there are probably routers and network devices that you can hang in
front of a legacy system.
I seriously doubt that anything new will be added to MPE now.
My take on the situation is if you are going to successfully
homestead on the 3000, you will eschew any new technology. The main
value for homesteaders is the lack of change itself. Any new
development for MPE is counter-productive for homesteaders.
Does the Java on the HP 3000 have a chance of
being useful in the version included with the latest
Not really. I tested it for a while and I found it very
clumsy and heavy on resources. I would guess that it would probably
run fine on high-end machines, but not with too many users. I just
never saw MPE/iX as a Java-friendly operating system. That
doesnt mean there arent some people out there doing very
well with it. I just havent heard of any.
Does Interex have a plan to work more closely with
As a matter of fact, Interex started talking with OpenMPE
from the very beginning. Sometimes we didnt talk for many
months, but Interex is supportive of OpenMPE. Yes, Interex is very
interested in being a repository for MPE, but just for historical and
Why do you think HP wanted to mount its own
technical conference for 2005?
The new management at HP is totally focused on representing
HP in every aspect possible. They have decided to hold their own show
and to invite the various users groups and association to attend and
participate, after a fashion. We negotiated at length with HP before
deciding to not participate in their event as they wanted us to do.
HP will be in control of every facet of that conference, and thus
Interex would lose its independence and its raison detre.
Whats the prospect for a merged user group
for all HP users folding in Encompass, ITUG and Interex?
Interex is unique among the list you mentioned. We do not
depend on HP for financing; we are an independent company with our
own offerings. We cherish the long-term HP relationship 30
years is a long time, but we also strongly value our independence.
That independence makes us unique among all the groups.
A merger with the other groups, with their dependency model,
is something that should not be undertaken lightly. While most
anything is possible, I do not know if merging is a good idea at this
Whats the one element youve seen in
the 3000 community that is very hard to find in other
For me, the HP 3000 has been a love affair of almost three
decades. I have used it from the Series II on MPE to an N4000/750
4-way on MPE/iX 7.5 and witnessed its demise. The road has been long
and fun. The biggest element is the community surrounding the HP
3000. I have known many people in that community for many, many
years. I have not seen a community like this one for Windows, Unix or
anything else. I would guess that such communities exist for other
proprietary platforms. But in a commodity world, I have not seen
I consider myself lucky to have been part of this community.
It has been great, and I intend to continue to be a part of it as I
help people migrate to other platforms or homestead.
Right now, for the ones who migrate, it is important that
they do not lose their intellectual property in the form of the
application software they have developed over the years and decades.
That is what the team I work with is dedicated in doing: Preserving
what the customer has and migrating it to another platform.
Whats the most significant technology to
emerge and mature in mass storage/backup sector for 3000 shops? What
do you recommend to a 3000 site today?
I am very excited with the disk arrays that are available
now. I like the HP 7xxx series of arrays; they are fast and
relatively affordable. I like the DLT drives, especially the 7000s. I
was very impressed with the LTO drives and in fact I have a lot of
experience with them. That was another growing pain
issue, but they turned out real well. On an HP 3000 PCI system,
especially an un-crippled one, such as a top-end N4000, these babies
My recommendation for anyone who wants to homestead for the
long term: Get rid of DDS, then see if you can replace it with DLT
(for Series 9xx) or LTO (on the N-Class), along with the right backup
You say HP crippled the 3000s with CPU throttling
instituted in the A-Class and N-Class systems. Why do you call it
crippling? What impact do you think it has had on the HP
CPU throttling is nothing new. HP and many others have been
doing it for a long time, in an effort to maximize whatever they
think gets maximized. But a throttled A-Class or N-Class is a
crippled machine; it is defective. I purchased an A-Class when they
first came out. I didnt mind paying the 100 percent premium
over the corresponding HP 9000 A400, because the A-Class had MPE. I
knew that HP had put in some throttling: HPs Dave Snow
explained they had to slow down the CPU because the IO was not fast
enough. (That was fantasy, by the way, misdirection.)
The code name for these A-Classes in the HP-UX world was
Barracuda. HP was targeting that system toward applications that
required speed as opposed to connectivity and disk capacity. On the
MPE side, I called it The Grouper, a fish that is slow
and ponderous. I was told to expect a throttling down to one-fourth
the throughput of a Barracuda. In those days, I was deep into backup
technology and I connected all manners of tape drives to my Grouper.
It soon became apparent the crippling was a factor of 7 or 8, not 4
as I had expected. The machine I had was running at about 12-15
percent of its capacity; the throttling had had unexpected
consequences and the system was running much slower than expected.
Just for the record, an HP 3000 N4000, un-crippled, is one
fast machine. HP did a wonderful, albeit belated, job of moving to
PCI with these systems. I even commissioned buttons that touted
MPE loves PCI and passed them around at HP World 2002.
The N-4000 would have been something to see on the new PCI-Express,
but that will now never happen.
After that, I lost all illusion that HP was an engineering
company. That was Hewlett-Packard. This is now The New HP.