I really wasn't worried, because I feel like I'm in better shape than ever. No, not necessarily my body, although the changes of age I see in my hairline and waistline still aren't as serious as the shifts in an age where a 28.8 modem is considered a slow link to the Internet. The world outside might be racing toward uncertainty, but my own status has been on an improvement track for some time. I've come to that conclusion after spending more time this year summing up where I'm at after 40 years. Birthdays that end in a zero or five tend to prompt that from many of us.
The HP 3000 celebrated one of those kinds of birthdays this year, crossing the 25-year mark. HP lit candles and blew them out on a cake at the Strategic Directions broadcast in January, and the CSY division developed a logo that celebrates the silver anniversary of the 3000's birth. The good wishes got beamed by satellite across the US and Mexico. I did at least as well, blowing out candles on a carrot cake with friends at a yoga/writing retreat, then writing these words in front of 40 long-stemmed roses for the first time in my life -- both thanks to my wife.
More than a few people have asked how 40 feels, and I've replied honestly that it feels a lot like 39 and 364 days. Then I point out what I'm truly feeling is the awareness of accomplishing 40. Birthdays, like anniversaries of businesses or products, are a way of marking survival, celebrating the continuity of energy. In much the same way, the HP 3000 has a lot to celebrate after completing 25 years of productivity in the world's businesses.
So how does the computer feel at 25? If the HP 3000 were a birthday boy, an interview on the occasion might sound something like this:
NewsWire: How do you feel at 25?
3000: A lot like I felt at 20, and at 15. Thousands of companies still rely on me. People are still talking about the things they'd like to add to my capabilities. My reputation for reliability is still pretty unmatched.
NewsWire: What's changed for you?
3000: I think the struggle to be recognized, the ego part of being an IS choice, is behind me now. I don't have to prove myself the way that Windows NT or Unix still does. There's something about being in use a quarter-century -- and getting rejuvenated all the whil -- that gives you a solid sense of self-worth.
NewsWire: What's your fondest memory?
3000: There are so many. Lots of the managers using me recently posted their success stories on the Internet. Though some of them date back to when I was just a tot, I still saved their businesses lots of money by being so reliable. Other stories are just a few months old. Being remembered that long and that well is the best part of being 25.
NewsWire: Any regrets for paths not taken?
3000: Only a few. A couple of years ago the people who take care of me had a great idea, one that got them really excited. They would be able to run both Unix and MPE/iX on my hardware, and shift my resources back and forth between the two enviroments. Technically the Unix side of me wouldn't have been a 3000, but the ultra reliable part, MPE, would have controlled the whole show. HP had a change of heart, and the project got cancelled. It would have been like playing a dual role in a hit Broadway play. But the way Unix has turned out, I really didn't miss so much, did I?
NewsWire: How did that experience change your relationship with HP?
3000: Well, I really am part of HP, so that's kind of a funny question. You must mean how did the management's change of heart effect me. I stopped worrying about that kind of stuff before my 25th birthday. I'm always going to be a part of the company's solutions for business, I think. That's because I was built and designed in an era when resources were scarce and simple computing was in vogue. That makes me more efficient and easier to use than other solutions. Those are my good points, and having them built in at the beginning makes them easier to keep up. But then, I've always been a low maintenance kind of date.
NewsWire: What are your goals for your next five years?
3000: To be the best at what I do very well, and not let newer solutions threaten me. No computer out there can do everything, and those that try just don't do some of it very well at all. No, not even Windows NT. Ever try to back up an NT system completely, so you don't lose a thing? It takes a pretty smart piece of software to get it all and a clever manager, too. On the other hand, I don't have the attention of every consultant and analyst and editor anymore. You can't really live on your notices, you know. It's things like database transaction speed and powerfail recovery that keep you running in businesses everywhere, I've found.
NewsWire: What's been your biggest surprise over your 25 years?
3000: That so few of my classmates are still around. Sure, you can find the odd PDP-11 or System 34 still running someplace, but nobody's selling those anymore. And I know that IBM's 360s still live on in spirit in the latest Big Blue Big Iron. But time has marched on for just about everybody who went online in 1972.
NewsWire: Why do think it's been different for you?
3000: I think it's my willingness to change. They say life is just a series of changes, and when you stop changing you die. I like to think that's what's made me different from all those classmates. Somebody once said "The HP 3000 isn't a machine or an operating system. It's just a concept that has been evolving everyday since it was created." I like that, but more importantly, it appears the world's business-minded computer users like it, too. Every year brings more change, so I feel better about every birthday.
NewsWire: I know just how you feel.
-- Ron Seybold