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September 2000

In praise of the peaks of passion

NewsWire Editorial

Abby and I spent an anniversary among the peaks in the past month, celebrating our union as husband and wife for 10 years. While we were far away in the purple splendors of the Canadian mountains, the 3000 world grew steep with passion. Perhaps it was the heat of the season, or the length of the union, but it seemed like many of us were passionate last month.

For me and my wife, our passion sprang from the long and interesting path our lives have followed together. We booked a 10-day trip to the Cariboo Mountains of British Columbia, by way of a domed railcoach tour, with a touch of a perfect day in Vancouver to begin it all. It was a dramatic trip with scenery to match, something I felt was most appropriate to the years we’ve worked together and loved one another. Each day felt like it was good enough that if the trip ended just there, it still would have been spectacular — the spectacle of snow-capped peaks in August, of mica-and-garnet laced rocks bristling with waterfalls, of English Bay skies full of colorful, fiery rocket trails of fireworks.

Our anniversary trip took effort. The NewsWire is beginning its sixth year as you read this, but we are still a modest enterprise. Taking its two key partners away for 10 days required planning, as well as extra work both before and after. We came to the preparation and recovery with the same passion we felt five summers ago, when this newsletter was incubated in the warm affection for a community I’ve now known for 16 years.

While we were away, that community was feeling passion of its own, at least on its online avenues. One hub of Internet communications, the 3000-L mailing list and newsgroup, buzzed with dismay over the omission of MPE in an HP executive’s account of which HP systems were strategic. Some of the most ardent customers in all of HP post messages to that list, and the absence of MPE from Ann Livermore’s reply to the press caught their attention. In a negative way, yes, but just as surely as we couldn’t pull our eyes from the sweep of Mt. Robson, Canada’s highest peak, free of clouds at its top for one of just 10 days a year.

The passion followed another factor of 10. The last time I saw HP 3000 customers this upset was 10 years ago in Boston, where it became plain that some in HP didn’t value the IMAGE database as part of the 3000’s success.

Back in those days there was no Internet for nearly all of us. So the passion had only a few days to ferment in meeting rooms around a convention center. The Management Roundtable at what was then called Interex — now you know it as HP World — displayed fireworks of protest. Not long afterward, the HP 3000 division began serious rejuvenation of the IMAGE database. Was it a coincidence that a few months later, Dave Packard returned to HP in a management consulting post? Some of us in the 3000 community thought not, considering the passion that played out in front of the computer industry press, not far from their eastern US headquarters.

Much is different now, of course, but that passion hasn’t cooled in 10 years. If anything, it’s grown more rock solid, like my partnership with Abby. Surviving hard times and meeting challenges together gives any relationship the qualities of a glacier, I’d say. In those Cariboo Mountains we flew out each day on a helicopter to land and hike, and one day we touched down on the North Canoe Glacier. This one was 50,000 year-old ice, and even on one of the warmest days of the year, it still beamed bundle-up cold onto us. That’s strength.

In the mountains they say the glaciers are either gaining or losing from year to year, depending on the weather. Hot summers and mild winters make a glacier lose, while mild summers and snowy winters make it gain. Regardless of their condition, they have a permanence that the rest of the environment counts upon. Glaciers feed waterfalls, then rivers, and finally the sea. Like the HP 3000 community, they have been around longer than most can remember. Like the computer itself, they feed the rest of the business environments around them.

From the looks of the weather this season, it appears the e3000 glacier has been losing at HP’s corporate level. The changes are slight but obvious to our passionate community members. Their investment is respected by the division’s leaders — no one can find much fault in CSY’s actions. It’s up at the HP corporate level that the heat to sell more of those me-too solutions is being generated. It’s heat that has harmed the 3000 glacier — a successful HP invention being overlooked when reporters ask HP about its me-too offerings in Unix, NT and Linux.

While we hiked across those glacier trails, with August snow beaming summer sunlight onto our chins, we reveled in our relationship. How we’d moved beyond surviving to thriving, spreading belief and hope between us to help lift our steps beyond our limits, and create things that last. On those windswept mountain peaks, we felt our fortune swell, outlasting doubts.

All relationships end. The passion the e3000 customers feel for their product comes from invention, I believe. The customers don’t even want a hint of the end of HP’s relationship with its oldest, most loyal customers. I think once HP considers it, the corporation doesn’t want that hint to appear, either.

HP’s customers have now become serious enough about their passion to collect tens of thousands of dollars nearly overnight to send a message to HP in a newspaper ad. Then relationships took hold, and customers have given CSY more time to get the attention of top HP managers. People who are married know that kind of hope is essential to outlasting the heat of anger. Our anniversary trip celebrated the success of that hope, the belief that tomorrow will be better.

What the 3000 community hopes for, after this season of me-too heat, is a snowfall of respect and recognition for its loyalty. Gaining after losing is a normal cycle. Now that HP has moved its businesses around in Carly Fiorina’s first term, we hope for some gains in the 3000 glacier. Moving mountains as glaciers do is work fit for the oldest community in HP’s world.

— Ron Seybold 

What do you think? Drop me a line and let me know at rseybold@zilker.net 

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