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April 2001

All that matters is what you can play today

NewsWire Editorial

I rode downtown into the smoke and sound of the South by Southwest Music Festival to see a legend last month, but I found more than history. I discovered that a reputation is less important than what’s on today’s playlist, a concept that HP 3000 owners and suppliers might remember.

The legend I sought was Ike Turner, a man much reviled in a hit movie and best-selling book as the abusive partner of pop star Tina Turner. After seeing the movie “What’s Love Got to Do With It?” with actor Laurence Fishburne’s scorched-earth march over his partner in music and life, I wanted to see the real thing. Turner slid further after losing Tina, eventually ending up in prison for drugs. The fact the man was bringing a band to a SXSW showcase — tryouts for bands looking for publicity and labels — was testament to how far he had to climb.

We all had our idea of who Ike Turner was, propelled by the movie and Tina’s book. It was his reputation that drove more than a few of us into Antone’s, the leading blues club in Austin and home to a few outlaws as well. Clifford Antone, the jowly, zeppelin-like owner, had gone to prison himself for dealing dope just a few months earlier. Ike’s band couldn’t have played a friendlier venue.

Few of us were prepared for the reality of Ike’s today, instead of peeking at a man with a sordid reputation. He had a seminal hit in “Rocket 88,” and all that success with Tina. These things didn’t ready us for what happened when the 69-year-old Turner took the stage at a quarter ’till one.

A reputation or a legend feels good to repeat, but that won’t get the work done. People think they know the HP 3000 and what it can do, just like we thought we knew what Ike was all about, his capability measured by the legend.

He was capable of much more. In rock and roll, age 69 is practically dead, but Turner defied such accepted wisdom. He came onto the bill with a lot of baggage in tow. He was a hitter in his life with Tina, for sure. But on the Antone’s stage in a 90-minute set he was dealing the hits we wanted to hear, the riffs steaming off his wailing guitar and a hurricane of notes pouring from his keyboard.

Ike used seven bandmen dressed like pallbearers to bring him back from the dead. Sporting black greatcoats and short-brim fedoras, with one exception the musicians were black as well. Like deacons, they lined up around the shadow of the man’s reputation, while he waited offstage to be played on. A three-piece horn section introduced the legend we thought we knew.

When Ike took the stage he began with a gaffe. “Hello Houston,” he cried out to the faithful gathered in what is Austin’s best-known club. We looked at one another puzzled, thinking he might be doddering beyond competency, too old to remember where he was. He knew where he was, in the best sense: in a juke joint, about to make it jump.

It was amazing, really. How could the man that had this packed club jiving be the no-account beast of the movie? In a matter of minutes, people were ready to unload the reputation, good and bad. The notes of the night were all that mattered.

There is no comparison between the system at the heart of your community and an infamous, aging rock legend, but one. People were pretty sure both were finished a few years ago. Even today, lots of folks think they know about Ike. Or your 3000’s potential. Some of them might even be reading this now.

Yesterday is pretty important to most of us, a kind of road map we look at a lot in life’s travels. The way things have been can give us comfort, erase worry. But yesterday, the legends, can also hem us in, keep us from seeing what could be improved. History can be a lifeless legacy.

The 3000 community holds its history near its heart, an easy thing to do when you have so much more of it than any other computer platform. Good times in the past, when customers numbered twice as many as now, are often on the lips of its longest advocates. There’s always a quick comparison to now, when things have become so different in computing.

So much reputation leads the community to look into the future as well. Trying to imagine what will become of a computer system first sold when Nixon was President is another exercise we pursue. How can something go on to be so old, and still be any good? We doubt, or others do.

No matter how old, Ike Turner can still play. Guitar, piano, and he sang to us in a way that made us want to be part of his world, the legend, the history. He brought us a taste of yesterday about halfway through his show. A woman stepped up to the mike who could pass for the Tina Turner 30 years ago, belting out “Nutbush City Limits.” The wheels turned on the time machine, and we got our history fix.

While the Tina-alike dropped some jaws, Ike’s mastery remained in my mind. A new album is on the way, and he’s writing music. It’s the tunes played today that matter most. Get the job done now, and your past can become a colorful story.

Right now is a time every bit as exciting to a 3000 owner as any glory days of a dozen or more years ago. Fast, efficient systems and blistering riffs of new functionality are hitting your market. The age of this computer platform is as deceiving as Ike’s years and reputation. He was voted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame while in prison, recognition extended in a down time of his life.

In times that are down, your platform can be recognized as a resource that delivers today, not resting on its laurels. Go out and play some new notes on these new instruments. Legends live, but creating something new is the best way to stay alive.

— Ron Seybold 


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