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February 2001

Moments of hope in a new year of expectations

NewsWire Editorial

Every eye in the joint searched for one point of light. In the last minute of the Real Millennium we jammed up against the eighth floor windows, tuxedoed elbows bent for toasts, grins floating above strapless ball gown necklines. We hoped the moment would be as magic as our expectations, like eager customers finally seeing a long-awaited product unveiled. In the last 60 seconds of 2000 on Times Square, the Ground Zero of New Year’s Eve, our hopes and our expectations matched up perfectly.

That kind of match doesn’t happen very often in life. It seems the longer we wait for something, the less chance it has to meet our expectations. And we sometimes set expectations, rather than the more mature desires of hopes, when we wait a long time.

Between the two NewsWire owners in that New York restaurant window, Abby had waited a lot longer for our Millennium moment. My wife grew up around Philadelphia, watching Dick Clark spin the hits on local TV’s American Bandstand long before Clark became an icon of New Year’s Eve. She dreamed of someday being spiffed up on Times Square as Clark counted down, wearing a gown fresh from the shops of Manhattan.

The great fortune that has borne our partnership and lives to this point delivered her dream to her. I was lucky enough to see her devour that moment of hope. Long expected — we had booked our hotel room in March — the night was all we had hoped it would be.

Knowing what you want for a long time, like HP e3000 customers did for the last year, can set expectations pretty high. Customers needed speed, especially for their transactions on their OLTP thoroughbreds. They wanted value, computers that cost less per year to own and per transaction to run. And they hoped for The Future, something they hadn’t dared to expect just a few short years ago.

We kept our expectations vague, even after we ponied up for the party in the Broadway Atrium at the Marriott Marquis. We had our expectations about the hotel, sure. It’s a real landmark in our lives. This was the building where we took our first romantic weekend retreat together, almost 12 years ago. This was where we stayed when we came to the Big Apple to see the big tree lit up, in the sparkle of Manhattan’s holidays. We could count on the Marquis, because we had been so happy there together before.

The 3000 customers could expect a few things as well during this month’s system rollout. HP would not tell them to migrate programs, or push brand new code on them in a costly operating system migration. Programs that ran in 2000 would run in 2001, regardless of what was announced. They could count on compatibility, respect for their investment in business logic and software.

With expectations set low, our hopes ran higher. The difference in our hearts was that an expectation unmet spoils a moment, while a hope unfulfilled leaves room for other pleasure. We lacked for no pleasure on our eve of decadence: Moet and Chandon White Star champagne flowed endlessly, the buffet included sautéed soft shell crabs and a block of pate the size of a toaster, and the dessert tables ran the length of a football field. A live band, backup singers and a DJ with dancers left no moment uncelebrated. Not since our wedding night have I spent more smiles.

I have been able to hear the grins from the reseller community and the customers in the wake of the rollout this month, even if I haven’t seen them yet. Here’s a 3000 not much bigger than a backpack, running on 110 power, five times faster than the old entry-level computers. There’s the N-Class, throwing its weight around with 400 IOs per second, for crying out loud, more than four times faster than anything that ever carried an HP 3000 logo on it.

Leaving our hopes relaxed let us gasp at unexpected delights on our trip. We knew there was a good chance of wintery weather, but we couldn’t have dreamed of the snowfall that covered the city like a Christmas card the day before the Eve. It came down at two inches an hour, long enough to leave a foot on the streets, all on a day we didn’t have to fly, drive or shovel. While we both grew up in winter weather, there’s not much of it in our Texas home now. Watching what the TV stations called “Snowstorm 2000” from the 31st floor of the Marquis, and shuffling through muffled Manhattan to Saks in it, was a chilling, delightful surprise.

For the 3000 customer, hope for less costly licensing must have been a vague thing as well, judging by the surprise I’ve heard. Chips get faster and things get smaller, but when a company steps away from license revenue like CSY has with MPE/iX, it has a greater impact than any engineering. Owning a 3000 a long time just got a lot cheaper, a fitting improvement for a computer that’s been serving business for decades.

Not every surprise in the rollout news has met with universal acclaim. Customers will learn that the same chips that zip at 440 and 550 MHz in Unix boxes have speeds slowed up for MPE/iX. It’s a very tricky thing to roll an entire product line at once, and nobody I’ve talked to has ever seen CSY do it top to bottom. One day you own a system with no fixed end of support life. The next day, everybody owns a machine that has less than five years of support left. These things mean sweeping change for a customer base that resists it. It appears there will be lots more performance growth in the low end of the A-Class systems. It will be easy to engineer, too, since the chips are being slowed up by the new MPE/iX on purpose. You can hope for CSY to be light on its feet in responding to any requests to make these systems faster — especially if you’re replacing a 9x7 and aiming at Web commerce.

Our trip wasn’t letter perfect, either. That snowstorm kept my son from joining us for the day before the Eve. He was stuck in Buffalo while NYC closed its airports, so his 18th birthday was celebrated without family at hand. To hear him tell it, he had a better time without any parents nearby anyway.

When the moment that met Abby’s lifelong dream arrived, it was jet-engine loud. Outside we could see Mohammed Ali stand next to Dick Clark, throwing the switch that sent that point of light falling toward 2001. Everywhere across the city, people were chanting numbers together, while a blizzard of confetti swept up and down in the concrete canyon outside that window. Energy and hope streamed around us, as we shouted ourselves into that Real Millennium.

Days later in the quiet of the new year, I can still feel that moment’s hope, like what I hear now pouring out in response to the 3000’s rollout. The economic weather remains as chilly as those New York streets, but hope will help that season pass. Like those yards and yards of buffet delicacies, there’s more in store for any 3000 customer who’s still hungry. Shifting expectations to hopes feels like a course for the long run. I like to think that hopes are better suited to a mature spirit, while expectations live in less seasoned hearts. Mature customers, like those in the 3000 community, can see there’s plenty to hope for.

— Ron Seybold 


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