| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |
Click for HP Sponsor Message

July 2001

Students as masters, and some other pleasant surprises

NewsWire Editorial

We pushed along the gaudy yellow suspension span in Pittsburgh with a happy crowd, bobbing along on the Roberto Clemente Bridge in a sunshine that warmed me and my son. Crossing the Allegheny, our steps put behind us the bandbox baseball park where the Pirates had delivered a lesson, one the home crowd was happy to relish like Nathan’s foot-long franks: you never know what can happen in life. That element of surprise can deliver unexpected goods.

These are lessons HP 3000 owners know, but sometimes despair of seeing demonstrated. In an economy as flattened as the demolished Three Rivers Stadium, — the Pirates’ old home — it’s a good thing to remember. The future can be pretty much up for grabs, if you choose to see it that way. In a steel town like Pittsburgh we saw the hammered down strike back, freed by the fact they’ve got nothing more to lose.

These days I carry such feelings of hope, even unreasonable ones, pinned on my hat. Before crossing the river to the Pirates’ fabulous new ballpark on the water, I stopped to pluck a hat from a vendor against the railing. For a whole eight bucks I got me a kooky Erie Sea Wolves minor league cap. Had no idea I’d be buying a hat that day, the Father’s Day I was spending with my son Nick. Imagine a dog in a Pirate costume, complete with eye patch. It’s a treasure I didn’t know I’d bring away from the day.

Some of what’s out on the Internet can be the same way for you. I’m thinking now of Perl, the scripting language that runs on the 3000. A few years ago, who wouldn’t bet the 3000 would never get such a Unix-based gem? Now it’s not only there, for free, but HP will support it.

Nick and I headed into the park for the second time on the weekend, another unbidden delight. For years I’ve tramped to more than two dozen major league ballparks, and getting in has almost always been a planned experience. Tickets ordered through telephone sales, or now, on the Internet. On the Saturday night before this Father’s Day, however, we counted on nothing but luck and pluck to get us into the sold-out game against the Cleveland Indians.

It was a trumped-up contest because it was Inter-League play, where teams from the National and American leagues face off for a few weeks out of the lengthy six-month baseball season. The lesson I learned I got from my son: there’s sold out, Dad, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in. He led me onto Seventh Street searching for two tickets, looking to buy from somebody on a corner. Years ago I’d taken him on a two-week baseball road trip in a convertible. Now the student was the master.

“Whaddya got?” was the way we started the ticket quest with each tout. He’d offer, we’d roll our eyes. On to the next, until we found seats for a couple of twenties. Not bad for a sold-out game, even if they were in the outfield.

In the 3000 world, the students are becoming the masters. Those who cut their teeth on the system as students, like Mark Bixby or Chris Gauthier, are now leading the community with things like Posix prizes of mail servers and Web servers, or the fat content of 3kworld. An Invent3k server is starting to bloom with the creations of lurkers, people watching the current masters, then reaching for their own bit of porting glory.

Out on that green diamond glittering by the river, another unlikely lesson was playing out. The local boys came into the three-game series with the worst record in their league. The Cleveland nine, paid far better than the Pirates, led their division. Nobody would have been surprised if the Pirates sank without a win over the weekend.

But somebody forgot to tell the Pirates about Cleveland’s clout. The stands were jammed with fans from both cities, since Cleveland is just a few hours away by car. Every play got cheered, no matter who did well. But at the end of every game, only the Pirates’ fans were cheering. The worst team in the league swept one of the best. You couldn’t get odds on such a thing. The fans’ delirium over their sweep was as thick as the June bugs crowding the blazing lights in center field.

It’s easy to love the underdog when they win, and strike a blow for serendipity. For thousands in those stands it was sweeter still, because they believed in their dogged team, throwing around the big-shouldered, lunch-pail optimism of blue-collar towns like Pittsburgh. It’s not a glamorous place, but it works at its charm, and it’s got a central role in American history. A lot, I suppose, like the HP 3000.

Over the years we’ve made much of the 3000’s underdog status, and how it’s beaten long odds to close in on its 30-year anniversary next fall. It’s taken young talent and old-time lessons to stay alive. On that baseball field some young talent gave lessons to Cleveland’s seeming masters, maybe in the same way you underdogs keep extending the 3000’s mastery of new technology. The only stuff that can’t stick with your system is technology that can’t turn a buck of profit. That’s as old-time as the 1-0 thriller we saw to cap the series, where the game’s only run came in at the plate in the bottom of the ninth, the runner beating out the sweeping tag with a perfect hook slide. That’s throwback baseball where every move counts — like every bit and electron does these days, when both are more dear than they were last year.

Not that both of us were elated at the outcome of the game. Nick is a long-time Indians fan, but even he had to admit in the warm air of the drive back to Buffalo that the Pirates had outplayed his team. And maybe seeing young talent becoming masterful gave him inspiration. Over the last seven years, I have taken him to 10 of my 26 ballparks. Sitting at the wheel of our rented silver Mustang, in the driver’s seat only I could occupy for many of those years of road trips, he began to muse out loud about making a similar sweep of hockey arenas, perhaps with me in tow. “Now,” he said, “the student can become the master.” All I could manage was a teary smile of pride as another lesson washed over both of us. The best thing about the future is that its gifts can remain hidden, until underdogs and their masters can relish them at last.

— Ron Seybold 


Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.