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

March 2002

Close-up computing will live on

NewsWire Editorial

The next time the 3000 community gathers in person, it will be missing a person, a fellow with a personal touch. In April I will sit on the front row at Interex’s e3000 Solutions Symposium, turn and glance at the front row across the aisle, and Dick Kranz won’t be there. The veteran newsman and Interex reporter passed away last month, after 15 years of writing about the HP 3000 and its community.

Dickie-Bird, as he liked those who knew him even a bit to call him, might have considered those subjects of computer and community to be in the wrong order. He was a man who relished the contact of community, and just happened to be covering computers. The personal touch of his handshake and his grin in meeting someone were his trademark. His beat was meetings, the close-up conferences that were so vital to your computer’s superiority. We would often show up for the same seminars at a big conference, and then smile at one another across the aisle. He was a colleague with a big heart who hailed from the ground where I grew up, journalism practiced for a community from newspaper roots.

Dick was part of the team that swept into the Interex user group when executive director Bob Grenoble left the organization, brought along by fellow newspaperman Dick Rasmussen, who came there from the Stockton Record. I always felt a kinship for these fellows while they did their work alongside me, because none of us had much formal training in computing. Their lessons were in people, the personal stream that runs through every story to be told, waiting to be tapped. Kranz closed out his Interex stint traveling to shows, then came out of retirement to write for two years more. Wirt Atmar, leader of 3000 software supplier AICS Research, said it best when hearing of Dick’s demise. “He was the very best face of Interex,” he said. “and I never saw him that he wasn’t smiling.” That simple phrase gave voice to what others tried to describe about encounters with this sunny scribe.

I reflected on what Atmar said and realized that Dick Kranz represented even more than the best side of a user group. While Dickie-Bird has penned his last story, at least he leaves a bit of himself in his words, like footprints in the soft parts of our hearts. The personal side of the computing business lived in his words, wrapped around people, face-to-face meetings, and a quick camera. I believe that kind of personal computing — I call it close-up computing — continues to live on in you, owners and advocates of the HP 3000.

Some may not believe such emotion has a sensible place in modern computing business. Personal approaches to business take more time than crunching numbers and reacting by focus groups. This extra effort makes them susceptible to number-crunchers’ efficiency hunts, making managing by exception harder to defend. HP is now in thrall with such vision, what I call way-off computing — as in “we know there are individual partners and customers out there, somewhere way off in the distance.”

What other motive could there be for HP’s attempt to get you to pay for migration advice from its own lips, advice to leave one of its products and buy another? Dick Kranz and plenty of HP 3000 customers started in an era when close-up computing was the rule. You knew your software partners well. You could spot your Hewlett-Packard System Engineer across the room at an Interex party. Eye contact might close a deal. A vendor wouldn’t think of asking customers to pay for instructions on leaving a product, which you’d just announced you were obsolescing. That expense would be accounted under the heading of Sales.

While that kind of computing is what we reported through the last two decades about the company we called Hewlett-Packard, that isn’t the computing being practiced at the new HP. In a modern organization everything is measured, counted and squeezed. Sometimes good sense overcomes, given enough time. After our article on those Webcast plans ran on Page One, I got asked by Webcast host George Stachnik if we’d follow up in print — and report that HP had recanted, decided not to make customers pay for advice that would sell other HP systems. We always want to print the latest material, but HP had dropped its ideas of collecting cash for the Webcasts just a few days after we put ink to paper. We updated the story online, and more details are in this month’s print.

I couldn’t understand, though, how such a scheme would be allowed to float into the charged atmosphere where customers were still dismayed about HP’s announcement. Stachnik leveled with me, saying that everything gets analyzed for cost at today’s HP. He said that serious discussion even went into placing a single postcard in HP’s Netserver boxes while he worked at that HP division. I could understand how a decision about millions of computers in the NT arena might merit some debate. I also understood that today’s HP doesn’t see any distinction between mass-market products and the community of computers that is your 3000 world. That’s way-off computing at its worst, assuming every owner has the same relationship with every product.

Dickie-Bird’s branch of community communication, the tale of close-up computing, is living on among you. Yours is a market misjudged by HP, now shinnying up to the mountaintop to proclaim itself king of all the computing it can see. Because you’re a smaller group, that way-off computing can’t size up your needs. Things like trends drive today’s HP, grown too large to narrow its focus onto demands like products, which can outlast trends.

You can keep close-up computing alive in these times of Transition, when you must choose a future path for your company’s information resources. Get closer to your partners and suppliers, close enough to listen to what they need while they’re meeting your desires. Take a little more time to look someone in the eye today, to build some trust on a personal level. Understand that business trends come and go, but the people in our lives are where the real story lies. Don’t wait until there’s a lump in your throat where a colleague once smiled. The picture of the 3000’s future is yours to produce, in dazzling close-up.

— Ron Seybold

If you wish to make a donation in Dickie-Bird’s memory, send contributions to University of Pacific Athletic Department, 3601 Pacific Ave., Stockton, CA 95211, or St. Mary’s Interfaith Dining Room, 545 W. Sonora St., Stockton, CA 95203 

Copyright The 3000 NewsWire. All rights reserved.