It took a second trip to see Star Wars to find the link between the HP 3000 community and the teachings of the Jedi. There really is one, other than my devotion to both of them. It is control of fear, and a faith in the future.
I have my own beliefs about HP 3000 customers like you. I think you have less cause to worry about your computers, and that lack of fear lets you ride the energy of the Force. That Force, the illumination that binds the 3000 community together, has delivered a ride that celebrates its 25th year of success during 1997.
And that success is as improbable as the returns from those Star Wars movies. One critic said Hollywood has been dumbfounded that 20-year-old movies with few stars could take over the box office so thoroughly. By one estimate, nearly 30 percent of all movie screens in the United States were running one of the Trilogy movies by the second weekend in March.
The critic said Hollywood's experts "sincerely do not comprehend the difference between Star Wars and any other popular movie. In other words, they don't get it."
Does that sound like the higher echelons of management, either outside of your company at HP or inside your own boardrooms, when they hear of your faith in the HP 3000? How could this computer be any better, they ask, than any other popular system choice?
There is that fear thing, isn't there? That when the power goes out in the middle of the night, you don't sweat the condition of your database when it comes back on. Or the fact that you have fewer worries managing services for hundreds of people, because there are fewer gremlins to guard against. During one two-week stretch of February, HP UX administrators got notice of at least a half-dozen different security patches, all essential to apply. Not a single threat applied to HP 3000s. It's as if the Force, or something equally mystical, was at work to protect your systems.
By virtue of that Force, you have controlled your fears, those of who stayed faithful to the best choice for business computing. And now that faith will be tested, through a dangerous time for Hewlett-Packard computing. For we are about to embark on our own version of the Clone Wars, the Battle of the Bits.
The experts, much like those in Hollywood, preach that bigger is better. The 64 bit choices give you what you need today and deliver a guarantee of tomorrow, they promise. You should move to those choices because 32-bit systems are, well, not the technology of tomorrow.
They want you to fear the future, and find faith in technology. But many of you won't, because you feel the Force of faith and trust in the people devoted to the HP 3000. That's not the top echelon of HP, but those people inside the Commercial Systems Division. People -- they're at the heart of the quarter-century of success this computer has delivered.
See, it's easy to talk about HP as a misguided company being misguided, or "milking the cash cow" or somehow neglecting your HP 3000 interests. It's harder to feel that way about individuals. And the community of customers using this business computer is more of a community of people than any other I've walked among during 13 years of computer reporting.
So now those individuals, from Harry Sterling at the top of the division to Winston Prather managing the engineers to Cathy Fitzgerald leading the marketing cheering, all counsel you to control your fear. They promise to meet your needs for more horsepower and solve your problems, with whatever it takes in the right timing.
That was the hard part for them -- to make the promise to take care of you. Because these people, and others in the division, make promises from a place of integrity. They believe HP will do the right thing by you, because they are HP.
And now it's time for your part of the relationship, the believing part. It's time to use the Force of Customer Focus, and believe CSY leaders will respond to your needs. That's the same kind of faith Luke had to demonstrate over the Death Star exhaust port as he fired his torpedoes without a tracking computer. I like to think of that computer as the 64-bit hoopla. Everybody says you need it -- but then that might be because they're afraid their own 32-bit shots will miss the mark.
That lack of faith runs counter to the HP 3000 community, at least those I have talked with and watched during the past month. They believe the future will be a better place, even with all the challenges they face. Wirt Atmar, who's become quite a conscience of the 3000 community in the last few years, suggested an alternative name for the HP 3000 should it ever be spun off from HP. Call the company that might get it Santa Fe, he suggests, the Spanish phrase for "Holy Faith."
Last summer I watched a test of faith during a firewalk ceremony, where the teachings of Yoda were at the summit of our preparation. Prior to the trip to the coals, the leader showed us that Empire Strikes Back scene in which Luke learns why he fails to accept the power of the Force. Yoda counsels Luke to unlearn what he has learned, then has the boy try to lift his sunken ship using the Force. Luke fails, and then Yoda pulls the fighter from depths of the Degobah swamp without even touching it. Luke stands agog and says "I don't believe it."
Yoda looks at him and replies, "That is why you fail."
In the years I've written about the 3000, I've come to think about the 3000 as an ideal, a heart's wish in the process of being experienced. Many of you believe in the future of the HP 3000. That is why it has continued to prove to you it cannot fail for more than 25 years.
-- Ron Seybold