If the 3000 community founders want to pass their torch
to the next generation, they couldnt find a more passionate
pair of hands than Chris Gauthiers. The new Technical Content
Manager at the communitys Web portal 3kworld.com moved into his
job this summer, taking a full-time role after years of experience
working with the 3000s channel partners at HP distributor
Client Systems. Lengthy experience with this platform in a technical
expert under 40 is an unusual mix, and in Gauthiers case, only
possible because of when he began: at age 15.
worked as an intern at Denver-area HP 3000 sites, volunteering just
to be able to have contact with what was then called a minicomputer.
Gauthier worked for gratis at the Denver Center for the Performing
Arts through high school and then at Denvers public TV station,
organizations often hard up for cash and glad to have help. He
describes himself as Geek at Large in his communiques to
the community, a title he wears with both pride and good reason. For
the past five years Gauthier has been technical support for the
software vendors and resellers who sell the HP 3000s out of Client
Systems configuration bays.
Last year the 33-year-old began a project that evolved
into a love poem to the 3000 community, a short film called
Growing Up With the HP 3000. The 23-minute documentary
wasnt his first movie; Gauthier got a film entered in the New
York Film Festival when he was just 18. After showing a rough cut at
this years Solutions Symposium, Gauthiers HP 3000 film
grew up as well, becoming a personal, emotional description of how
the 3000 as underdog became, as he calls it, the most elegant
survivor in the computer industry.
Gauthier calls upon his own survival background, wider
than systems management and filmmaking, as he takes the content
captains chair at 3kworld. After managing bookstores 3000
distribution applications and being a 3000 operator for HPs
Englewood, Colo. facility, he wrote a financial application which he
first sold to a Denver-area catering company. In those says he cut
code and carried food to catering events. Seven years out of high
school, he had developed a consulting career and a clientele using
his Transact application on a timeshare basis. He later adapted the
software from inventorying sandwich components to building software
tapes and manifests for new HP 3000s, first in his job at distributor
Integration Alliance and then at Client Systems. Gauthier said he
still has a few upstart firms, like lawn services, that
need automated billing and dial into the software on an HP 3000 in
the basement of his home a place where all good old HP 3000
hardware lives. He took advantage of HPs employee auctions to
stock up on systems and terminals, always seeing the value in
equipment long after its original owners did.
Thats a philosophy that feels in step with the
3000 community, but one surprising to see in someone who was only
graduating from high school as HP was shipping its first RISC
computers. After seeing Gauthiers film surface at HP World, it
became plain this is an old-school 3000 disciple graduating to a
leading role for a new generation. He organized an online chat in
August to let users vent frustrations about HPs muddled
corporate message regarding the platform, advocacy with an air of
independence. We asked Gauthier about his new job in the 3000s
online playground, and how the rules about information exchange might
be changing while the MPE love song remains the same.
Your role as content manager for the Web site combines
what can be a demanding customer base with a monumental appetite for
help. Whats your formula to keep up?
philosophy is that its bread on the water. Its such a
small community that were trying to grow, and you have to be
there to give away the information and support. Thats how I
fell in love with the 3000. People gave away their time. The least I
can do is to return that. I did this for free at Channel 12, and
Id do it again if it all went away, in a heartbeat. Its
great theyre paying me to do this. A lot of people stuck their
necks out to keep me going. The 3000 is a representative of that. You
have to give it away, and it will come back.
personal way of doing business in my life is not to ever struggle
over customer support issues. Customers are the one thing you need,
and you have no way of getting around without them. Theyre
paying the bill, and thats what youre there for.
youve got a history of giving your time away, and then
knowledge, but now youre opening up beyond the ISV and reseller
community to a much larger community. Are you daunted by the larger
yeah, very much so. I have a healthy respect for that. I need to get
help from people in this, and I will ask for it. Its a huge
community and a hell of a challenge. This is a chance to really help
a lot of people, and get to know a lot of people I havent
gotten to know. I know the reseller community and the ISV community,
the developments types. But this allows a whole new big role to be
pulled in. Thats one thing that HP doesnt have [contact]
with either this mysterious end user group of people.
Theyre the ones that actually put the dollar out, but no one
seems to know theyre there. Theyre the ones that are
really paying my paycheck.
Because of your configuration experience, youre on
the mainline for a lot of information that HP 3000 customers struggle
to get. How much license do you feel that you have to share what you
know with everybody who asks, regardless of whether its good
news or not?
much as theyll give me. The second anything looks like
its got a release date, like its something I could share,
its the first thing Ill put up. Sometimes we do have
nondisclosure, but its usually only for a short period of time.
They really dont want some things out because it will do more
harm than good.
The thing thats hurt the 3000, and HP in general, is
the communication channel. Its amazing how much of this stuff
we think is private, secret and not sharable is actually sharable.
But nobody has the mechanism to get the information out.
you feel like you can turn some of these communication problems
Im hoping I can, or if I cant, I hope to give
enough information to someone else that they can also run with the
ball, too. Theres a huge community of people out there that are
much wiser and smarter and more versed about what goes on with the
3000 than Ill ever be. Theyve been out there with a
customer, or resolving a problem at three in the morning. I
havent done that for quite a while.
But Im sitting here in unique position. Basically
Im reporting from Roseville [the 3000 factory]. Im
sitting here being able to take stuff that never gets communicated
from the factory floor. Its as if they had a Roseville factory
worker being able to communicate out to the 3000-L [mailing list].
Theres been no such thing. We can tell people how big a card
is, or how many slots it takes up. These are simple questions for us
to answer. Things like what does an AutoRAID array look like, or a
connection to an XP256. We see it here.
main pass is to concentrate on the stuff that seems to be
miscommunicated. As the stuff comes up that may be touchier,
lets see how that flies. HPs changing, too. Whats
touchy today may not be touchy tomorrow. I remember when they
wouldnt even bother talking about SS_CONFIG, and that privacy
hurt them. None of us were aware that was an issue that other people
were taking advantage of. People were victimized buying those
machines that were illegally upgraded [with SS_CONFIG] because they
really didnt know. Youve got to give enough information
for people to be smart customers, too.
How do you think youre doing on exchanging
information with the 3000-L community? I know 3kworld has been eager
to get the energy of the mailing list and newsgroup to help the Web
site. What do you want to do to strengthen that link?
think were doing well, only because several people at HP World
came up and said they liked what we were doing that were
becoming part of the community. Part of becoming a part of the 3000
community, as you know, is taking it on the jaw a few times. The
bottom line of this whole 3kworld exercise is that its a
community. It isnt run by one person. The community decides in
what direction were going to go. It behooves us to listen. I
think thats one of the reasons they brought me in on this, is
because Ive been part of that community longer than 3kworld has
been around. I plan on being part of that community even if I left
personal pass is that I dont care where they get the
information. If they get it from the L, or from 3k Associates, or
they get it from the HP sites, as long as they get the information,
thats all I care about. I know thats kind of weird, but I
feel if they have the information, theyre armed to do what they
need to do
pays my check if they come to my site, but if theyre not
comfortable there, then dont go there. All I ask is that they
get the information. That keeps me employed in the long run.
you think that youve got more of a position of an information
authority because of your connection with HP, versus some other
sites? The problem with the Internet is that you can get lots of
information, but a rather small percentage of it turns out to be
Its a balance of credibility. Being a part of the
community also means being credible. How people feel about the
credibility of 3kworld will determine how much were a part of
the community. It will be interesting to see how it plays out with
rumors. I havent had to deal with that yet theres
been no big rumors yet.
Youre straddling a line between journalism and
technology. How are you handling these very different
Its so weird. Im a geek first, and the
journalism stuff Im learning at best as I can. Im not a
journalist, and I dont picture myself being a writer. Im
hoping Im working with people who have done it, and are well
versed in it. We can fill the integrity of engineering as a
community. When we had that chat [about HPs corporate 3000
message], it was a sign that were a community first. Were
fully supporting HP, but 3kworld is a community before its
anything else. If Smith-Gardner cannot sell machines because the 3000
doesnt get enough recognition, that desperately requires
The journalism can be learned, but you cannot teach
passion, and you have plenty. Where does it spring from?
Im an emotional vampire with the community. I feed
off of it, too. Theyve given me that for so many years, through
a big chunk of my personal development. The least I can do is give
that passion back. Theres people out there banging the doors.
Its pretty hard to miss, and not something to be taken lightly.
Theres not a lot of people who do that in their lives.
will be interesting to see how the passion works out. I think passion
can be learned, by example. The responsibility to be true to yourself
is very much a learned thing. These people have been the truest thing
to true Ive seen.
You were able to convey that passion well in your movie.
Is there another in you, or something else next?
gut feel is that films have played themselves out, and its time
to move on to the next thing. If somebody else wants to take the film
ball and run with it, theyre welcome to that footage. It would
be neat if we could make it into an hour-long film. It would be fun
to follow the people around in a documentary fashion. I wish I had
some more money to do that. That would be fun.
Are there similarities in keeping a Web site stocked and
alive with getting a movie together?
yeah. Like films, the Web site is very much a team effort. I get a
whole bunch of contributions. What Id like to see is more from
the community. Theres cool stories out there from great people
that have done this for awhile, and have first-hand knowledge.
Theyve got great stories to tell, and this is the forum to do
The filmmaking gave me experience with the creative side
and the passion. I put up a trip report after HP World that was
things I really learned. Its something that eats at you inside
that youve gotta say. Sometimes you hearts gotta tell you
what to do, and thats what Ive learned from the film. You
do what your tummy tells you to do. If it feels good there, its
the right thing.