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June 2000

Handling HP-IB’s Demise in MPE/iX 6.5

Make these changes to your disk and tape peripherals before you update

By Wayne Boyer

MPE/iX 6.5 is due to be released by Hewlett-Packard shortly. If you haven’t heard yet, along with all the improvements to MPE that everybody wants, the newest HP e3000 release requires you to eliminate all HP-IB and HP-FL interfaces and associated devices from your system’s configuration. You must eliminate these interfaces and devices from your system’s configuration before you update to MPE/iX 6.5. If you do not, then the devices will be dropped from the configuration anyway when the update is done. That’s not exactly the best approach, so this article is an attempt to help you plan and carry out the necessary changes. This article’s focus is on various hardware subjects, not on SYSGEN or NMMGR.

As of 6.5, MPE/iX will no longer include support for either the HP-IB or the HP-FL (HP Fiber Link) interfaces. I suspect that this is because both of these interfaces use the older style CIO-type circuit boards. There is a regular HPPB type HP-IB interface (product # 28650A) which is available and usable on the HP 9000 Unix systems, however HP has not provided support for it in MPE/iX. It would have been far easier and cheaper for HP 3000 customers if HP had added support for this interface product and allowed continued use of HP-IB devices while dropping the CIO boards, but that is not the case.

To begin with, how do you know if you have any of these interfaces and devices? And if you do, how do you go about eliminating or replacing them? You can start by running SYSGEN and entering the LPATH command. Look for either HP27113A (HP-IB) or HP27115A I (HP-FL).

Older HP 3000s such as the 922, 948, and the 958 (but not the 918, 928 – different family) were designed to include HP-IB devices inside the system cabinet. The 9x7 and all newer families of HP 3000s do not have any built-in HP-IB-type devices. However, many systems have had HP-IB interfaces installed inside them in order to support various external HP-IB devices.

If your system uses HP-IB and/or HP-FL devices, you will need to plan out how to deal with each device on a device-by-device basis. The basic choices for each device are:

Skip MPE/iX 6.5 and all future updates to MPE: This is the “do nothing” solution. If this works for you, then you can skip this article.

Phase out the use of the device with no replacement: If for example, you have a HP-IB reel-to-reel tape drive and you can eliminate all uses of that kind of tape, you can eliminate the drive and not replace it with anything.

Replace the device with a different unit serving the same function: For disk drives or necessary tape drives, this is what you must do if you need the disk space or the ability to read and write certain kinds of tapes.

Convert the interface on the device to a supported interface: This option will work well for dot matrix-type printers which must continue to print. Replacing just an interface board is also considerably cheaper and easier than replacing the whole printer.


The requirement to eliminate the HP-FL interface only involves disk drives, as HP-FL’s only use is for disk storage interfacing. All HP-FL disk drives are older, lower storage capacity drives. For all but the smallest of systems, replacing these drives with newer technology equipment is a logical step to take, even if HP were to continue to support HP-FL interfaces. The issues and tasks involved with replacing HP-FL drives are essentially the same as replacing HP-IB drives.


The HP-IB interface bus has been in use on HP 3000 systems for about 20 years now. This interface (also known as IEEE-488) was originally developed as a means of connecting together various pieces of measurement and instrumentation equipment. It is still commonly used for that purpose today. HP-IB once was the only method of connecting disk and tape drives to a HP 3000 computer. Because HP-IB is deigned to use an 8-bit data bus, faster interface methods such as SCSI have replaced it as the primary disk interface method. There are three types of devices that could possibly be connected to a HP 3000 system using HP-IB. These are disk drives, tape drives, and printers. Disk and tape devices are discussed below.

Disk Drives

All HP-IB disk drives are older, lower storage capacity drives. The technical aspects of replacing disk drives are more detailed than I’ll handle in this article. But at a minimum, you will need to decide on which type of SCSI interface to use — single ended (“SE-SCSI”) or fast-wide (“FW-SCSI”), and obtain one or more new drives with at least the total storage capacity of all of the older drives that you must replace.

Tape Drives

If you have a HP-IB interfaced tape drive, you may have a very easy time discontinuing it or replacing it or you may have considerable operational difficulty. There are three types of tape drives which use the HP-IB interface to connect to a HP 3000 system. These three types are determined by the type of tape media they use. Each of these three types is discussed below.


There have been many models of nine-track reel-type tape drives produced by HP over the years. Almost all of them use the HP-IB interface. Very few e3000s will have any of the older model drives (7974A, 7976A, 7978A, and 7978B) connected and in use. These older models probably should be replaced with a newer model drive for basic hardware reliability and supportability reasons, regardless of whether or not you update your system to MPE/iX 6.5 and remove the use of HP-IB.

All of the newer model reel-type tape drives are mechanically part of the same family and are listed below by model number.

7979A: This model has a HP-IB interface and is capable of 1600 bpi density only. Replace it with any of the SCSI interface models in this family.

7980A: This model has a HP-IB interface and is capable of both 1600 and 6250 bpi density. This is the most common reel-type tape drive model found on HP 3000 systems. This model is essentially the same as the 7980S except for the interface.

7980XC: This model has a HP-IB interface and is capable of both 1600 and 6250 bpi density. This model also has the ability to read and write 6250 bpi tapes with hardware compression. If you are not using the compression feature of this drive, you can replace it with a regular 7980S type drive. If you are using this feature and want to be able to read and write compressed tapes in the future you will need to obtain the 7980XS drive.

7980S: This model has a single ended SCSI interface and is capable of both 1600 and 6250 bpi density. If you already have this model drive then you are not using HP-IB for it. Use this model drive to replace either the 7979A or the 7980A models.

7980SX: This model has a single ended SCSI interface and is capable of both 1600 and 6250 bpi density. This model also has the ability to read and write 6250 bpi tapes with hardware compression. If you have a 7980XC and need to continue to read and write compressed tapes, you must obtain one of these drives. Note: The 7980SX is not a very common device and you may have trouble locating one for your system.

88780A: This is an OEM version of the 7980S drive.

88780B: This is another OEM version of the 7980S drive.


The only DAT drives which use HP-IB are the external C1511A and the internal C1501A models. These are equivalent model drives which are DDS-1 compatible. The C1501A model is the standard internal tape drive in older model HP 3000s such as 922, 948, and 958 systems. If you need to create DDS-1 type tapes (for file transfer to other systems), then the simplest option is to obtain the equivalent SCSI interface DAT drive.


It is highly unlikely that your system has any one of the older cartridge tape drives attached to it. These are all external drives with model numbers 9144A, 9145A or 35401A. These all use only HP-IB as an interface and there are no equivalent SCSI versions. If you absolutely must be able to read and/or write using these tape cartridges then you may want to get another very small HP 3000 system and set it up with HP-IB to copy tapes.

Wayne Boyer is president of Cal-Logic (818.701.9005), an HP e3000 reseller, integration services and systems support provider based in Northridge, Calif.


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