In conjunction with this year's HP World '96 Conference and Expo at the Anaheim Convention Center, intensely loyal users of HP 3000 high-performance minicomputers bettered an existing world record by more than 35 percent. The HP 3000 mega-poster covered a 159 by 238 foot layout on the Loara High School football field just a few miles from the site of the HP conference. The completed poster weighed more than 670 pounds, and completely covered the area of the field between the 10-yard lines.
It was an accomplishment crafted from extraordinary cooperation. Born of Internet discussion and pushed along by a broad supporting cast of customers, the World's Largest Poster Project succeeded in attracting attention to the loyalty and satisfaction of HP 3000 customers, with only the support of a few channel partners to fund its material needs. And in the last hours of the record breaking effort, the poster was held together by the combined energies of a few dozen avid volunteers and thousands of two-inch roofing nails.
Fewer than three dozen volunteers were at work within a few hours of the start, rolling out strips of three-foot wide printer paper along the grass of the Loara High School football field. Fastening the paper to the field took more nails than the team had brought to the site, and soon several volunteers were dispatched to supply more of the most critical element in the project.
Meanwhile, the winds continued to climb, testing the resolve of a growing number of volunteers. Panels would spring up in the breeze, which seemed to appear from every possible direction. Project organizer Wirt Atmar, whose company had printed the thousands of panels over a six week period and who had driven the poster in a U-Haul truck from New Mexico, stood alongside the poster's edge and gave instruction on holding it in place.
By 11AM, no nails were on hand, and the question was on everyone's lips -- where are they? The winds climbed with the sun in the sky, and volunteers were forced to use shoes and poster tubes to hold the panels in place. As a section would rise up, dedicated customers would call out "It's coming up!" and race to tack it in place, an organic version of a fault tolerant system.
In succeeding to break the existing poster record, the HP 3000 customers started with virtual relationships. Unlike the previous record, which was done as a product promotion for HP and Disney, this poster was put together by a collection of individual HP 3000 users. There is no single corporate entity behind the poster -- the idea to put it together was born on the Internet. The group of 100-plus volunteers assembling the poster each thought doing this was an ideal and enjoyable way to make a gentle (if not somewhat irreverent) statement about their belief in their chosen operating system.
The underlying message of the poster was to prove the HP 3000 was capable of things no other computer could accomplish, a concept not completely understood within all parts of HP. Users thought of their actions as a way to demonstrate an alternative to HP's more popular but less productive system choices. The good feeling on the field, however, kept the effort from feeling like a bitter protest.
"I've never seen anything like this," said volunteer Tony Shepherd. "It's a friendly rebellion."
The poster underscores the ability of the HP 3000 to directly support popular communication standards, and the applicability of its MPE operating system to situations where world-class companies bet their business on the computer system they use. HP 3000 users feel MPE has distinct advantages for mission-critical business applications, where efficiency, reliability, and tight integration with the hardware and database management system are paramount.
Volunteers starting laying out and securing the individual components of the poster just at dawn on August 5. The youngest volunteer was Andrea Wang, aged just 6 and helping to tie down loose panels along with her father Paul, a developer of HP 3000 products and former CSY engineer.
The last panel was scheduled laid in place around 11:45, and within minutes helicopters and Southern California news media were recording the event. HP 3000 users are not willing to risk any of the data in their computers, but they were willing to lay a large amount of paper and ink on the gridiron line to get their message across. The roofing nails were all collected by volunteers after the project and donated to Habitat for Humanity, while the poster paper was sent to a local area recycler.