| Front Page | News Headlines | Technical Headlines | Planning Features | Advanced Search |

June 2005

A Steady Link to 3000 Knowledge

Chris Bartram has been connected to 3000 caretaking most of his life. The founder of 3k Associates and Webmaster of the 3kassociates.com technical resource, Bartram says he met his first HP 3000 while he was a sophomore in high school. The 3000 gave him a way to do extra-credit math assignments much faster. That Series II system only had a few years of exposure on the market back then, when the high school’s HP 2000 timeshare system represented the usual way to connect to HP computing over a 110 baud teletype.

Chris Bartram
3k Associates, 3kassociates.com

The world of 3000 communications has traveled far in those 28 years for Bartram. He learned the 3000 from the SPL language level up, literally at the hardware’s roots. Now he’s renewed his community efforts at collecting the shared software and knowledge about the 3000 on his Web site. 3kassociates.com is driven by servers including an HP 3000, computers which feed at a speed more than 5,000 times faster than his first HP 3000 predecessor.

The information has flowed from 3kassociates.com since 1994, making it one of the oldest Web access points in the 3000 community. Bartram had started 3k Associates seven years earlier in 1987. He bought his first 3000 that year, the ground-breaking Mighty Mouse Series 37, HP’s first minicomputer that could operate in a normal office environment. In the late 80s he also began to use the Department of Defense/Milnet, the precursor to the commercial Internet. Bartram became interested in getting his 3000s to talk over this new network. The first iterations of what became his NetMail/3000 software — still offered for sale and lease on 3000s today — started out as interactive command-line mail clients based on the specs published in the DDN handbooks.

Bartram is also an essential part of the NewsWire’s team. He acts as Webmaster for the 3000newswire.com site, service he’s done ever since we first opened our Web gates in 1996. Now he’s reaching back into the past to put 3000 techniques onto the wires of the future, setting up his long-running site as a repository of HP 3000 technical instruction. We wanted to throw some light on his work as an able steward of 3000 information, as well as ask him about the state of networking art for MPE/iX and the 3000s. He gave us answers to our questions via e-mail — not much surprise there — at the beginning of June, just as HP was capping up some 3000-related history with the last release of the PA-RISC processor line.

Why bother to collect public-domain HP 3000 programs now, with the computer slipping off of HP’s support in 18 months?

Of all times in the HP 3000’s history, I believe now is the most critical time to gather up and consolidate all the available resources we can. Lots of long time players in the field are dropping off, and taking with them vast amounts of knowledge – and in many cases contributed software.

We’re not seeing “CSL Swap” tapes any more. Gone are the days when everyone got an Interex CSL tape every year full of contributed goodies. And with Interex’s increasing de-focus on HP 3000 shops, fewer HP 3000 shops are even Interex members anymore. Though all those programs were contributed by the authors to be made available to anyone else in the community (for free), they’re simply not available to the vast majority of the remaining HP 3000 community any longer. In addition, several HP 3000 end-user/fan sites have dropped offline, in many cases taking valuable content with them. It’s definitely time to try and capture these resources before we lose any more of them.

You host the Frequently Asked Questions document for HP 3000s. Is the knowledge in that FAQ’s set of files complete enough to train a new system manager?

It’s a growing document; even today there are still good questions coming up whose answers can save a lot of good folks some valuable effort. My goal is to provide answers to as many useful HP 3000 questions there as I can, as well as to provide pointers to any other helpful sites or documents to round out the offering. In addition to all the valuable insights in the questions themselves, you’ll also find links to the online HP 3000 manual sets (both MPE/V and MPE/iX), and of course information on the HP 3000-L list.

For a new system manager, if he or she can’t find the answer to a problem in the FAQ, if there’s an answer known, the FAQ will point them to a document or site with that answer.

How long do you believe MPE/iX and HP 3000 knowledge is going to be needed in the community? Does any of this stuff have a specific shelf life?

I think we’ll hit a wall in 2027 when the system calendar stuff wraps. Without preemptive fixes from HP (which I don’t think will be forthcoming) the HP 3000s still running in 2027 will face a challenge similar to the Y2K issue, only with much less support available to help them work around it.

How long do you plan to take care of the sites who are still using Netmail/3000?

As long as there’s anyone else out there still running their business on an HP 3000!

What’s the HP 3000 and MPE missing now that the systems need to remain vital on corporate networks?

Some of the core gnu tools that allow easy porting of new applications – or new versions of old applications – are falling behind. Combined with the nuances you have to deal with to setup a porting environment in the first place, we’re going to see the rapid aging of all those nice public domain packages that really began to open up the HP 3000 in recent years.

Even now porting the latest versions of many of the public domain packages is not feasible. The amount of customization it still requires, and the knowledge base required to attempt it are making the availability of new ports on the platform increasingly rare.

What do you believe makes a good steward of HP 3000 technical information? Should a company that wants to become a steward still have current 3000 customers, or is this kind of repository service better off as the domain of a user group or advocacy organization like OpenMPE?

I think stewardship at this point has more to do with an attachment to the platform than any customer demand or anticipated need. You gotta want it! ;-) That’s where advocacy comes in.

On the other hand, without some corporate support, the materials can’t be made available. So there has to be a cooperative effort. Ideally any repository should be mirrored and replicated in as many places as possible, reducing the impact of the failure or loss of any one instance.

Do HP 3000s have a future as a mail server that might be less prone to spam attacks?

Though in the “early” days HP 3000s were often the center of an organization’s communications network, in recent years most sites utilize e-mail only as a convenient means of “publishing” reports to users’ desktops. The vast majority of our customers use NetMail/3000 as a batch process, delivering reports in e-mail format to their users and customers. At 3k though, NetMail/3000 is still our core mail server; even my Outlook client pulls its mail directly from the NetMail/3000 server running on our HP 3000s.