Nov. 14, 2001
A new road to travel in transition
LONDON What happens after we die? It's a question that can spark a lively debate from many of us. It's a question the HP 3000 community now gets to ponder in its transition from active product to archived success, since HP has told us all what is on the last page of its final 3000 chapter. We're here to tell you that the story isn't over on that page - any more than we are over, once we die. Belief is all it takes to exist forever, if life is an act of love. Many of you love your computer, an irrational feeling you've been able to take to the bank. Now is the time to draw on your accounts, and figure your future.
It will take some belief to pass through this announcement, one that the community was anticipating for more than a week. Without HP's active development of the 3000, what is left to cherish? More than any of us can see this week, and there's a lot coming over the next few years just from HP. The third party community will bring even more, motivated by that love of your computer, and no longer uncertain about HP's commitment.
In life, there are memories of those we love that stay with us forever. But the trip to the other side - now being called a transition instead of death by so many experts - is a journey without a chronicle. We will tell that story for the 3000, so you can make your transition. Here on these pages and told by your voices, you can decide what the rest of the decade will bring to your computer.
HP may have decided on the near term, struggling with classic models of economics in an industry hemmed in by uncertainty. You will decide in the long term what becomes of an amazing business tool. What people need has a way of getting the rules overthrown, in business as well as in life.
I am writing this message from an Internet cafe in London, where a vacation with my son Nick has taken me during this exciting week. The easyEverything cafe chain - with outlets now in 16 cities across the world - was started here by the owner of EasyJet, an HP 3000 customer now facing the future right along with you. The EasyJet airline has succeeded in giving flyers the options they never thought they would have here in Europe. Meanwhile, the old guard airlines like Sabena are going out of business, struggling with the old economic model in our new times. Who could have predicted that low-cost airfare could power a company to ubiquitous Internet access, while its state-supported competitors get grounded? The rationale was old companies would beat the upstarts.
Things have changed a lot, and for the better, in overseas travel. Access to the Internet is cheap - tonight's session on a fast DSL account was free, somehow. Cash is as simple as sticking in an ATM card after stepping off the train; forget the problems of money exchange or travellers checks. In a few more months there won't even be many different currencies over here, with the Euro's arrival. Our memories of carrying useless coins from one country to the next as we crossed borders - five in nine days - will become funny stories for Nick's kids. We are all closer, and that makes collaboration much more possible. Collaboration will be the key to the platform's lifespan beyond HP's 3000 plans. That's what Open Source is all about, something HP is exploring with its top MPE developers in the third-party community.
Stranger things have happened recently than to have a computer thrive in the throes of its obsolescence announcement. There is no blueprint for what HP is doing, in stepping back from its first business enterprise computing success. The 3000 community is well connected and schooled in what it needs. Now at least it can begin the process of supporting itself, knowing the stakes are high, and exactly what the future support from HP will be.
Death or let's call it transition, since we don't know what's on the other side yet sets those stakes as high as they get. We learn to focus when our time is short here, and now there's a clock ticking on HP's involvement with your platform. Some of you will choose to switch to other systems, but it will take time to get things right. HP 3000 customers are big on getting things right. Others of you will opt to let the ecosystem of the 3000 evolve and support you in continuing with your platform. I asked my son what he would do if his Macintosh - our beloved version of the 3000 - was discontinued one day by Apple. "Well, I wouldn't stop using it, until I had to," he said. "Just my point," I said over the coffee in the cafe."It doesn't stop being a useful product just because they don't make it anymore."
Meanwhile, we keep hearing rumors of an effort to get MPE onto an Open Source track, so the software can continue its life at places with more imagination than fear of the unknown. These may not be large companies, the ones who heard about HP's plans first. But they represent a loyal chunk of the 3000 community, the numbers that pushed the platform to critical mass during the 1980s. They will have Fibre Channel, PA-8700s, high speed disk and tape and more for the system by then. Whatever else they have is something you get to decide, informed by the facts from our independent resource that sees more than one possibility.
The end can be scary, or the start of a brand new adventure. What I believe, along with my partner Abby, is that if there is love on both sides of a transition, the unthinkable seems possible. People care about this computer in a way that's hard to explain, almost supernatural. It's one of many things that super about the community. Stay connected to each other, and tell us your stories while we all travel this new ground together. This week, I learned that travel can be as easy as your vision allows.