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HP To Kill 3000 System After 30 years 237

James Ots writes "HP have announced that their 30 year old HP3000 series of computers will be joining their calculators on the scrapheap. Which is a shame, because a lot of work has gone into porting unix tools to the platform, and now we'll have to stop and port MPE (the HP3000 OS) tools to unix. Cnet have pre-announced the announcement, and the guys on comp.sys.hp.mpe don't seem too happy. (See also CSL's page on the story)"
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HP To Kill 3000 System After 30 years

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  • > Cnet have pre-announced the announcement

    So this doesn't come from HP ?

    BTW I am quite sad as I learnt Unix on these systems, back 15 years ago... What makes it even harder to bear is the Compaq logo beside the title of this story.
    • I don't think the posix shell was around on the HP3000 until relatively recently, so it was probably a different system you learnt unix on. The 3000 uses MPE/iX which is (IMHO) a horrible OS.
      • Re:pre(1 + announce) (Score:2, Interesting)

        by mirko ( 198274 )
        Here's the early history [] of the HP3000.

        According to the FAQ [], it rather ran iX, you're right, I may have been confused between my HP3000 and the HP9000 that came soon after.

        BTW, HP-UX appeared in 1986 []
        • Actually, HP-UX first appeared in 1982 or so on the HP9000 platform (series 500, Focus chipset, 32-bit CISC machine customed-designed by HP). A different version appeared on the 9000 series 200, 68000-based workstation (later replaced by the series 300). HP-UX 1.0 refers the first version on HP-PA (now called PA-RISC).

          And, of course, there's the old joke: "If Hewlett-Packard had been named Packard-Hewlett, what would they have called HP-UX?"
  • HP is really been disappointing me lately. I use several HP products and they seem to be going the way of Cray and DEC (which I use serveral of their products too).

    It would be nice to know what the reasons where for their decisions. Is it that they are unable to compete with Sun and SGI?

    It's not that I like HP-UX either, it's just I'm still using it. :)

    • The MPE platform wouldn't compete with Sun or SGI directly at all... rather it was in the big-iron realm of IBM, Burroughs/Sperry/Unisys and others with machines that did the same things.

      It appears to be more of the recent flushing-out of whatever is perceived as 'old' by the HP mgmt, including the 'old' HP concept of engineering things to run forever if needed. Is frequent downtime supposed to be a 21st century concept???

      And, fwiw, I like HP/UX ... I get a lot fewer calls than the NT guys get ;)

  • doesn't mean that thye're all going to disappear overnight ...
    I'm sure there will be plenty of them leftover (hp is continuing support for another 5 years anyway, according to the article) so the work that's gone into porting things to it surely hasn't gone to waste.

    oh well.....
  • by Juju ( 1688 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @11:51AM (#2563614)
    Having worked for HP, I can only be glad they would scrap it. The application that are still running on this are nightmarish stuff coming from the seventies... So it's all COBOL and EDI. Yuk

    Let's replace all these crappy old systems (hardware + software) with something more decent. Replace HP3000 with HP9000, Cobol with C++, and EDI with XML.

    I for one, think that updating hardware and software every 30 years should be mandatory. Think of all the time lost to update and maintain that crap!

    Nostalgia is not for Teckies!!! (except when it concerns Arcade games ;o)

    By the way, I don't want to hear about Unix being far older than Windows... Unix is still being developed actively.

    • Why on Earth would anyone want to replace COBOL with C++ for business applications? COBOL may have its warts, but it was designed for business applications, unlike C++, which was designed to be a Swiss Army Chainsaw.
      • Indeed! Why would anyone program COBOL-level business logic with something as low level as C++? C++ may be popular now, but it'd still be a pain. How about Common Lisp? Smalltalk? Python? Hell, I'll even say it... Java?
      • If you can't get COBOL, rewrite it in VB for'll probably be 40x more powerful...

        "The business model is probably obsolete anyway."
    • by sql*kitten ( 1359 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:17PM (#2563821)
      Having worked for HP, I can only be glad they would scrap it. The application that are still running on this are nightmarish stuff coming from the seventies... So it's all COBOL and EDI. Yuk

      In other words, important stuff that makes the world work, and has had millions of man-hours of development work put into it. These aren't your typical brochureware web sites, coded up in a few days where you can re-boot the server if anything goes wrong. Migrating these applications onto a more modern platform, including all the testing that needs to be done, is a distinctly non-trivial undertaking (these aren't like AS/400 where moving OS/400 applications from 48-bit CISC to 64-bit RISC was all taken care of by a virtual machine layer).

      Think of all the time lost to update and maintain that crap!

      And rewriting those applications... that's probably never going to happen. You think they're hard to maintain, they will be even more difficult to reverse-engineer when the original coders aren't around and the documentation is sketchy at best. There may not even be complete source code for any of these applications any more. C++ isn't an especially easier language to maintain than COBOL anyway.
      • It's been delievered and our finance, personnel, payroll and other functions will run on it.

        Having been in a shop which employed a variety of Pr1me systems, there will undoubtably be 3rd party support for these for years to come. Just expect HP's end of development to grind to a halt.

    • Having worked for HP, I can only be glad they would scrap it. The application that are still running on this are nightmarish stuff coming from the seventies... So it's all COBOL and EDI. Yuk
      Yes, crappy old programs such as ASK ManMan, upon which 93% of the MRP-II applications on the market were modeled.

      Back in the 1970's, software companies actually tested, and took responsibility for, their software. They also kept fixing things until the actual code started to work the way the documentation (documentation? what's that?) said it would.

      I doubt you will find very many organizations with HP3000 code bases who are very excited about moving them to crap... I mean, the latest and greatest new platform.


    • So it's all COBOL and EDI. Yuk

      What prints your paycheck?
  • HP3000's [] look like this [].

    Unlike HP's excellent and unparalleled line of RPN calculators, perhaps these minicomputers actually do belong on the scapheap. I lost my 48sx in college and I'm brokenhearted that I can't replace it.
  • I heard about this on monday, and what a bombshell it was. On top of evrything else now my company has to figure out how to migrate over 100 3000 systems, with over a terabyte of data and several million lines of code to a new platform. It'll be a bigger project than Y2k.
    • On top of evrything else now my company has to figure out how to migrate over 100 3000 systems, with over a terabyte of data and several million lines of code to a new platform.

      lots and lots of tapes, and the mother of all perl scripts.
    • by SlamMan ( 221834 )
      Not to sound harsh, but isn't that the kind of thing you should have thought of 10 years ago? They stopped deleoping these ages ago, so an exit should have been looked at at least as a side project.
      • Actually, they're still developing them now, and will be releasing new enhancements until 2003.
      • Not to sound harsh, but isn't that the kind of thing you should have thought of 10 years ago? They stopped deleoping these ages ago, so an exit should have been looked at at least as a side project.
        This is the prime reason Microsoft and Wintel still struggle to get into the datacenter. When you put in something like a 3000, you expect it to work for 10-15 years, and for the vendor to support it for that time, including the wind-down time after "de-productization".

        So if HP was saying the 3000 was a viable datacenter product last year, it is perfectly reasonable for a customer not to start replacement planning. If HP wants to stay in the data center market, that is.


    • According to the CNet article, "HP plans to support existing customers for the next five years, two sources said. Sales of existing systems and upgrades will continue through the end of 2002." Since the systems you have won't suddenly stop working when HP stops supporting them, you probably have 6 or 7 year before things are really critical.

      It is time to start planning a migration strategy. Evidently there are already some tools available to migrate to other platforms but this might be a good chance for your company to take a step back and reexamine the system as a whole - a rewrite might be in order.

      • Just like they did with Y2k, they'll do with this. Everyone knew about Y2k for several decades before they started worrying about it. What makes you think that many businesses will connect the pain they had over that with their delay in dealing with the problem and not do so now?
      • Everyone knew about Y2k for several decades before they started worrying about it.

        I remember that Thompson and Ritchie had many sleepless nights worrying if their OS would survive past 31 January, 1999. Not to mention IBM's concern back in the 60's. And I hear Eckert and Mauchly were very concerned about it back in the 40's and 50's. Even in the 30's Konrad Zuse wanted to know "How should I store dates in mein Komputieren-machinen?". In fact, I'm sure that Babbage was worried sick over the whole thing...

        Several decades, indeed (but only for very small values of "several").

        Several years, perhaps, but I think hyperbole got the better of you this time.

        • Several decades, indeed (but only for very small values of "several").
          We spent about 2 hours on the Y2K topic in my CS2 class in 1981. The instructor was an ex-Bell System programmer (business side, not research), so they must have been considering it before that. And the Social Security Administration had most of their Y2K remediation done around 1990 (which makes sense when you think about the time spans they deal with), so again there someone was thinking about it.

          Not everyone, perhaps, but some people with foresight.


        • It was a topic of discussion in my undergrad classes in the early 80's and showed up in books as early as 1979 in our library. They said that using 2 digits for dates was a problem then and that it shouldn't be done- ever.

          People knew about the Y2k "problem" two decades before the drop-dead date. Whether or not businesses were listening is something completely different- why spend all this time and money "fixing" something that's not broke (as in, it's working right now...), right?
  • Was the old HP Computer games books that used HP 3000 basic. (of course the basic many of them were using was a copy of a DEC basic from a outfit started by a young Ivy league dropout.
  • What a shame (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SumDeusExMachina ( 318037 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @11:56AM (#2563659) Homepage
    I would have to say that, as a trained system administrator, I am sad to see these systems go. Truely, they were a basition of reliability and engineering, and I am happy to have had the priviledge of admining an MPE system at one time.

    BTW, what is the deal with them discontinuing the calculators? I always thought RPN was just about the coolest idea ever for calculators, and I have fond memories of having "calculator races" back in high school where we would see who's machine could solve the problem first. Those of us with the sweet HP calculators were always the first to finish. Truely the end of a great product line.

  • well (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nomadic ( 141991 )
    This server line is as old as UNIX for heaven's sake; I think you have to admire HP for keeping it going this long, especially when you consider they're still going to support it for a few more years. I mean, dropping the calculator division may have been a boneheaded move but you've got to give HP some credit here...
    • Not sure why this was modded as flamebait, I think his point is a good one. It is expensive to maintain development and support for multiple platforms. HP's 9000 series - open systems, UNIX-based - is doing well. It's obviously where HP will find most of its future market.

      The 3000, on the other hand - closed, proprietary, not the most flexible and capable by today's OS standards - is more and more a niche product. Even if it is still profitable for HP today, it won't be over the long haul. It is not HP's future.

      HP has talked about retiring the 3000 line for years. As I understand it, they've kept the line this long only because of their commitment to customer service. There are a lot of companies (like ours) that rely on the 3000. It will be expensive to replace.

      People who are critical of companies still using 3000s, IMHO, are a little lacking in real-world business experience. We recognized long ago that the 3000's life was limited. We haven't put any major new applications on them in years. Unfortunately, we have millions of lines of existing code supporting several critical lines of business. We can't replace that at a whim. It will be extremely expensive.

      As just one example, the Y2K remediation effort for one large application was about 24,000 man-hours. Note that this application was already almost Y2K compliant, designed in the beginning to track century information. For most programs, most of this time was simply the overhead of checking out the source code, reviewing it for compliance, and checking it back in. There were thousands of programs to check.

      I agree that HP deserves credit for continuing the line for so many years past its prime, and for providing good advance notice about retiring it. The future is open systems. HP "done good" by easing the transition.

  • They killed the 3000 series!
    You bastards!

    *whore karma*
  • From the article:
    In 1972 and 1973, the early versions [...] were temporarily withdrawn from the market because of flaws [...]

    Well, that surely goes in the book of records: it took them 28 years until they decided to make the "temporary" "permanent".
  • So, when Compaq took DEC over there was some bad feelings about the future of VMS and UNIX with Compaq. It seems that Compaq has done a decent job keeping TruUnix going, but VMS has left the limelight. Now, HP has taken Compaq. Will the death of HP-UX mark the ramp-up of HP to work more with Linux on Intel chips, leaving the vintage Compaq workers with the unmarketed TruUnix?

    • Re:Who gets what ? (Score:2, Informative)

      by Howie ( 4244 )
      Digital had already announced the end-of-life for VMS when Compaq bought them, hadn't they? Or am I mis-remembering that? I have to admit that I try to suppress most memories I have that involve VMS - they remind me too much of FORTRAN, Physics, and overly long command lines.
      • Re:Who gets what ? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Chakat ( 320875 )
        Digital had already announced the end-of-life for VMS when Compaq bought them, hadn't they? Or am I mis-remembering that?

        I think you mistook their discontinuing the VAX line, the hardware that originally ran VMS. VMS also runs on the Alphas, and is still very much actively supported. Though the spirit of both is somewhat the same; the high end non-unix hardware is obsoleted because the performance reasons of having a much less intuitive system are lessened by newer, faster hardware.

      • Many people think that Digital announcing EOL for PDP's and their OSes, and then Vaxen & VMS was the reason why Digital failed. If you are a company which uses a PDP as a controller in your product, and Digital cut you off, are you going to consider moving to another Digital product, or an alternative supplier which you feel is going to be harder to cut you off in the future? Most people decided the latter, which sadly often meant PC hardware and Windows. IBM seem to be doing it right. There is no cutoff between the old 360's and the modern Z series mainframes, you gradually upgrade over the years, and things which were unthinkable on the 360's such as running Unix & Java, are default on the Z series.
      • Re:Who gets what ? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by glenmark ( 446320 )

        Negative. VMS has never been EOLed, although DEC's marketing folks gave it quite a bit of short shrift in favor of NT. If VMS were to be axed, it would truly be a sad day for the industry. I can say without the slightest bit of hyperbole that, in my experience at least, there is not another OS on the market that is even remotely as stable, secure, and scalable (except perhaps IBM's VM or MVS systems, or the Tandem/Compaq NSK/NonStop OS, none of which I have direct experience with). VMS is immune to buffer overflow exploits, and even makes Unix look unstable by comparison. The DoD is heavily dependant upon it for many of their critical systems, as are many banks, credit unions, stock exchanges, and insurance and health care companies.

        OpenVMS is currently in the process of being ported to the IA-64 platform (likely the first or second successor to Monroe, which will likely be an Alpha EV8 processor running IA-64 instructions in microcode... Thank goodness Intel finally admitted that they don't know how to design a decent 64-bit processor and brought in the Q's Alpha design engineers. Of course, the Q by the same action were admitting that they had no clue how to market the Alpha.)

        Now what's this nonsense about overly long command lines? Any DCL command can be arbitrarily abbreviated provided that enought characters are provided to assure uniqueness...

        • Hear this: VMS is going to be discontinued. Heard from official sources. The only thing that will remain from compaq after the merger are the Peecees as HP has understood the truth that if the OS (win) is not reliable, the reliability of the hardware means just a higher price for the same thing. They will scrap the NetServers and go with the Proliants.
    • ... have been greatly exaggerated.

      This is the HP3000 they're talking about. This means the death of MPE/iX (HP3000), not HP-UX (HP9000, enitrely different OS).
  • by eyeball ( 17206 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:08PM (#2563747) Journal
    What tools? I haven't used MPE/xl in 10 years, but I don't remember it having any tools other than file copy (the OS doesn't even support directories if I remmeber correctly) and db schema stuff.

    Although I do remember how me and a guy cracked (yes as in warez) a text editor for mpe/xl once. Each 3000 has a serial code that shows up as a read-only environment variable, and a lot of software uses that as a software key. i.e.: if you tried to copy a program to another box, it saw a different serial and said "no, you copyied this". So our hack was to create a slightly different environment variable called HPSUSAM, and store the serial # from the machine we copied the program from. Then we used a binary editor to search through the program for any occurance of "HPSUSAN" and replace with "HPSUSAM". m41nfr4m3 h4>0r1n6 1s 1337.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    (well, same numbering system so sort-of related to the HP3000 series)
    Ahhh... I have fond memories of the HP2000A (later 2000F) system back in the mid-1970's at the University of Saskatchewan. Not really a "system" 'cause as soon as you logged in, you were dropped into a BASIC interpreter!
    • [dig dig dig] Ahh, here it is, my listing of the first useful program I ever wrote, on a 2000F back in 1976: How to program (using front-panel keys) the first programmable Bearcat police scanner. All that on 20 minutes of 110baud connect time per month.

      Now, where'd I put those ASR-33 paper tapes?

      Uphill. Both ways.
    • But do you remeber the HP-1000 (running RTE) and the HP-300 (with the Amigo operating system)?

      Yes, my school got a great number of research grants from HP. These were just two of the machines I had to contend with out of the last two years of school where I used no fewer than 10 machines/OS'es/editing systems.

      P.S. Am I 1337, yet?

  • Here [] is the official announcement from HP.
  • kinda sad news (Score:3, Informative)

    by Lurking Grue ( 3963 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:16PM (#2563817)
    We found out yesterday morning. An HP service rep called one of our supervisors at home to break the news. While I'm not the one who manages these boxes at our site (I've got the UX machines), I do know that they are the most reliable of anything we've got. They just don't go down, and I guess this is bad news for HP. They need stuff to break so they can boost sales and services.

    We've still got several critical apps running on MPE, including our 911 software for PD. These things are bulletproof, and I cringe at the thought of the PD folks going out and choosing an NT solution now. I can only hope a decent 911 app for UX exists.
    • re: Police/911 dispatching on a Unix platform

      I worked on a CAD software selection project a few years back for a large metropolitan police dept. in the US. From what I remember, there were a few vendors that offer Unix solutions include:
      Printrak-based on a Tandem platform
      Geac-AIX platform, if I remember correctly
      Tiburon-various Unix platforms supported

      Here's a list of CAD vendors

  • I worked with a couple of these systems during my last year of college. I can't say that I'm sad to see them go, as I'm all for "better" (subjective, I know) technology. The box and MPE OS were very stable and they provided me with some very valuable learning experiences early on. Backups using those big reel tapes. Ahhh yes! Those were the days. ;)

    So, yeah, onward and upward, but it's still nice to look back now and again. We should definitely remember where we came from.

  • Compaq logo? Yeah, HP and Compaq are *planning* a merger, but Compaq is the one being absorbed AND it hasn't happened yet. Someone get a clue.
  • I bet they blamed this on 9/11 too. Oh well, I just felt like burning off some extra karma. being at the cap isn't very fun unless you can post useless drivel at +2.
  • by dmarcov ( 461598 )
    The HP3000 was the first computer I actually had any "control" over. My high school had a 3rd one with a room full of terminals that they used to teach a Pascal course (if you can imagine). Right after I graduated they were all replaced with PS/2 Model 30's -- which could not have been any where near as much fun as:

    1.) Learning how much fun the "down" command was as a cheap prank.
    2.) Sending messages from the consoles to newer newbies that their terminal was about to explode.
    3.) Mystery Mansion
    4.) The Land of Warp -- and I don't care what Adventureland says (, Warp was weeks of fun.

    Of course, when the AC went out at my school, the nicely cooled server room was a favorite place. Oh yeah -- and I think I still owe my school $376.58 for the service call when I downed the console. It seemed clever at the time.

    At least I wasn't the one who hit the Emergency Stop button ...

    Now I suppose where the "kinda" comes in is ...well... it's been close to 15 years now since then, it's hard to believe HP was still signing people up for new ones.
    • Yes, Warp was loads of fun except when you hit the places where the puzzle was not solvable unless you could run over and ask Rob Lucky or Bill Frolik for hints.
  • by digital_freedom ( 453387 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:37PM (#2563957)
    The Linux community could really take advantage of this opportunity to score with a killer app for businesses, a HP 3000 Emulator. I know that my company would love to migrate to all of their HP 3000 programs to another solution where they would still have rock-solid reliability and now have commodity hardware prices. This could bring about a true business need for Linux support services and basically bring the motherlode of cash for Linux programmers.
    Just think of it, there are thousands of big companies using the HP3000 looking for a solution over the next 5 years (when HP ends support). HP will probably try some god-awful ports to the 9000 series, but if it's not broke, just emulate it. After all, millions of man hours have been invested in getting those programs to handle mission-critical applications.

    When someone writes this, let me know... my company has a large pile of cash ready for them.
    • How about a large pile of cash, given to me in small lumps every two weeks?

      Yes, I'm looking for a job. I will write your emulator for money.
    • I used to work an on MPE system about eight years ago, so please forgive me if my memory is faulty.

      I was under the impression that it wasn't just the MPE OS that was part of the stability equation, but also the hardware that HP built for these things - at the time I didn't really pay much attention to the hardware specs as I was just trying to get some software working on that system so I can't give exact details.

      It seems to me that "rock-solid reliability at commodity hardware prices" is rather an ironic phrase, and I'm not sure is possible...

      However, I think that other than that point you have a great idea! People will need to migrate from these boxes and it would be good to have a Linux upgrade path, at least for the mid-term.
    • When someone writes this, let me know... my company has a large pile of cash ready for them.

      How much, and when would you want to take delivery?

      If you're talking $5 million or more, it could be done in a year.

  • Back in the early '80s (I graduated in 1982), my high school had accounts on an HP3000 at a regional educational serivce center. They had a room with four 300 baud acoustic modems and four DecWriter II printing terminals. The math department folks didn't let us see the deep documentation that let other high schools in the area 0wnz0r the HP-3000, but the password to the school's admin account was public knowledge. During this time I got my first modem, but I didn't want to dial the HP-3000 up because we had assigned phone numbers for each terminal, and I had more fun hacking on my TRS-80 anyhow.

    Once I managed to write a chat program that used the message command, but the only time I seriously tried to use it, I couldn't get the guy on the other side to understand the concept of typing in his session ID instead of his logon ID.

    This was also the machine on which I first discovered Crowther & Wood's Adventure. Somewhere in a box in storage I still have the printouts of my sessions on it.

    Then the school got this stupid TI refrigerator-looking mini which crashed whenever someone turned off a terminal. But I never got to mess with that one.

  • Shedding A Tear (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Smilodon ( 66992 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @12:51PM (#2564068)
    As someone who learned how to program on an HP3000 *Series I* (showing my age here), I can't help but feel bad about the decision, logical though it might be. New 3000s (based on PA-RISC hardware shared with the 9000) have been sold primarily as an upgrade path for existing users for quite a while. Apparently, those users (which paid the bills at HP for many years) are (finally) starting to dry up.

    My career was made by these machines, although I saw the writing on the wall quite a while back and moved on. I worked for a number of companies that used 3000's (and probably still do in some form or fashion) including a long stint as a 3000 field software engineer with HP itself.

    The system aged as gracefully as any computer in history, and was based on boring old dependability, much like the company itself used to be. Between this, the instrument/medical division (now Agilent) and calculators, it feels a little like the heart of the company has been removed.

    I was fortunate enough to see the very first HP inkjet (in a little case that the Boise division guy practically handcuffed to his wrist), but had no idea how big it would end up being to the company.

    I know there is little room for sentimentality in the computer world, but I have just as strong nostalgic feelings for these old beasties as any vintage video game. They are certainly deserving of respect.

    If Linux is around 30 years from now, I think many of you (us) would have some sad feelings if the last copy were being deleted. Even if it was being replaced with something "better".

    Should I burn the MPE source code fiche, in tribute?

    V V
    • I too, cut my teeth on HP3000's - first as an operator then later as an ad-hoc sysadmin and programmer. We had a nice washer n' dryer set (a 955 and a 947), and when we had temporary need for extra disk space, we brought in these Eagle drives that were about as big as a 32" TV, and would move around the computer room on their casters due to the vibrations within the case.

      My eventual migration to an AS/400 environment has been a painful one - MPE is wonderfully straightforward and functional. It (along with Powerhouse, Suprtool, and other fine tools) will be missed!

    • HP is dead (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CharlieG ( 34950 )
      I said when the spun off Agilent "HP is dead" - HP was and intrumentation company FIRST, when they spun that divison off I said it was over. I wonder if Agilent can survive on it's own, and if they can, should they BUY the HP name and calculator division when HP liquidates?
    • We just took delivery of a brand spanking new HP3000, which we'll be running MPE on, apparently for the next 5 years.

      We're moving from 2 HP9000 servers to 1 HP9000 and 1 HP3000. This dictated by the software we'll be running. I expect all applications will, over the next 5 years be ported to something else.

  • What is it with titles those days. Everyone one is trying to have catchy once but sometimes they go over board. So lets examine this one: "HP To Kill 3000 System After 30 years" at first glance, this suggests that:
    1) HP is about to commit a horrible crime: "kill"
    2) There are exactly 3000 unites to be killed: "3000 System"
    3) HP will do it 30 years from now: "After 30 years"
  • Actually Loved Mine (Score:2, Interesting)

    by euphline ( 308359 )
    Ahhhh, my old HP 3000. I admin'd a 3000 for many years, and still get nostalgic thinking about it. My bookshelf today contains a small piece of the MPE docs, and I keep the CD handy even though I've left that job. (Once in a while, someone calls & asks oddball questions...)
    I'm shedding real tears over this.
    Today, MPE has web services, ethernet support, and all the other modern trappings... except instability.
    My MPE system maintained uptime in the YEARS... regularly... the OS never failed. Once in a long while (every couple of years) a 10 year old drive would fail & we'd have to deal with it. Because we never bothered to upgrade from the HPIB drives to SCSI, hot swap wasn't an option. But... I will note... it is said that you could upgrade the kernel on these w/o ever rebooting.
    If vendors made systems as stable as this today, the world would not know what to do with itself.

    (Anyone in DC interested in doing a wake / memorial service?)

    • Today, MPE has web services, ethernet support, and all the other modern trappings...

      A couple years ago, I saw a service order for a 3000. The TCP/IP networking was called "ARPANET PAK" and the NIC being installed was a 10Base2 (thinnet). I guess that's modern enough :)
    • "But... I will note... it is said that you could upgrade the kernel on these w/o ever rebooting."

      Errr, no. Upgrading MPE was always a convoluted process, requiring rebooting.
  • I worked for Bradmark, Inc. [] ( developing database repair and restructuring tools, and it was really interesting work. Sure the user interface was old, but the kind of code I was writing let me get down under the skin of the OS every now and then, and despite what most people here have been saying, MPE was a nice OS, and had features that I have yet to encounter on unix OSes.

    File locking for one. I'm sorry, but the unix notion of locking a file is a joke. "I'll create this here lock file, and then other programs that see the lock will know not to open my file. I sure hope the other programs agree to play nice."

    Give me a break. In MPE the locking mechanism is built into the file system, and is enforced by the OS. It is easy to build complex locks like "lock bytes 7643-8126 for exclusive write access" and then other programs can do whatever they want with the other parts of the file, and they can read the locked part, but only you can write. *Very* useful for databases.

    Another thing the 3000s excel at is stability. I can honestly say that in the 4 years I worked at Bradmark, the only time our development machine ever had any instability was when we ran a beta version of the OS one time for some testing. I once saw an hp3000 ad that actually advertised their machines as having "99.999%" uptime. They had no worries about false advertising, because it wasn't false.

    And on the rare occasions when something does go wrong, these machines are designed from the get go to recover gracefully without user intervention. In addition to their external UPS, each machine has an internal battery. This battery isn't for maintaining main power, rather it just maintains RAM, for up to 8 hours or more. When main power is restored the system does a self diagnostic, rolls back in disk IO that had been interrupted, reconnects to any dumb terminals (widely used when the 3000 was first designed), and restarts all programs! If you had a system where all users connect through terminals, then you could sit there and watch all of those terminals come back to life with their programs running exactly where they were when power failed.

    Now that's reliability folks!

    Someone I worked with told me his favorite 3000 war story: there was a brief power failure in his building during the middle of the day, but power came back on fairly quickly. At 5:00pm the 3000 sysadmins all made a point of walking by the computer room and saying things like "Gee did the power go out?" for the benefit of the Unix admins who were still checking their filesystems and trying to recover their machines.

    If you're out there Chris: "Hi!" *waves*
  • Man, I don't think I'll ever forget:

    build myfile rec=-72,3,f,ASCII

    I learned FORTRAN and BASIC on an HP3000. It's the machine I used to play through Zork for the first time.

    I also remember how we had to sneak around the administrators to use our chat program, since they all thought that computers were strictly for class work.

    Now that computers are probably used for communication more than anything else, I wonder if they feel a bit sheepish?

  • From the CSL page:

    A very strange thing happened on Wednesday, November 14th. At 11:00 am Pacific Time, hewlett-packard announced that they had decided to discontinue sales and support of the hp e3000 platform. Winston Prather, General Manager, hp e3000 Business, made the announcement with Jim Murphy, General Manager, hp Server Support at his side. [bold added]

    The thing is, I'm typing this at 9:49 AM Pacific time.


    Steve M

  • I hate those things, let them die a slow painful death at the bottom of the Atlantic. Use them to dredge a new shipping channel. Teach explosives training to new recruits in the Army with them. Use them as obstacles in automotive crash tests. But whatever you do make sure that some back-assed takes forever to upgrade corporation (like the one I work for) cant find them to use them.
    • I hate those things, let them die a slow painful death at the bottom of the Atlantic. Use them to dredge a new shipping channel. Teach explosives training to new recruits in the Army with them. Use them as obstacles in automotive crash tests.
      The 3000 that I used to work with (a 1981 vintage machine still running on 2001/01/01) wouldn't miss a cycle during any of those events. Admittedly the US Army no longer has atomic demolition munitions in its inventory; that might do the trick.


  • If the Compaq/HP merger goes through, I suspect that VMS will end up on the heap too. MPE was the pro-vms people's rallying point that HP might keep VMS alive after the merge.
  • by Picass0 ( 147474 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @02:32PM (#2564885) Homepage Journal
    It turned 30 and it's crystal turned red.

    Time for Carousel.
  • There seem to be many folks here who seem to think that replacing highly reliable machines and ayatems with newer (and less reliable) ones is an unbridled good. I wonder if they will still think its a good idea when their paychecks start arriving late or when payroll starts getting snappy with them because they've had to spend the previous night up babysitting a balky machine.

    Not to mention that most of these systems will be replaced with ones having a more "northwestern" feel :-(.

  • Bummer. That was what I worked on at my first job many years ago. It was the first computer I used with a CRT, and also the first one on which I played "Adventure".

    It had an unusual stack-based architecture, and a very nice close-to-the-hardware programming language call SPL/3000, derived from Algol60.
  • ...after Carla's done gutting it?

  • by bani ( 467531 ) on Wednesday November 14, 2001 @05:27PM (#2566221)
    I could see this coming a parsec away.

    In a previous life I did HP3000 development. Ahhhh the memor^H^H^H^H^Hnightmares... ;)

    Yes, the HP3000 hardware and OS (MPE/iX) are supremely stable. However everything is also supremely expensive, and performance isn't very good.

    The last few years MPE has desperately been playing catch-up with the modern Unix world. The development tools on the HP3000 are horribly archaic -- much worse than even ancient Unixes. The default native MPE environment doesnt even have a fullscreen text editor! At least you get 'vi' with Unix. The OS was riddled with anachronisms at least as many levels deep as Dante's hell. You think Unix is archaic? You ain't seen MPE, baby. It makes VMS look brand spanking new.

    The (relatively) recent attempts to bring HP3000 up to speed didn't really work out that well. Adding a POSIX subsystem was cute, but not terribly useful. POSIX stuff could see everything on the MPE side (files, etc), but MPE applications couldn't easily access POSIX data. In the end it was like having two mutually exclusive OSes on the same box. They could co-exist but couldnt really usefully share data.

    The HP3000 filesystem is both a blessing and a curse -- the record oriented filesystem can be extremely cumbersome at times when you're used to the rest of the world dealing with simple streams of bytes. Trying to ship data between HP3000 and the real world can be a real hair-pulling experience. Even Macs don't usually have it as bad.

    I pity those companies that bet the farm on HP3000's. They may have several years before support is cut off -- but porting tens of millions of lines of code, much of it SPL (basically a macro assembler), is going to be a herculean effort. In many cases it's going to be easier to just start from scratch.

    I guess I'm just glad I got out when I did ;)
    • Yeah, but SPL is a very high level assembly language. Awfully close to Pascal. I'll bet somebody could *quite* easily write a gspl compiler.

      And SPL-II was even cuter. I did some hacking on a full-screen editor written in SPL-II called VDX aka VOODOO. I still have a listing of it dated July 22, 1983.

      And yes, yes, the record oriented filesystem was a piece of crap. They should have gone to a stream of bytes with a record emulation layer.
      • gspl?! (Score:3, Insightful)

        by bani ( 467531 )
        gspl compiler for what, i386?

        A lot of SPL code I've seen is selfmodifying code. This means pushing old (pre-parisc) opcodes onto the compatibility mode stack and executing them.

        Don't forget that a lot of SPL code depends on intricate details of the compatibility mode linker, too.

        In the end, if you were going to do a gspl you'd basically have to end up writing a compatiblity mode VM as well.

        Even HP didn't get the CM VM 100% perfect when they went to PA-RISC. CM code still sometimes mysteriously vomits (or maybe its on purpose, part of evil scheme to get you to port your code to native mode :-)

        Don't forget the complexity of writing a VM to fully emulate the intricate block-mode oriented terminal I/O... even commercial terminal emulation software like Reflections don't always get this quite right...

        I don't think it would be an easy job at all. You could make a bundle off it though, selling it to corporations desperate to keep their HP3K investments afloat...
  • I used one of these for a decade and yes , they are a super reliable set up.

    Unless you tried to use that complete screw up of an application 20/20 . Does anyone else remember that botched attempt at a spreadsheet app ?

    I recall 20/20 bringing down the HP3000 at least twice before it was dumped.

    What people tend to forget is that the 3000 and the OS were reliable and yes , I can recall instances of my terminal coming 'back up' right where I left off....but the 3000's that are around today are largely accessed via PC terminal apps (reflection etc) thereby exposing reliability to all the vagaries of MS desktops and all the network glitches that come with the 'No dumb terminal' approach.

    From an end user perspective anyway ..what is the point of all that uptime if you can't connect due to other crap getting in the way ?

Never buy from a rich salesman. -- Goldenstern