Legacy components will always be needed

Inside the MPE/iX and 3000 world, old parts continue to work. Sometimes they need replacing, though. It can be surprising how much is still available in this ecosystem.

Late last month, Larry Simonsen of Flowserve Corporation was reaching for a replacement keyboard. What’s so special about a keyboard? This component serves as an essential element in an HP 700/96 terminal. The keyboard itself has a model number, C-3340. HP’s numbering system is nothing if not thorough.

Just as a reference, the HP 700/96 hails from the year 1994, roughly speaking. Its more predominant predecessor, the 700/92, surfaced in 1987. Really old hardware, so it’s unlikely to be available, right?

Not at all, it seems. In short order, Simonsen heard from Ideal Computer Service in California. A simple “I have some” linked Simonsen with the pre-Y2K component.

The Flowserve Corporation is an American multinational corporation. Not a small venture, at more than 17,000 employees. Wikipedia reports that Flowserve is “one of the largest suppliers of industrial and environmental machinery.” While it creates products such as pumps, valves, end face mechanical seals, automation, and services to the power, oil, gas, chemical, and other industries, Flowserve is using an HP 3000.

Or at least one terminal’s worth of MPE/iX computing. It’s not that uncommon, strategy-wise, for original HP terminal hardware to survive in a factory. There’s nothing more durable than a terminal that once cost more than $1,200. So if a 25-year old keyboard drops a few characters, even that problem has a solution in 2020.

The legacy world is full of components built to survive for decades. The replacement keyboard is going to be available for under $100. It’s a small repair cost compared to the expense of migrating an MPE application away to another platform.

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