Legacy OS books still show up for duty

Long after HP had ended its support of MPE/iX, a book of wisdom about managing the system remains available. It’s no different for OpenVMS, even though that operating system isn’t frozen like MPE/iX became.

The MPE/iX book is written by Jon Diercks, just about the same time that the OpenVMS book was first released by Digital Press. Diercks’ The MPE/iX System Administration Handbook was published by Prentice Hall in 2001. Copies are running at $195 at Amazon.com. Nine years ago, you could find used ones at $80.

But this book is still for sale in one way or another. Diercks even brought a few copies to the last HP 3000 Reunion. They were author copies, as the publishers call them, and a signed one was given away as a door prize for attendees. Diercks said he sold a couple more to users on both ends of the MPE experience spectrum.

Diercks has his own website where he offers his consulting services as well as code samples from the book.

In contrast, David Donald Miller’s Getting Started with OpenVMS System Management is a bargain. Elsevier Science published the book in 2003. The paperback is available at Half Price Books’ website for $76 new. The price difference reflects more than the size of the MPE/iX and OpenVMS communities. Publishers put many more copies of Miller’s book into print.

The publisher says the book “defines areas of OpenVMS System Management and describes why each is important and how it fits into the larger management task. Even though some OpenVMS management concepts are unique (for instance, quotas), many concepts (such as account creation) have counterparts in Unix and Windows NT. So, wherever possible, Miller points out to his readers the parallel to other systems.”

The book is intended as a precursor to the OpenVMS System Management Guide, written by Miller, Lawrence Baldwin, and Steve Hoffman. The additional level of detail drives up the price on that guide. A Kindle version sells for about $66 at Amazon. Its examples include references to OpenVMS/VAX 7.3 and OpenVMS/Alpha 7.3-1.

It’s worth noting the lifespan these technical resources deserve, and the good work which they still have to come. The authors saw further than the OS creators. Diercks’ book has a foreword from the then-General Manager of HP’s Commercial Systems Division, Winston Prather. The GM reported this advice about HP 3000 legacy system ownership.

“Today, with technologies like Samba, Java, GUIs, our WebWise products and our partners, the HP e3000 still provides a great environment for the creation and support of new object-oriented, web-based applications, as well as e-service and e-commerce environments.”

The book’s readers absorbed that message for years afterward. Even during the years of 2002-2007, when HP took pains to tell its customers that MPE/iX was not a great environment for any of the above tasks.

OpenVMS customers have no such confusion about the value of their systems, considering that HP Enterprise sold the OS to VSI. A product that costs hundreds can save a customer thousands, something that’s usually said about software, rather than paperbacks.

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