It’s an amazing number, 46 years. That’s how long John Zoltak has worked with a company that relies on HP 3000s and MPE. He first clocked in at Fives North American Combustion during 1974. Legacy computing was called data processing back in those days.
Even after more than 40 years of data processing, Zoltak uses more modern-era tech for his MPE/iX HP 3000 Series 957. It has been running on an SSD memory card for over a year.
The HP 3000 continues to contribute to the datacenter mix.
“These days the HP 3000 just sits there running,” Zoltak says. “Hardly anyone accesses it. Most people here don’t even know it exists. There are some of the older ones who remember the old days where everything was on the HP 3000. Mostly now it’s there for reference, but I have copied most of the data and put it into SQL Server databases, and have created web applications to search it.”
Just like that first HP 3000, Zoltak didn’t serve data processing needs at first. He started in 1974 wiring control panels as a summer job. He continued part-time job while finishing his education at Cleveland State. After another year and a half, went to full time at the company.
“I was assembling steel roll guiding equipment. Then I started traveling the world servicing that equipment,” he says. “Around 1978 I got a Apple II and found I had an affinity for computers. I already had experience in electronics. It was my hobby, next to chemistry.”
So while Zoltak was not on service calls, he began tinkering with programming on the HP 3000 using BASIC. By 1981 he moved to accounting. “My boss was the grandson of the founder,” he says. “He gave me an opportunity to grow in IT. At that time, I was IT.”
More than 35 years later, the HP 3000 was running on a Model 20 Array. It had twenty 2GB disks. Half had failed already, and replacements were becoming hard to acquire. “I had been searching for a solution for SCSI storage, using network storage. I was just about ready to build something when I happened to come upon SCSI2SD.” The product connects SSD devices with SCSI outlets on HP 3000s and other servers. Zoltak told the company’s IT purchaser to get a couple.
The beginning of the project didn’t go well. “My first attempts were disappointing,” Zoltak says. “Didn’t work at all. I emailed the developer in Australia and we began trying to get it to function. He had mostly been applying it to MIDI instruments as a SCSI drive replacement for that segment.”