HP9826 ??



#2

I came across a strange machine, an HP9826. The number suggests a relationship with the 9825, but the screen and diskette drive rather make it look familiar to the 85 or so. It has GPIB built in - does anybody know more about this machine? It's no collectible I suppose.


#3

It's related to the 9836 (it only has one drive, the monitor is built in, but otherwise much the same). It was sort-of a replacement for the 9825, I think.

It's a 68000 based machine, takes the DIO cards that were used on many of the 9000/200 and 9000/300 machines.

I have no idea whether it's collectible or not, and frankly I don't care. I have a 9836 that I will investigate sometime fairly soon, I'm interested in how these machines were designed and how they work.


#4

well, if it's 68k-based the model number is somewhat misleading, in that it's not at all related to neither the 9825 nor the 9835 - machines that are more interesting because of their unique conception. The 9826 must be more recent then.

Andreas


#5

They went nuts with model numbers about the time this machine was prduced. For instance, I believe the 9816, later renamed "HP-9000 model 216" was later than this machine.

The following is from hazy recollection, and maybe wrong. Corrections are welcome. What happened was, there was a transition from the home-built CPUs of the 98XX and 80 series to the Motorola 68000. At the same time, "HP Technical Basic" and HPL were shelved in favor of a new BASIC dialect, Rocky Mountain BASIC (RMB). I used this language on 9816s doing real time bathymetry and radio navigation data collection and reduction. Having been used to Applesoft and MBASIC, I was really impressed that you could do such a thing in an interpreted language. The key was the highly optimized I/O library and the relatively slow data rates of HP-IB at the time. RMB didn't resemble any BASIC I had seen up to then, either. It did resemble the BASIC on the HP-85, up to a point, but departed significantly in its modularity. But I didn't play with an 85 until about a year after I started coding on the 9816. Anyway, RMB had elements of Pascal (REPEAT, and DO, I think) that made structured programming and modularity possible, and FORTRAN (COMMON) which allowed you to violate the modularity in a selective but documented way. Together with the fun and difficult work of interfacing cool devices, it made me a real enthusiast for the machines and the language.

As far as collectibility goes, the HP 9000/200 and 300 series machines don't seem to command high prices on eBay. They do come up from time to time. My impression is that there are still a fair number of the machines in active service. The 9816, at least, was rugged and water resistent, which made it good for offshore applications, and may explain the continuing health of any machines that are left.


#6

yes, the model numbering went crazy in the early eighties.

For example the 9826 became the 200 Series Model 26 and later on was renamed to HP 9000/226 (or HP 9000 Model 226).

I think they were trying to build a uniform product range that
promised compatibility across the different models. Smth that was missing from the eralier models. Just try to port a BASIC program from the 9845 to the more recent HP-85 (or look at the HP-41 bar code generation programs for the two models, file hpbc.pdf in the MoHPC CDROM).

**vp


#7

One of HP's documents contains a joke that they were adopting new disk media because they had run out of incompatible formats. That could equally well apply to system software and programming languages.

The history of HP engineering from at least the 60's through to today has this theme of progressing from custom systems, lovingly crafted, to mass produced throwaway machines zillions of times more capable than the earlier models. That's the history of the industry, and our modern civilization too, for that matter.

Right after crowding all the "technical computing" products into the "9000" line, HP made the transition to Unix. This time they used another home built processor - PA-RISC - and a partly home-brewed OS, HP-UX. They had greater success with that line than with any of the previous efforts they made, except peraps the HP 3000, which was still gasping along the last I checked, in 1999. But they saved costs by doing away with the ideosyncratic parts of the company, like the calculator and instrument divisions. The crash of 2000 and the rise of Fiorina just put the coda on the long, sad song, whose motif had been set long before.


#8

Your historical "facts" are a bit off. HP did indeed switch to Unix but using a standard processor (the MC68xxx series). Examples include the HP 9000/3xx (1985) series the Integral PC (1985) etc. All these run HP-UX. So the 9000 family included Unix machines. PA-RISC came later (first on the 800 series in 86 and then the 3000 series and a couple of years later on the 700 series).

Your use of "doing away" as applied to the calculator and instrument divisions is misleading and partially wrong. The intrument division was spun off as Agilent. HP may spin off the printer division, would you use the term "doing away" for that too?

**vp


#9

I guess "doing away" is too harsh a word for one of the two divisions I listed. It certainly applies to the calculator division, though. And spinning of Agilent was part of the process of turning away from individualistic and expensive systems to standardized, homogenized and profitable PC clones. Since that's a sweeping generalization, it's bound to be unfair to some large fraction of today's HP, but I don't think it's far off the mark on the large scale. It's absolutely true when you look at their organization in the 1980s compared even to the mid 1990's. They were quite decentralized back in the day, with divisions doing their own R&D and marketing. Interestingly, that was also a problem at IBM in the late 1980s, according to Gerstner's "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance?"

You're right that HP-UX was available on the 9000 series. I installed it on a series 300 machine right after they came out with the version that ran there. But HP-UX wan't new on that platform either. It started on the HP 1000(?) series. And it was also available on the "Integral PC," which was 68K based. However it didn't really fly until HP bought out Apollo, integrated their technology and sold it to that customer base in addition to their existing customers. The Apollos were 68K based too, IRC. They gradually converged all their workstations onto a PA-RISC platform. At the same time, their RISC servers were scoring major successes.

So HP was relevant in the Unix market all through the late 90s boom. They were hurt by the failure of Itanium, their joint project with Intel. They still have a share of the Unix market. but that market is sinking fast due to Linux. So HP is doing Linux and selling Intel and AMD based servers to businesses. With Compaq's share, they are probably leading the server market now.

Their hardware is very nice, and soulless to a fault.

#10

Hi Howard,

your somewhat sad recollection of the good times where these things were "lovingly crafted" really hits a weak spot of mine and nearly made me weep. I remember one guy from Maroc or Tunesia (yeah !) who told me that chips are like babies, they must be made with love, and risen carefully. He was a chip designer like me, in the old company, which I left after the '2000 crash had turned things into a nightmare, and when management cockroaches of Fiorina type had risen. The best chip designers of my country anyhow have left for the USA or for China/Asia, as to avoid socialistic taxation, so these imports from Maroc/Tunesia or other suppressed countries are Europe's last hope. I have worked with Bulgarians, Russians, Polish, Rumanians, all of the brightest of their nations, but this guy (from North Africa !) was the first one who was able to express what really makes a good chip.

What we witness now is the decline of our beloved technology, a decline that is caused by management cockroaches, which pretend to work for the shareholder value, and in the end, we all will lose, including the shareholders, which will lose their investments.

The only way out is a disease which weeds out the cockroaches, but sorry, I am chip designer, not genetic engineer, so I can't come up with the solution.

best regards,
Bernhard


#11

I view the transition from art, to science, to pure commerce as an inevitable progression. I don't think that our experience is unique in human history. I think that Christian monks, whose devotional duty it was to illuminate manuscripts would have been horrified by a paperback book. But the paperback (some would say the handbill) is the ultimate evolution of the printing press, whose invention changed the world by liberating knowledge from those very same cloisters. I think master watchmakers must have been horrified to see the dominance of cheap, mass produced watches. yet these brought timekeeping to a much broader section of humanity.

There's a difference in the two examples. In the first the master craftsmen never saw the complete evolution of their art into commodity. But the young watchmaker of 1920 could well have lived to see plastic LCD watches given away as advertising in the 1980s. And for us, the compression of time from high art to crass commercialization is even more apparent.

Commercialization is the process whereby useful ideas get distributed to the greatest number. That the beauty of the artifacts that embody the ideas is diminished, that they seem cheapened as much by standardization for mass taste as by the reduction in price is just part of the process. So the artful soul in an age of rapid change has to stay two steps ahead of the full development of commercial interest. Sometimes that's not possible, sometimes it is. You win a few and lose a few.

Also, remember that the these crass machines being sold by Dell, HP Lenovo and others are unbelievably powerful. I can not only examine the inner workings of the calculators I love in a simulation layer, I can do so through four or more such layers (Linux->VMWare->WinXP->EMU48->HP41X!) and it still runs three times faster than the original! That kind of power promises more artistic acheivement by the generations coming up behind, and maybe for some of us fogeys, too. 8)


#12

Dear Howard,

your enthusiasm for these recent developments and the transformation processes in the industry is understandable, these new products indeed have tremendous power and still are cheap, but there are some evil by-effects of the transformation everyone should be aware of:

What I meant with the term "management cockroaches" is the type of management which destroys the unique culture, values and spirit of a company for a short - term profit.

Like the insect bearing the same name, they are quick, clever and once they got a foothold, they multiply until the place smells and living (or working) there gets unbearable. Of course all I have posted on this topic is allegoristic and to be interpreted as such.

In a real company infested by them you could only smell the fear of the employees. The situation gets worser and worser, so many key people who over decades have built the company opt to leave. Those who stay stop to lovingly craft their products, they just put them together under ever increasing time pressure. Products start to lack signs of the individuality that in the good old times was associated with the company, or even worse, products get too many annoying flaws. Once old customers find out, they will more and more refuse to buy these new products.

The irony is that all this act of destruction actually may increase revenues and profits, as new customers, who previously were unable to afford the brand, are attracted by the new, lower cost products. As they have never owned the older, quality products, they have no chance to compare, and so it is likely they even think the shoddy disposables they have just bought are of high quality, as they look, owing to clever industrial design, more valuable than they really are.

This lack of opportunity for comparision and the inability of human perception to make absolute measurements without having a standard to compare with is the key why this evil scheme works.

It is evil because in the end, a once reputable company, which had quality, lovingly crafted products of real value, and was a good place to work because spirit and morale was high, has been turned in just another sweatshop churning out cheap mee-too products with low profit margins.

On the long run, they will never be able to compete with Asian sweatshops even if they use them as their manufacturing backend, because those do also have local, and hence, much cheaper management, design and development.

When these far east competitors have learnt to make their own products and how to sell them on the world market, the once reputable company which once had had elitarian products will have lost the ability to compete and will go under. They simply can't go back and start making elitarian products again. They have lost the key people, the know-how, the spirit, and the old customer base who
was willing to buy expensive products. The damage caused by the management cockroaches can't be undone. The only way then is to close down the company, and maybe sell off the brand name and other assets. Most likely, the buyers will be Asian companies.

At this point the shareholders will have lost all of their money.

Ah, yes, I forgot the management cockroaches. Quick and clever as they are, they will leave the company and move on to the next company to infest and destruct. Optimum timing, leaving at the zenith of their "success", guarantees a heartly welcome there.

So far the tale of the cockroaches. The foul fruits of their work are evident everywhere, ruined companies with demoralized workforce, shoddy products with lots of flaws that make using them a pain,
or stealing a lot of time to find out how to dodge the flaws, which at normal hourly rates would cost more than buying a elitarian product, which however isn't available anymore, except at Ebay or flea markets, and overall, a decline of the industrial basis and a rise of unemployment and social unrest.

Some people call this "progress". Unfortunately, it is a process that can't be stopped. The industrialized era will soon come to an end, with natural ressources depleted, all of them turned into a flood of shoddy products that are made in such a way that there is no hope to repair them or recover useful parts. Living in the post-industrialized era will be no fun indeed.


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