Not many changes were made initially to the series 3000 series II. It came with the standard 128 KB memory system and an expandable 512 KB, as well as 50 MB on the External drive, which was as big as a refrigerator. The 7970 external tape drive was used by small businesses to store 50MB of data and would cost about $12,000 back in 1978.
The terminal was a version 2640 which was later used by many models of the HP 300 as the 264X. It supported upto 32 terminals and ran an MPE version II. This was the new generation of computers and would forever change the computing world. The hard drive, in particular, had more memory than any computer on the market and allowed users to save significant amounts of data.
Each platter in the 7920 external drive held 50MB of data and you could swap it out with multiple partitions. It allowed for up to seven drives which allowed for 512 MB or half a GB. In 1978 this was unheard of. Data transfer speed was almost 1MB per second and was essentially used for storing database records and employee records.
The style of the terminal (264X Model) looked like a toaster oven and was rectangular in style. It allowed for 25 lines of text to be displayed on the screen and a total of 80 characters. The aspect ratio was low with a 4:3 and only used black and white color. The CRT monitor was one of the most successful in the history of HP and was later adapted to include color.
Plans to improve the monitor were at the top of the list for HP. Rendering characters to appear faster and increasing a number of pixels were proving to be tough. By increasing the character cell size they found that the could double the resolution horizontally making the matrix 15×9 which allowed for nearly double the amount of text to be displayed on the screen. This resulted in a very easy to read display screen, with no scan lines.
The built-in keyword had flat keys and as many people know most keywords now have indented tops which allow you to type better. The keyboard featured 3 areas:
- Cursor positioning and (F1 – F10)
A big thick cable connected the keyboard to the computer similar to a printer cable. Although it was gigantic and to many people today would be unusable after using the keyboard you’re used to. Back then it was loved by everyone that tried it. It has keys for everything you needed to do. It was the first keyboard to come out with F1 – F10 functions that allowed users to create templates and adjust screen resolution and audio.
In later years the TI graphing calculators would adopt the design of this keyboard and even today many of the calculators resemble this model.
The HP 3000 was the first personal computer developed by HP in an attempt at making computers more available to the average everyday person. The idea was conceived in 1969 and designed in 1972 but it wasn’t released until 1973.
Since the beginning, each new model of the HP 3000 has had an increase in memory, more computing power, more software and more disc space. The system was written in the C programming language still and Pascal. The cabinet size has shrunk down from a large desk to a small table to finally a small server that’s the size of a shoe box.
When it was first released, it was a disaster and was withdrawn from the market in only 3 months. Making it very rare to see an original HP 3000 and recently one sold on eBay for over 4 million dollars. The original plans by HP were to make the 3000 run a 32-bit operating system, but they opted for the more cost-effective 16-bit. This proved to be a horrible idea as they would soon have to upgrade to 32-bit to keep up with the competition.
Project Alpha – The HP 3000 is Delivered (1972)
November 1, 1972 was a happy day for many people. It was the release date and the HP 3000 and it proved to be a total failure. It crashed every 10-15 minutes and supported only two users. Customers were promised 64 terminals, only to find out after spending $10,000 that they only had two terminals.
This release of the HP 3000 bought the first negative publicity to HP since it’s inception. Users were so so frustrated that they demanded a refund and after a few short months HP withdrew the HP 3000.
Further Setbacks for the HP 3000 (1973)
For the first time in the company’s long history, Hewlett-Packard was getting negative publicity because of the HP 3000. There was a time when many thought they would never recover from the embarrassment.
Many of the users who purchased the HP 3000 received the 2000 for free and got a refund on there initial order, until the HP 3000 was improved. HP decided to put all of it’s effort into making the 3000 the best computer in the world.
HP cut the budgets of all publicity and instead hired engineers to fix the bugs and improve the new model. Engineers worked tirelessly to improve the software and managed to go from 42 crashes in one day down to two crashed. There was a memory size of 96 KB was very low and only capable of storing text files.
By Spring of 1973 the HP3000 had nearly 5 years of development time poured into it and almost nothing to show. It cost HP over $20 million and the projection for the release date was still unknown.
The Digital Age is Here – Hp 3000 2.0 – CX (1974)
For 12 months the engineering team worked to improve the Hp3000 and finally came out with the CX Version. Earlier models were called Series I. The main memory of the CX was improved. The hardware team returned to the original idea of using system bus architecture, which allowed for faster loading time and less crashed.
The new and improved operating system – the MPE-c was updated to compete with IBM. It was the first COBAL compiler on any computer and was used by the DOD for the military. Bill Hewlett did not want to use COBAL on the HP3000 because it was a move to show that they wanted to compete with IBM. It was at this time that people realized that HP was the new player on the street in the computer game
Bill Hewlett had no idea that what he did with the HP 3000 was going to change the world forever. By making a computer that was powerful and affordbale to small business owners, the digital age was here. HP became the biggest name in the computer industry along with Apple and IBM. The HP3000 was such a hit that the computer world was changed for ever.