Thursday 30 December 2021

Computers I Have Known - Part 4

For the final instalment of my Computers I Have Known series, a fun distraction from the 2021 dumpster fire, I present my first ever "work computer", the Hewlett-Packard PA-RISC 9000. I was working as a software engineer at a division of Hewlett Packard's network test organisation, writing C code to be executed on test equipment.

This was truly a "tool" of a machine - totally locked down via the Common User Environment, and with very little horsepower onboard beyond what was needed to bring up XWindows, my 21" screen typically consisted of myriad XTerm windows running Telnet sessions into gcc and/or vim on various servers and target boxes.

It was that anonymous that I don't even know what model it was, nor how much RAM or disk capacity it had. But some Googling makes me think it was probably a Series 700 model, most likely a 712:

This is pretty-much exactly how mine looked (even the 4033A monitor designation rings a bell) - we'd sit them vertically for the simple reason that they looked less obviously-PC-like, and thus weirder, and thus cooler...

I'm shocked now reading how much these things cost - $USD8000 or so in 1994 dollars is a lot - but I guess being in a division of Hewlett Packard we'd have been getting them essentially free.

Alongside this workstation, my desk at the time would have had a black HP 14" (Omnibook?) Windows 2000 laptop, with a wired 10/100 Ethernet card sitting in its PCMCIA slot. The laptop would also have been tightly locked-down with a common operating environment and would really only be used for email, web browsing and opening Office documents. I would suspend the PC at the end of each day by shutting its lid, but the HP-UX box would stay permanently powered-on; it took *forever* to boot up.

[HP 46011A keyboard image from]

I still recall being weirdly fond and proud of this machine, with its odd not-quite-a-PC keyboard and enormous (for the time) screen. Having come straight from a UNIX-heavy computer science/engineering university course, it was awesome to actually have my own UNIX workstation, and I customised whatever I was able to in terms of window management and the shell startup files to optimise it to my tastes.

It was no SGI Indy but it was mine, it didn't cost me anything, and it allowed me to earn income converting coffee into code. So it was cool.

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