Not every news story involves things that are, well, new -- or necessarily very well known. Over the summer, Computerworld reported on a series of developments involving a 37-year-old operating system: OpenVMS.
Originally introduced as VAX/VMS in October 1977 by the erstwhile Digital Equipment Corp., OpenVMS is largely invisible in a world dominated by Windows, Linux, cloud-based systems and Unix, but it runs critical systems and is widely extolled for its reliability and functionality. OpenVMS fell into the hands of Hewlett-Packard in 2002, when HP acquired Compaq, which had acquired DEC in 1998.
Last year, it looked as though the end was nigh for the venerable operating system, because HP let it be known that it would not validate OpenVMS to its latest hardware or produce new versions of it. But in late July of this year, the operating system got a new lease on life when HP licensed OpenVMS to a new company, VSI, that plans to develop ports to the latest Itanium chips and is promising eventual support for x86 processors.
The reversal came shortly after a French OpenVMS user group called HP-Interex France posted an "open letter" to HP CEO Meg Whitman that told of the important role the operating system plays in running French transportation systems, health services and even nuclear power plants.
While fans may have applauded HP's change of heart, the cartoon in the September issue of our digital magazine pointed out that finding people to keep OpenVMS systems running might prove to be a challenge.