Richard Nelson on the Demise of Interex

It is with sadness that I announce the Termination of yet another HP User Group. Interex was founded by a small group of users that included life long friend Doug Mecham some 31 years ago. I am especially sensitive to this because there were a number of us that started HP user groups in the 70’s and we often discussed the relationship of the user to the manufacturer. At one time we actually had a Council of HP User Groups. See the Interex web site for as long as it exists. Down load any history you wish before it is gone:  [Note: Sorry. Too late. It's gone already. -jkh]

Interex doesn’t fade into the sunset giving unemployment notice to all its employees yesterday, 7/15, because this dedicated HP Computer Users group clung to the HP3000 system that caused its founding. No, Interex has kept up with all of HP’s computer systems.

I was especially impressed a couple of years ago when I read about an Interex conference. Typical of these affairs there is a Conference dinner. This conference was in Europe with 10,000 people sitting down to dinner on a Saturday night. That is a major conference.

Interex is not giving up because of finances, management, user support, or any of the “usual” reasons. Interex died because of a philosophical viewpoint that has been discussed many times by users. Should a User’s Group be supported by the Users or the Manufacturer? If there is a single reason for the demise of Interex it is HP. Simply put HP could not tolerate the Interex success at making their HP systems hum and purr efficiently for the User’s needs instead of HP’s marketing needs. In effect, Interex was too successful and HP was jealous.

You will probably be reading all kinds of articles on this topic in the weeks and months to come. I was “there” on day one and I was “there” at the end. In the history of human kind there have been very few User’s Groups that the manufacturer controls that truly serve the needs of the user. I have always believed in a good honest working relationship between the manufacturer and the Users with common goals, open sharing, and mutual recognition of the needs of the customer/user.

In the Interex situation the users were too organized and too productive. HP designed and built one of the most effective business computer systems ever made. Instead of seeing that as an accomplishment the “modern” business types needed more. They needed more power, more profit, and more control. They needed to have their own Conferences and thus began a behind the scenes effort to undermine the Interex Conferences. Interex depended on the revenues of their conferences to sustain them and HP went straight to the conference jugular for the kill.

HP is struggling as a giant corporation trying to sustain growth and its good name. The business types may believe that they must control everything to be successful but who ever said that business must be void of human compassion? It seems, however, that too many businesses want to remove the human element - except for dealing in the emotions and passion of the customer to part with their money.

I suppose it is normal for any corporation to do what it can to discourage any group that hinders what it thinks is its freedom to carry on its business. The issue that is all too often forgotten is the objective. The manufacturer and the User have the same objective. To produce the most effective tool possible and to make it as efficient as possible to get the job done. The challenge is to mutually recognize that the goals are linked and that each needs the other to exist. When this is forgotten there is conflict and power struggles - and both lose.

The last three decades have produced many challenges working with HP. On the calculator side I can report that all is well and the future looks great. I wish I could say the same on the computer side. The next decade will probably complete the story for both. Let’s hope that the leaders on our side of the computational product spectrum are more level headed and will continue to work together to make the best tools possible. Things are now changing more rapidly but I personally am very optimistic about the future.

Technology has a strange way of going forward because of people, and it is also people who must adjust to their own creations. Are we up to it? Time will tell, but at the moment we have some sad news. Perhaps the more personal nature of our products will give us the “edge” that we need to carry on.

There is also news about HP reducing its employees with cutbacks. Will this affect the calculator group? Probably not much at all because they already operate using a modern business model that other groups at HP have not yet adjusted to.

I hope I will see you in September at HHC 2005 in Chicago where we will go forward, discuss our accomplishments, and share our dreams for the future - hand in hand with HP.

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