HP will stop selling its e3000 midrange server on Friday, the company has confirmed.

"The systems were introduced in 1972 and for many customers they've run out of gas as processing needs have changed," said an HP spokesman. "HP has made the decision to move to industry standard computing platforms," he added.

During the heyday of the minicomputer in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the e3000 - previously called the HP3000 - competed with IBM's iSeries and DEC's VAX minicomputers.

Originally designed to serve information to dumb terminals, minicomputers were smaller than mainframes and intended to be easier to use. As the capabilities of the systems evolved, they came to be called midrange servers.

The e3000's on-line transaction processing capabilities, and ease of use, helped it catch on in the travel and catalog sales industries but like the other minicomputers, it was supplanted by Unix systems by the early 1990s, according to Gilles Schipper, a 25-year e3000 user who works as an independent IT consultant in Thornhill, Ontario.

"It engendered a very close-knit community. The system was very popular, it was easy to develop, it was easy to manage and operate," he said.

With the retirement of the e3000, IBM's iSeries computer is the last remaining major system of this type still being sold. Formerly called the AS/400, the iSeries has about 300,000 users, according to IBM.

IBM has committed US$500 million to developing the iSeries over the next two years, an IBM spokeswoman said.

Customers will be able to buy processor upgrades, software upgrades and peripherals for the e3000 until October 2004, the HP spokesman said. Technical support will be available until the end of 2006, after which HP will continue to offer Web-based support, the spokesman added.