Mainframes Dinosaurs and Pickup Trucks

By Graham Atherton
Last updated: 18.10.2016
migration legacy systems

Mainframe – HPI core systems

The HPI check first came to the market in 1938, providing a very basic vehicle check, this was enhanced with police stolen data and eventually accident data from the major insurance companies, but essentially, for the first 60 years there was little change to the company or the products on offer.

All this changed when HPI was bought by the credit reference company Equifax with the advent of the on-line HPI check in 1999, an IBM mainframe based system that was state of the art and designed to be efficient and flexible for future development. It was a time when most major companies, be it financial, manufacturing or retail were investing heavily in the development of large mainframe systems to process large amounts of data, it was very much the technology of the day.

17 years on, the company of HPI has gone through much change in personnel and ownership but the original mainframe system is still in place, servicing a very different market place and sitting in a very different technology landscape.



During the 17 years of changing ownership, HPI has remained very much its own company, new products were introduced, some successful, some not so, new websites appeared and the customer facing experience changed with the every changing modern IT world, but the backend mainframe systems where the raw vehicle data is received, validated and stored has remained pretty much unchanged because ‘it works’.

In 2015 the HPI world changed dramatically as our parent company, Solera, bought one of our close business partners CAP, the vehicle valuation company, based just down the road in Leeds.  Although different products and technology platforms, our customer base is very similar within the motor industry.

Now is the time for the company to become one, sharing technologies, products and customers.

Dinosaur  - Me

I entered the word of IT in 1981 working on an ICL mainframe, 35 years on I still work in IT and my life has taken many twists and turns, marriage, children, four permanent jobs, numerous contracts working on IBM mainframe systems for a wide selection of companies in the financial, retail and insurance industries.

I spent over 20 years working as a contractor, and 35 years on my mainframe skills remain as strong as ever in a very different market place and sitting in a very different technology landscape.

I was a contractor at Equifax in the late 90s and worked on the development of the current HPI mainframe systems, have worked for HPI since 2005 supporting and developing the mainframe systems and in March 2016 I was part of the HPI move to cap hpi in Leeds.

cap hpi is a very forward thinking company so now is the time for me to become part of the cap hpi technology family and learn some new skills.

cap hpi is now all about agile development, "a set of principles for software development in which requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organizing, cross-functional teams. It promotes adaptive planning, evolutionary development, early delivery, and continuous improvement, and it encourages rapid and flexible response to change".

This I’m sure will provide an exciting challenge, and give me an opportunity to enter the modern world of IT.

Pickup Truck – The Mitsubish L200

I bought my first car 35 years ago, a 1971 blue Ford Escort that cost me £600. One of the tyres exploded within a week of buying it, there was a hole in the passenger foot well and the gear stick had a habit of coming away in my hand when I changed gear, it was the proverbial old banger, but it was all I could afford and to me it was the best car in the world because it was mine and it did exactly what I wanted it to do.

I have now owned a total of 13 cars, ranging from that clapped out old Ford escort to sensible run-arounds, to flash sports cars, to the boring old family estate car. All were bought at a time in my life where I had differing priorities,  as I saw it all were appropriate, worked for me and were and suitable to my personal lifestyle at that particular time.

12 years ago, I got married, that unfortunately saw the end of the sports cars, and the advent of the sensible run around. Two years later we had a son called Sam, the sensible run around was no longer practical so along came the estate car, this seemed destined to be the car of future for our needs. Sam grew up very quickly, he is a keen sportsman and really enjoys our outdoor lifestyle and particular our regular camping trips.

Camping trips are great... until it rains and in England that is more than a remote possibility so we decided to venture further afield and head to France, more equipment needed, a son growing up so more sports equipment needed, I am a keen cyclist so bikes are now required, the Mazda estate that seemed perfect for the job suddenly wasn’t up to the job and a re-think was needed.

We also had another addition to the family, Roxy the family dog who likes nothing better than a trip to the woods and finding the wettest and muddiest bit of ground she can find, great until it’s time to jump back into the car!

Hence my current car the Mitsubishi L200 pickup truck, we don’t take the kitchen sink camping but if required then we could certainly squeeze it in somewhere, the perfect vehicle our current family needs. I get to take my bike, my son gets to take whatever he wants, and my wife gets to take all the non-essential camping luxuries, and most important of all Roxy gets to run around in the mud without the worry of how to get her home without trashing the car.


a bit of analogy over the last 30 years of myself, the IT industry, the changing trends of owning a motor vehicle and how the need to change is very much driven not just by current trends, but also the needs of the future. Sometimes you have something that works but there may just be a better solution around the corner. I am still working in IT within  the motor industry so all in some way relevant to how I got to this point in both my life and my career.

I enjoy working in IT and I love my pickup truck, so hopefully not too much change there in the short term, but cap hpi are now a very forward thinking company, venturing into international markets with a need to fully integrate their IT systems, the mainframe’s days are very much numbered and ahead lies an interesting journey into the modern world of IT, not just for myself but also for cap hpi.