[rescue] DEC KA730, was Re: Electronics Recycling Day

Carl R. Friend crfriend at rcn.com
Sun Dec 6 17:06:59 CST 2009

    On Sun, 6 Dec 2009, gsm at mendelson.com wrote:

> Following my own post......................
> http://www.vax.com.au/products/product_ultrixxtt.html
> :-(

    Don't be so hard on yourself, sir.  Quite honestly, DEC "had
it coming".  They blew so many chances, and blew them so far,
wide, and handsome, that I don't believe they had it in them
to survive.  In retrospect, it's a pity that a once-great
company suffered for as long as it did before packing it in.

    DEC produced some spectacular machines -- machines that inspired
an entire generation of proper hackers -- and they're due credit
for doing so.  They just couldn't keep it up.

    The "elder lines" of iron "had it coming", even in the early '80s;
there was just no mistaking that wider address buses were required for
applications that would be coming in the next few years even when
one discounts "bloat".  The last gasp with the -10 points that up
rather handily; sometimes it's just "time".

    The tragedy, I think, lay with the decision to "bet the company"
the way that IBM did with the 360 in the VAX line.  The VAX wasn't
enough of a performer -- especially to those who were used to the
snappy response time of the -10s -- to really make a name for itself
in its early years, and that caused huge and immediate grief.  DEC
did dig itself out of that hole with Alpha, but that -- alas -- was
way too late to stop the inevitable slide towards oblivion.

    Note in this that I'm not slagging off on the VAX.  I'd not do
that any more than I'd slag off on the -11.  It's just that with
the technology available at the time, there weren't enough memory
cycles, nor I/O, to actually make the thing seem as fast as its
forebears.  DEC (like everybody else in the game at the time, I'll
add) was simply to arrogant to realise that the then-upstart
microcomputers were going to eat their lunch.

    So, from the historian's perspective:  Tragic?  Yes.  Sad?  Yes.
Forseeeable?  Yes, in retrospect.  Cause to forget the companies in
question?  Absoltely not.  Likewise the systems they built.  In
history, you see, lies the future: nobody's paying attention.

    I find humour in knowing that the VAX line lives on -- at least in
a disconnected name -- and that a (misspelled version of) Ultrix does
as well.  I suspect there may be a computer hobbyist in the employ of
the VAX company today.  After all, "Nothing sucks like a VAX."  :-)


| Carl Richard Friend (UNIX Sysadmin)            | West Boylston       |
| Minicomputer Collector / Enthusiast            | Massachusetts, USA  |
| mailto:crfriend at rcn.com                        +---------------------+
| http://users.rcn.com/crfriend/museum           | ICBM: 42:22N 71:47W |

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