Digital Equipment Corporation – DEC (1980)

Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), American manufacturer that created a new line of low cost computers, known as minicomputers, especially for use in laboratories and research institutions. Founded in 1957, the company employed more than 120,000 people worldwide at its peak in 1990 and earned more than $14 billion in revenue. It was bought by Compaq Computer Corporation in 1998. DEC was a leading vendor of computing systems, including computers, software, and peripherals. Their PDP and successor VAX products were the most successful of all minicomputers in terms of sales. From 1957 until 1992, DEC's headquarters were located in a former wool mill in Maynard, Massachusetts (since renamed Clock Tower Place, and now home to many companies). DEC was acquired in June 1998 by Compaq, which subsequently merged with Hewlett-Packard (HP) in May 2002. Some parts of DEC, notably the compiler business and the Hudson, Massachusetts facility, were sold to Intel. Initially focusing on the small end of the computer market allowed DEC to grow without its potential competitors making serious efforts to compete with them. Their PDP series of machines became popular in the 1960s, especially the PDP-8, widely considered to be the first successful minicomputer. Looking to simplify and update their line, DEC replaced most of their smaller machines with the PDP-11 in 1970, eventually selling over 600,000 units and cementing DEC's position in the industry.

"We bought our second computer in late 1970. It came equipped with a monitor, a printer, and four cabinets for the processor. It was a big machine and occupied a lot of space. Also, the instructions we received weren’t enough to figure all settings and commands of the machine. The price was very expensive. We paid $100,000 for the computer. The DEC did a very good job with accounting. The statements were prepared exactly the way accountants like to see them. Income tax software was not so easy. Income tax is a long and complicated process. However, the DEC machine was a very helpful on guidance as the proper handling of income and expense items come from the law or code, revenue rulings, court cases, exceptions written into the code and the intent of congress. In addition, many items are calculated on a schedule and the answer brought forward to the face of the return.
Over time, we learned how to figure out the mistakes the software was making and how to fix it, but we would never use an update to the software because it could generate a big problem. Even today, I don’t like updates even to my iPad. Printing was also a problem. The IRS wants us to use their form and format, and fill in the box. I remember printing out 30 feet of schedule c, original and two carbon copies, taking out the carbon paper and re-assembling the tax return. Another approach was to print the return on plain paper, take an overlay of the tax form for that page, carefully line up overlay and the printed tax return and copy (Xerox then) the form. Printers could handle these problems but they were too expensive. Today’s computers and software prints the form with the calculated numbers in the box. Magic."
- Gerald Dix