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Digital Equipment

(Digital Equipment Corporation, Maynard, MA, www.digital.com) The first minicomputer company. Commonly known as DEC or Digital, it was founded in 1957 by Kenneth Olsen, who headed the company until he retired in 1992. Now merged into HP, because Compaq acquired Digital in 1998, and HP acquired Compaq in 2002, Digital pioneered the minicomputer industry with its PDP series. Digital's PDP-1 sold for USD $120,000, an incredibly low price for the times. Digital, HP, Data General, Wang and others created the minicomputer industry, which offered the first "small" computers to the world.

Its early success came from the scientific, process control and academic communities; however, after the VAX was announced in 1977, Digital gained a strong foothold in commercial data processing. The VAX evolved into a complete line from desktop to mainframe, using the same VMS operating system in all models and causing Digital to achieve substantial growth in the 1980s.

Over the years, Digital was widely recognized for its high quality. Its strategy for the 1990s was to embrace open systems with its powerful, RISC-based Alpha architecture introduced in 1992. In addition, Digital had a large services business that provided full project life cycle support from installation to maintenance for Digital and non-Digital products.

In 1997, Digital sold its semiconductor manufacturing facilities to Intel, which continued to make the Alpha chip until 2007. See minicomputer.




Kenneth H. Olsen
Olsen pioneered the minicomputer industry with his PDP computer series. He ran Digital for 35 years until his retirement in 1992. (Image courtesy of Digital Equipment Corporation.)






The First "Mini" Computer
This PDP-1 was Digital's first computer, which was a breakthrough in 1959. Digital spearheaded the minicomputer industry with its PDP series. (Image courtesy of Digital Equipment Corporation.)






minicomputer

(1) A computer with a small form factor. See mini PC.

(2) An earlier medium-scale, centralized computer that functioned as a multiuser system for up to several hundred users. The minicomputer industry was launched in 1959 after Digital Equipment Corporation introduced its PDP-1 for USD $120,000, an unheard-of low price for a computer in those days. Subsequently, a variety of minicomputer systems became available from HP, Data General, Wang, Tandem, Datapoint, Prime Computer, Varian Data and Scientific Data Systems. The single user mini evolved into a centralized system with dumb terminals for departmental use.

During the 1980s and early 1990s, most centralized minicomputers migrated from their dumb terminal architecture into servers for PC networks. The terms "midrange computer" and "server" replaced the venerable minicomputer designation.

High-end, single-user workstations, typically used for computer-aided design (CAD), were also called minicomputers. See midrange computer and mini PC.




Minicomputer System
The minicomputer was a centralized computer that served from a handful to several hundred "dumb" terminals.






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