[TUHS] PDP-11 questions

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Mon Jan 25 04:30:37 AEST 2016

    >> It seems though that there should have been a PDP-11 based desktop

    > Because DEC were a bunch of losers.

OK, that was kind of harsh. (Trying to send email too fast...) DEC had a lot
of really brilliant people, and they produced some awesome machines.

But when it comes to desktops, I think there is a certain amount of
bottom-line truth in that assessment: there was a huge market there
(obviously), and DEC should have been in a pretty good place to capture it,
but it completely failed to do so.

Why not? I put it down to corporate cultural intertia - ironically, the same
thing that allowed DEC to eat so much of IBM's lunch.

Just as IBM took way too long to understand that there was a very large
ecological niche for smaller machines _with customers who didn't want or need
the whole IBM hand-holding routine_, DEC never (or, at least, until way too
late to catch the wave) could change their mentality from producing really,
really well built computers for people who were all technical, to commodity
computers which needed to be made as absolutely cheaply as possible, and for
people who were non-technical.

The company as a whole just couldn't change its mindset that radically, that
quickly. (And a lot of the blame for that has to go to Ken Olsen, of course.
He just didn't grok how the world was changing.)

    > There's some DEC history book which talks about DEC's multiple failures
    > (on a variety of platforms, not just PDP-11 based ones) to get into the
    > desktop market, if the title comes to me, I'll post it.

The best one on this topis, probably, is "Ultimate Entrepreneur", by Glenn
Rifkin and George Harrar, which gives a lot of detail on DEC's attempts to
build personal computers; also good is "DEC is Dead, Long Live DEC", by Edgar


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