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It all began with an idea: A young engineer from the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology had seen the novel computer Whirlwind, that worked in a way which was fundamentally different to the common Eniac computer generation at the Lincoln Laboratory.
While ENIAC computers used batch processing, the new computer implemented the idea of interactive computing.
At first sight he recognized the advantages of the new form of computer interaction and the possibilities that existed for even inexperienced computer users. The name of this man was Ken Olsen. His aim was to build an all-purpose interactive computer for all purposes.
In August 1957, he founded a small company with three collaborators. He named the new company Digital Equipment Corporation. This name was chosen to obscure his real intention. The big and well-established enterprises like IBM should think that DEC just builds auxillary devices.
Three years later, in 1960, Digital presented the first commercial, interactive, mini-omputer. This was the first PDP system (Programmable Data Processor). It used a word length of 18 bits, at a cost of approx. US$ 120,000. Only 53 units were sold.
The start of mass-produced mini computers represened the next milestone. In 1965, Digital presented this first mass produced PDP, the PDP-8. It was sensationally cheap and costed only US$ 18,000.
Successors of this hit series were the PDP 8I (1967, the first computer featuring TTL ICs), PDP 8L (1968, low cost version), PDP 8e (1970, the first computer with a bus system), later, the PDP 8a and DEC Mate Systems were produced.
An overview in chronological order
- In the German city of Munich the first European Digital branch office opened. The first minicomputer of the world, the 12-bit computer, PDP-5 was announced.
- The first Digital shares are sold.
- Digital has 50 branches in 11 countries worldwide. The number of employees increases up to 2,600.
- Bell Laboratories invents the first version of the famous operating system UNIX on a PDP-7 mini computer.
- Digital introduces the first 16 bit computer: PDP-11/20. This is the very first model from the mini computer series which gets the most successful computer of the world.
- DECsystem-10, the first time sharing system.
- The sales volume increases up to 188 million US$, the number of employees increases to 7,800.
- Digital invents the first microprocessor of the world, MPS. Digital sells the 30,000th computer system.
- PDP-11/70, a new model in the PDP-11 series. Digital develops DNA, the Digital Network Architecture.
- The sales volumes exceeds one billion US$. The number of employees increases up to 36,000. Digital presents VAX-11/780, the first computer from the VAX series.
- Digital delivers the 100,000th computer.