Digital Equipment Corporation

What Does Digital Equipment Corporation Mean?

Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC (pronounced “deck”), was a computer company headquartered in Maynard, Massachusetts. It was best known for its minicomputers, especially its PDP and VAX lines. The company was founded in 1957 and was very successful through the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, but DEC was slow to respond to the personal computer revolution.


Many people still in the industry got their start with DEC systems in the ’60s through the ’90s. A number of operating systems, including Linux and Windows, are influenced by DEC operating systems as well.

Techopedia Explains Digital Equipment Corporation

Digital Equipment Corporation was founded in 1957 and focused on building minicomputers, which were smaller and less powerful than mainframe computers, but much cheaper.

DEC’s minicomputers, including the PDP and VAX ranges, were popular in scientific/engineering applications, CAD and factory automation from the ’60s through the ’80s.

The Unix operating system was created by Dennis Ritchie and Ken Thompson on a PDP-7 computer at Bell Labs. Another major operating system, VMS, was also created for the VAX line.

While DEC was very successful, it struggled to cope with the popularity of personal computers in the 1980s. DEC attempted to market a line of PCs, the Rainbow, but ultimately failed to catch up to IBM and the various clone machines. The company tried to compete with a series of high-powered 64-bit workstations built on its own Alpha architecture in the ’90s, but it was too little, too late.

Digital was acquired by Compaq in 1998, and Compaq was acquired by HP in 2002. Even though the Digital brand name has disappeared, DEC’s influence is still felt in the industry. The x86 instruction set was inspired by the PDP-11, and MS-DOS and CP/M were patterned after DEC operating systems. Microsoft also hired Dave Cutler, one of the principal architects of VMS, to develop Windows NT. Modern versions of Windows thus have some DEC influence as well, not to mention modern Unix versions such as Linux and the BSDs.


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Margaret Rouse
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Margaret is an award-winning technical writer and teacher known for her ability to explain complex technical subjects to a non-technical business audience. Over the past twenty years, her IT definitions have been published by Que in an encyclopedia of technology terms and cited in articles by the New York Times, Time Magazine, USA Today, ZDNet, PC Magazine, and Discovery Magazine. She joined Techopedia in 2011. Margaret's idea of a fun day is helping IT and business professionals learn to speak each other’s highly specialized languages.