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DEC: Sic transit gloria mundi

I haven't given much thought to DEC/Digital ever since I had interviewed with the company back in 1990s (no, didn't get the job); then a brief schadenfreude moment  in 1998 when I've learned the company was sold to Compaq (which, incidentally, I was consulting for at the time), and then once more - when a (t)rusty VAX/VMS system was migrated to Solaris in yet another company I used to work for..

Until an article has been brought recently to my attention that summarizes the company's path in a single page, with a few links to DEC PDP manuals (hosted, ironically, by Microsoft research) as well as where more comprehensive information can be found. The company had pioneered many a breakthrough in technology before fading into oblivion during what was arguably the golden age of the Internet - roaring 90s...

Historians have been pondering on what makes for a long-lived organization - be it a business entity, political or religious one - since the beginning of the time, always armed with 20/20 hindsight vision. Yet the formula remains elusive.

What was it: close-mindedness? laurel-resting or "too-busy-sawing" syndromes? ossified management? all of the above?

Victot Hugo is often quoted about power of "the idea whose time has come"; is there a penalty exacted for the ideas that were ahead of their times? Like Digg (a more dramatic fall than even Friendster or MySpace) who pioneered most of the Facebook concepts - the latter has valuation upward of 100 billions while the former was just recently sold for $500K (likely just a tad above costs of its office furniture and computers)...

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  1. Just another example of good business trumping “good ideas”, or even “great ideas”. iPhone is not that much better than any other competing product, maybe not better at all. It’s Apple’s Sales and Marketing that should take all the credit.

  2. Well, I’ll have to agree with you on this 🙁
    after much of research my son picked up an Apple laptop (MacAir) for his college despite all my arguments about “overpriced closed system”; he told me that he’s quite content with it being a “golden cage” because it is so friendly and intuitive that he does not even care that he won’t be able to play games. Then he added “Steve Jobs is a genius!”; I took an umbrage at this, and forwarded him my earlier post (
    No, he was not aware of anything even remotely negative being connected with Steve Jobs’ image…

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