[an error occurred while processing this directive]


DEC: /dek/ /n./ Commonly used abbreviation for Digital Equipment Corporation, now deprecated by DEC itself in favor of "Digital". Before the killer micro revolution of the late 1980s, hackerdom was closely symbiotic with DEC's pioneering timesharing machines. The first of the group of cultures described by this lexicon nucleated around the PDP-1 (see TMRC). Subsequently, the PDP-6, PDP-10, PDP-20, PDP-11 and VAX were all foci of large and important hackerdoms, and DEC machines long dominated the ARPANET and Internet machine population. DEC was the technological leader of the minicomputer era (roughly 1967 to 1987), but its failure to embrace microcomputers and Unix early cost it heavily in profits and prestige after silicon got cheap. Nevertheless, the microprocessor design tradition owes a heavy debt to the PDP-11 instruction set, and every one of the major general-purpose microcomputer OSs so far (CP/M, MS-DOS, Unix, OS/2, Windows NT) was either genetically descended from a DEC OS, or incubated on DEC hardware, or both. Accordingly, DEC is still regarded with a certain wry affection even among many hackers too young to have grown up on DEC machines. The contrast with IBM is instructive.

[1996 update: DEC has gradually been reclaiming some of its old reputation among techies in the last five years. The success of the Alpha, an innovatively-designed and very high-performance killer micro, has helped a lot. So has DEC's newfound receptiveness to Unix and open systems in general. --ESR]

Return to Cool Jargon of the Day