20 Comments

Hi Ned, great story! Brings back memories. Sorry about your bonus but I am sure money wasn't the reason you stuck around at DEC. I know it wasn't for me..

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Raj! How the hell are you, man? It has been some time. You are right about the money, DEC was a special thing looking back, we were well paid for sure but the thing that people were passionate about was always the engineering. Hope the 25 or whatever years since we last talked were good ones!

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As a 25-year veteran in Tech, I found that retelling of your experience to be extremely insightful and personally/professionally helpful. Thank you for sharing that. Puts the mindset and gratitude back into perspective.

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Apr 26, 2021Liked by Mad Ned

Wow, a story about Digital without a guy named Steve in it? That's a first for me, although the multiple Mikes do make sense.

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Haha yes! I did not mention them, but rest assured there were multiple Steves in this product group! (I did not mention my boss was also a Mike, too.)

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Apr 19, 2021Liked by Mad Ned

Thanks for a great read!

Paraphrasing the last paragraph, I won't count on the fact the next one should also be great though, so thank you right now for this moment I've just experienced reading it :)

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Apr 18, 2021Liked by Mad Ned

Wow am barely 5 years in my tech job here in Kenya and your story has really inspired me.

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Apr 18, 2021Liked by Mad Ned

Great story. I had similar experiences as an electrical engineer early in my career. Management ideas that sounded silly then and ridiculous now.

I used your DEC Alpha machines later in my career when I moved into software. Great machines. I even went out to your benchmark center in Mass to test out new machines. Still have a T-shirt from the place. It was a shock to see DEC disintegrate the way it did.

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Thank you Ned for reminiscing your time at DEC. I worked briefly on VMS porting Samba, CIFS file server at HP and met a few engineers from DEC. I have very high respect for DEC engineering.

In my career, I have enjoyed more when there was no financial motive attached. I have seen the worst in people and teams come out when they compete against each other. I have the same feeling towards promotions tied to performance. People tend to pick work that gives them the best shot at promotion rather than something they enjoy and good for the company in the long run.

I wonder if it is possible to create a different reward system where people are encouraged to help each other than individual heroics.

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Apr 17, 2021Liked by Mad Ned

Trivial typo:

"DEC would be sold off to it’s competitors" ->

"DEC would be sold off to its competitors"

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fixed, thanks (and thanks for reading). I always blow the it's/its thing.

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what a great story! as a DEC engineering alum, i agree that the satisfaction of designing and delivering a product far out-shadowed the money

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Hi From the UK - Mad Ned (aka?)

This is TC Dexodus committee member and editor of the Newslink Quarterly e-mag that goes to the 1000 or so Dexodus members here. Can I include your great tale (or link to) in a future Newslink?

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Hi TC,

Very happy to hear from you, sure I would be very interested in sharing this story with your readers. It is absolutely OK to repost a link to it, including an excerpt if you like. I would welcome being able to reach your readers.

If you wish to reprint the story in your publication outside of substack, that may also be possible, provided it is kept in original form and you add a byline/link. If you want to discuss that option feel free to contact me at: madned@madned.com

Ned Utzig (aka Mad Ned)

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Hi Ned, That's great thank you. Most likely will be an extract with credit/link. Will send you a copy when I get it sorted in the next few days. Will be in touch. Cheers TC (as in Top Cat, but Tony Corbin)

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I started my freshman year at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ in August 1983 and Stevens gained widespread recognition as the first college in the country (maybe the world) to require all incoming freshman to own a computer. The computer that the administration chose was the DEC PC 350.

It was a solidly built and well designed computer with two 5.25" double-sided floppy drives in the space that one normally occupied and it had the world's first hard drive in a personal computer. DEC had not managed to get a floppy version of Fortran 77 ready in time for the rollout so they gave us all 10 MB hard drives with every student promising not to hand it over to the competition and to give it back. Ultimately, we all got to keep the hard drives at no cost (hey the PC cost over $3,300 without the hard drive!).

The only downside was that it ran its own proprietary operating system and DEC was the only company supplying applications that would run on the PC. Contrast this with MS-DOS and the 2,0000 companies making software for that platform and it spelled the demise of the computer at Stevens. Stevens switched to IBM compatibles after I graduated.

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Interesting, thanks for sharing. I had a friend who was a top student in high school, and RPI offered him an IBM PC if he enrolled as a perk. It was the debut year for the PC, so a pretty attractive lure for an aspiring CS major. (he did take the offer)

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Amusing read. Learnt a lot about company cultures.

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I really enjoyed the story, but the photo of the scope with digital logic breakout doesn’t do justice to how much harder it was for you to diagnose things in 1996.

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Former Digital Equipment Corp employee here (round about the same time). I left because of this. Financials as bonuses were doing better things thank 25k bonuses. So I went there (it didnt pan out as well as expected), and learned that DEC in this group that you refer to are well on your way to seeing it for what it is. Signal Processing. I thank you and wish there were more of us around, but I see us again in the same as way as it has been suppressed to be.

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