Artifact Details


DEC and PCs: A Perspective

Catalog Number



Moving Image


This video records a discussion about Digital equipment Corporation (DEC)’s Personal Computer (PC) business in the early 1980s. The three discussants are Avram Miller, Barry James Folsom and Gordon Bell.

During the event two videos are shown. The first, entitled “Personal Challenge,” was recorded by Marc Porat (later of General Magic) and follows some of they contributors to DEC’s PC effort and interviews them for their perspectives.

The video begins with NCC (National Computer Conference) footage then recounts DEC’s founding in 1957 by Ken Olsen and others; how the PDP-1 was DEC’s first computer; the PDP-6, its first timesharing computer. “Now,” the film states, DEC has 70,000 employees in 39 countries. In spite of DEC’s leadership (it was by its 25th anniversary in 1982 the world’s 2nd largest computer company), it had no PC to offer the marketplace. So three groups were started at DEC. Avram Miller, who is leading gut e CT (“Pro”) group, is given particular emphasis. At another NCC conference, four new DEC PCs are shown and are ‘the hit of the show.

The second video is called “Personal Computers: Friend or Foe?” by Barry James Folsom.

Folsom asks, “Why are we in this business?” Why is IBM so successful? Why was DEC so unsuccessful? IBM realized PC is a new business. Folsom then contrasts John Opel (IBM), Ken Oslen (DEC) with Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple), Mitch Kapor (Lotus) and concludes that younger PC people are putting their energy into the PC ecosystem. The old model of computing was complex and large now it was simple and small. A big problem is DEC’s “image.” IBM is seen as solid and safe but not a technical leader, while the DEC image is of a scientific and technical market leader, with high quality engineering; but not seen as a business computer manufacturer.

Please note that the audio quality is not always perfect due to the condition of the tape.




Bell, Gordon C., Speaker
Folsom, Barry James, Speaker
Miller, Avram, Speaker


Sun Microsystems

Place of Publication








Copyright Holder

Sun Microsystems


Digital Equipment Corporation--History

Series Title

Bay Area Computer History Perspectives