The Web in 1994

This is just wonderful — a DEC promo video from 1994 about this amazing world wide web thingy. How things change. DEC (the acronynm stood for Digital Equipment Corporation) was once a powerful minicomputer company whose founder, Ken Olsen, was contemptuous of personal computers. (“There is no reason”, he said, “for any individual to have a computer in his home.”)

You can guess what happened. DEC faltered, then began to fail as the bottom dropped out of the minicomputer market, and was gobbled up by Compaq, which in turn was taken over by HP. And now the only people who remember the mighty Digital Equipment Corporation are ageing hippies like me!

The DEC VAX range of computers was the mainstay of most university computing and engineering schools, and BSD Unix was developed on them. When my department finally decommissioned ours, the SysAdmin put in in the foyer with a sign saying: “Excellent, fast games machine: free to a good home. Comes with £35,000 annual maintenance contract.”

Although most university VAXes ran under Unix, DEC’s commercial customers generally ran the company’s own proprietary operating system, VMS. When Microsoft decided to try and create an industry-strength version on Windows, they hired Dave Cutler and many of his colleagues on the team that wrote VMS. The result of their labours was Windows NT.