I’m off this week, and while loafing around the house I took an hour or so to search the web about Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a former employer. That was a mistake, because it got me thinking about my past. This was fun for a while, and then it got sobering.
I worked for DEC from February 1978 until August 1996. During the glory years (before 1986) it was an adventure. We were on a world-changing mission. The code I wrote would live on and the work I did was so cool. Working for DEC was like working for Microsoft in the ’90s or ’00s, except that nobody hated your company. It was like working for Google except that nobody thought you were evil. It was like working for Amazon but pretty much everyone loved working there and it seemed like the world rooted for you to succeed. Most of all, everything we did clicked. There were some bad decisions, but the company always recovered and went on to greater glory.
I wrote CPU microcode for the VAX-11/750 and VAX 8600, worked on some cancelled projects that nobody will ever know about (ECL microprocessors, large ECL mainframes, a new RISC architecture), and my last project was working on Windows NT at DECwest. In its day the VAX 8600 micropipeline was the coolest thing since sliced bread. How many people today know or care about it? Zip.