Digital Equipment Corporation (known to employees and customers as DEC) was founded by electronics engineer Ken Olsen in 1957 in Maynard, Massachusetts. The name was later shortened to Digital and the distinctive lower case logo was adopted. Digital developed the PDP and VAX range of computers, the Alpha microprocessor and later the Alta Vista search engine. Digital developed a reputation for technological brilliance and humanistic employment policies. Digital became one of the worlds leading computer companies, 2nd after IBM in the 1980's. Employee numbers grew from 3 in 1957 to a peak of 126,000.


In January 1998 Compaq Computer Corporation (the world's largest PC maker in 2000) announced the acquisition of Digital Equipment Corporation. Compaq¹s strategy was to migrate to a more profitable market using Digital's established services and sophisticated high-end hardware expertise.

In 1971 Digital Equipment Corporation opened its first manufacturing facility in Europe. Galway was chosen as the location and Digital opened on the site presently occupied by Nortel (Northern Telecom) in the Mervue Industrial Estate. It was a Hardware Assembly and Distribution facility. The first shipment that was assembled at the plant in Galway was a PDP-11/20 computer system. In the early years Digital recruited significant numbers of personnel from 2nd level schools and had comprehensive in-house training programmes in place. This emphasis on training was subsequently to play a part in the impact that ex-Digital personnel had on other engineering based companies in Ireland and particularly in the western region. The business continued to expand and plans were advanced for a new Hardware manufacturing site in Ballybrit and a Software assembly and distribution centre in the Mervue Industrial Estate. Employee numbers increased to 500 by 1973, 1,000 by 1977 and 1,100 by 1981 and remained close to this level until 1993. In 1993 the phasing out of the Digital Hardware manufacturing operation in Galway was announced. However, Digital's European Software Centre was unaffected.

The European Software Centre (ESC) is located in Ballybrit Business Park in Galway. The ESC is a complex organisation and integrates several aspects of Compaq's Software business. Its activities include software research and development, software supply and publishing, product and service marketing, customised software services, multi-lingual tele-marketing, and a technical support centre.

The ESC also hosts Compaq's Corporate High Performance Technical Computing Group (HPTC), which is responsible for designing Supercomputer Software that has played an important role in such areas as the Human Genome Research Programme. They are also responsible for building the world's largest supercomputer for the U.S Department of State.

Digital was set up in 1957, and by 1960 the PDP-1, the world's first small interactive mini-computer was delivered. For the next 12 years Digital made inroads in the development of computer technology by releasing advanced versions of the PDP until the most popular of these, the PDP 11 was released in 1972. The PDP 11 /45 provided extended memory and hardware floating point operations. The new machine was 10 inches tall, half the size of the original mock-up.

In October 1977, the first member of the VAX computer family, the VAX 11/780 was introduced. The VAX represented the virtual address extensions of the PDP 11 system's 16 bit architecture to a 32 bit architecture. By October 1989 the VAX 9000 mainframe was introduced. It incorporated numerous technological advances, including high-density ECL macrocells, multichip module packaging, and heavily macropipelined architecture. The VAX 9000 was Digital's last system not based on microprocessor technology.

In February 1992, Digital marked a new milestone with the announcement of ALPHA, its program for 21st century computing and a new, open, 64 bit RISC architecture. The first Alpha chip was the 21064, which provides record setting 200 MHz performance. In June 1992, the VAX 7000, Digital's most powerful VAX system, was introduced. It was field-upgradeable to the Alpha 64 bit Processor. The Alpha's popularity went from strength to strength and by 1994 the OSF/1 version 3.0 shipped with symmetric multiprocessing support and the first wave of cluster capability. The Alpha 21164 processor provided peak processing power of more than one billion instructions per second. The chip was the industry's first to operate at 300 MHz. In 1995 when Digital introduced the Alpha server 8400, supporting up to twelve 21164 processors and 14 gigabytes of memory, the 8400 created breakthroughs in large database performance. In 1998 the powerful combination of Digital and Compaq enabled Compaq to compete as a main player in the Supercomputer arena.

At Compaq¹s European Software Centre in Galway the High Performance Technical Computing Group plays a key role and is responsible for the design of the Alpha Server SC series of supercomputers. This system is built from commodity off-the-shelf components connected together with an ultra-low-latency, high-bandwidth interconnect. The first release, introduced in July 2000, enables customers to connect up to 128 AlphaServer ES40 nodes (each containing four 667MHz Alpha processors) into a single system. This delivers a total compute power of almost 0.7 TeraFlops. These systems are targeted at the high-end of the computing market, enabling scientists to solve large-scale problems in such areas as genetics, weather forecasting and crash simulation.

AlphaServer SC systems have been installed at many leading US scientific labs as well as at the Commissarie Energie d'Atomique in France. Engineers from the Galway team have spent significant time onsite at each of these labs. The HPTC group in Galway has also worked very closely with Celera Genomics, who have acknowledged the crucial role played by the AlphaServer systems in the race to sequence the Human Genome. The US National Science Foundation in 2000 granted a $45m award to Compaq and the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Centre to build a 6 TeraFlop (6 trillion calculations per second) system based on the AlphaServer SC design. This system will comprise 2,728 Alpha processors and will be delivered in 2001. It will be the world's largest non-military supercomputer, and will be used by researchers studying subjects such as biophysics, astrophysics, materials science and global climate change.

Compaq's engineering team in Galway will continue to enhance the capabilities of the AlphaServer SC series. The US Department of Energy, as part of its Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI) program, announced in August 2000 that it has awarded Compaq the contract to build what will be the worlds largest ever supercomputer, delivering 30 TeraFlops of processing power in 2002 .

The Galway Technology Centre was established in the Mervue Industrial Estate in 1994 by the Galway Task Force, which was set up following the downsizing by Digital. The centre was expanded in the following years and by 2000 had capacity for new technology companies employing 180 people. By that stage 15 companies had moved on to their own premises.

Ex Digital personnel have played a significant role in other engineering based companies either as senior managers or company founders. Of particular importance has been the number of company start-ups by personnel who left Digital at the time of the downsizing in 1993, some of which have been very successful.

Founded in 1993. Software company. 30 Employees. Purchased in 2000 by PMC Sierra.

Founded in 1995. Software company. 28 Employees.

Founded in 1994. Software company. 25 Employees.

Founded in 1994. Remanufacturing of computer systems. 60 Employees. Operates in Ireland and Holland.

Founded in 1994. Supplier to electronics and healthcare industry. 25 Employees.

Founded in 1994. Delivers outsourcing solutions for OEMs. 5,000 Employees worldwide; 1000 in Ireland. Operations in 6 countries.
In addition to the above companies and other companies formed by ex Digital personnel others have subsequently become senior managers in a number of multinational firms in the region.