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
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.