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DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation Hardcover – June, 2003
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Top Customer Reviews
Schein looks at DEC's failure through the lens of its corporate culture, and how it prohibited their executives from making the decisions, and taking the actions necessary to survive. Fans of Ed Schein will know his famous "Three Cultures of Management" paper, in which he describes the "Executive", "Line Manager" and "Engineering" cultures, all of which must exist and be balanced against one another for an organization to survive. Schein argues that DEC was dominated by the engineering culture, which valued innovation and "elegant" design, over profits and operational efficiency. This engineering culture dominated even the top levels of DEC, where proposals to build PCs out of off the shelf parts that were readily available in the marketplace, were shot down because the machines were thought to be junk compared to the ones DEC could build themselves.Read more ›
I used DEC equipment during its heyday from the late 1970's throughout the 1980s. What I value most is how the technical experiences I recall from that time were given depth. The author's narrative binds together a collection of internal memos and personal recollections of many of those who were working at DEC when many of its fateful decisions were made. In general, responsibility for the ultimate failure of DEC to survive as a company is laid with the senior management, in particular with CEO Ken Olsen. The same attributes that made DEC great and innovative were the ones that lead to its downfall. Alas, DEC is not dead but lives on in all the innovations it introduced.
I would like liked to have seen some more details on the technical innovations and more exposure to the myths and legends that many of us were weaned on. But that was not the main thesis of the book so it's not a deficiency per se.
Though written in a straightforward and matter of fact way with little flourish, I was engrossed and quickly polished it off. This book needed to be written.
Aside from the odd omissions by the author (DEC's PDP10/20 large scale computers are barely mentioned) and no mention of VMS on the VAX this is a great book and research resource on DEC. As for why the VMS on Intel was torpedoed it's not clear but Ken may have gotten the blame for what others did. Certainly it was a disruptive technology that would have killed off most of DEC's computer lines fairly quickly. But DEC could have supplanted MS!
DEC pioneered a lot of things that have led to the cloud computing today.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
For those of you who are trying to weigh in on the DEC legacy, when you refer to DEC and networking, it is DECnet...not DECNET. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sam Adams
Interesting read, you gain understanding of Dec, which leaves you asking questions and searching for answers.Published 12 months ago by Jeanne Colling
As a 17 year veteran of digital equipment corporation, I enjoy reliving our perennial discussions (arguments). I wonder at the ability of Ken Olsen to inspire by empowerment. Read morePublished on October 18, 2013 by Amazon Customer
Got some insights into the surprisingly sudden (from the outside) flameout of DEC and why they made some of the most visibly cringeworthy decisions in the late 80s. Read morePublished on October 4, 2013 by Art Yerkes
An interesting and fascinating story of Amercan tech busness success and it's unraveling in the face of an established company culture and a very fast-changing industry.Published on August 31, 2013 by Kirby Wohlander
This is basically one long "I Love You" note to Ken Olson. There are little to no details on what DEC actually produced, just how great their management team was. Read morePublished on October 5, 2010 by Randal Rioux
We hear a lot about "knowledge workers" and innovation. So how does one run an innovative business based on knowledge workers? Read morePublished on May 30, 2008 by Dion Dock