Our Digital Stories
Reminiscences about what it was like to work at Digital - unique or typical moments, funny stories, lessons from Ken.  Send yours to webmaster@decconnection.org.

Marilyn Goodrich

DECconnection founding director

Deceased, 2 March 2023

There are many interesting happenings in the life of an event planner. A particular one involved a near disaster with Bill Gates and his introduction to Digital of his Microsoft Word. Back in the '80s, Microsoft was arranging "relationships" with companies that began using his popular software. This event happened in Rochester, NY. All the DEC sales reps in that area were gathered in the Eastman Kodak convention hall for the announcement. This was my event, and I didn't want anything to go wrong. Meeting Bill Gates and assisting him with his presentation was a big deal for DEC. All the large screens were placed on the stage. Bill Gates was going to install and demonstrate the software. The electrical system was set up so that each screen would activate with the push of ONLY ONE BUTTON. I had checked the system many times and all worked well. It was my practice to have a spare electrical system set up just in case the system failed. I advanced to the stage with Bill Gates, introduced him and I gave the sign to start the computers. WELL, I gave the signal and the system didn't work. I glanced at my power person, gave him a thumbs up and he immediately pushed the button that activated the spare power unit. The computers started and the program continued flawlessly. I nearly had a heart attack on that one.

Pete Durant

DECconnection member

In 1967 I’d been managing a memory test group at Honeywell when some DEC people I knew recommended I interview there. I set it up and set off to the Mill at Maynard to interview.

I had a nice, but short, chat with the manager of the new PDP-11 development group, and then he said “They tell me you’re a good memory guy, so why don’t you spend this time to pick out all the test equipment you will need for the work, and when do you think you could start”?

Does the style sound familiar? Only at DEC!!

I spent 23 satisfying years there, until the special early retirement program in 1999, which my wife and I both took after we both worked the last 5 years in England.

Sandy Mackenzie, U.K.

June 2022

Working in U.K. to set up Reading museum exhibits

I met Ken Olsen in Geneva on my New Hire Induction training.
We had just started the course with a very pompous French instructor. He introduced himself as "my name is Monsieur Pompideau and my wife is Madame Pompideau..."
After lunch he was a totally different character. He was a quivering wreck. He said in a stuttering voice, Attention! Attention!
"The President of the company has come into the building and asked if any New Hire sales courses are going on. Can you believe that? I cannot understand that he has asked such a thing. Why would he want to so such a thing?"
Ken came in minutes later and made us all so welcome. Lovely big smile. Warm blue eyes, and such a soothing voice. Funny too.
He said the main thing as salesmen, is to be honest with your customers, and if in doubt do what is right. Any problems with company rules, politics, and they are many etc. Do that.
If you can't resolve the issue tell them to get in touch with me. You have my permission.
That motivated me tremendously, and I used to tell my customers that story.
Anyway, I am glad his philosophy and values are still shared between us old Decmates.
My duration at Digital was 1987 until 10 years later, with the Compaq takeover.

Sandy Mackenzie, sandyhuntermackenzie@gmail.com

Michael Bujnowski, NH

DECconnection member

The day I saved the Mill. I have been wanting to tell this true story for some time now. So before I forget, here it is:
It was a warm sunny day, as best I can remember, sometime in the early 70s. The parking lot at the Maynard mill complex was full and thousands of employees were hard at work. I worked for a unique part of Digital called Computer Special Systems, or CSS. Business was robust, and customers were lining up to have us develop “Special” interfaces between our renowned Digital computers and their unique gizmos. Life was as good as I can remember and so were the Digital years: we always had a good time at Canobie Lake Park, in Salem, NH and enjoyed the free turkeys at Thanksgiving. Okay, back to the story. It was still a warm and sunny day. Half a day had passed. I know because it was time for lunch: something I always looked forward to.
It was quite a distance from building 21-3 to Tobin’s cafeteria in building 5-5, but worth the walk. Made me feel I did my exercise for the day. This was the time when smoking was prevalent, and pigeons flew in and out the mill windows at will. As I made my way to the café, I can remember how many people I passed that day smoking a cigarette, cigar, or a cherry red pipe. Do you see where this is going?
After lunch, I returned to the lab where I was debugging one of those gizmos in my early engineering days. As I entered the lab, I detected a unique odor which can only be described as a burnt and still smoldering smell. I hastily made my way through the lab to discover the culprit. It was a Flip Chip M115 module gone astray. I powered down the equipment, extracted the module and whisked it away. Any longer and I am sure it would have burst into flames and the consequences could have been devastating.
I am thankful to this day (as I am sure you are) that I passed that day on staying in the café for dessert. And so ends my story “The day I saved the Mill”.  All the very best to my Digital friends, Michael Bujnowski.  mbujnowski@comcast.net

Lawrence Mello, FL

DECconnection member

Larry Mello's confession: While working in Educational Services at Parker Street, I had to go to The Mill for technical information. Being my first time at The Mill, I had to ask for directions at various points. To me, I was going through a maze. After finishing my business, I tried finding my way back. However, being frustrated and too embarrassed to ask for any more help, I kept trying. I finally got to a room with windows overlooking the parking lot near the river. There, I saw my car and thought, I found a shortcut until someone said, “That door is alarmed, it’s an emergency exit.” My response was, “I’ll be at Parker Street before Security gets here.” And with the alarm sounding, I hustled out to my car and was gone before anyone else poked their head out the door.

Sue Lawrence-Longo, MA

DECconnection member

Sue Lawrence-Longo’s confession: I once tried to remove Ken Olsen from the Hudson semiconductor facility. Yup, not my proudest moment. But in my defense, he didn’t look like a corporate executive, and I had never seen him in person. So here’s what happened:
In the early 1980’s, I was the “tour lady” providing tours of the Hudson semiconductor facility to customers, prospects, partners, etc. One afternoon I had just led a tour group into the basement of the facility when I noticed a gentleman in a wrinkled suit standing off to the corner. Due to the chemicals stored there, the basement was off limits to all but those who had prior approval to enter. When I asked the gentleman if he had permission to be there, he simply smiled and showed me his DEC badge. I stammered something like, ”Well I guess you do...” and quickly (translation: I shoved) my tour group back up the stairs and out of the building.
Certain I was going to be fired, I dragged myself to the manager’s office (Dick Plutnicki) and confessed my faux pas. I’m pretty sure Dick didn’t blink for several minutes while he digested my “I just tried to kick Ken Olsen out of the building!” hysterics. And I’m pretty sure I held my breath during his contemplation period. Finally Dick said he thought Ken would appreciate that I took facility safety seriously ... but then warned me to please not ever do that again. I went on to enjoy a 20-year career at DEC, seeing Ken several times during my various marketing activities. Each time I wondered if he remembered me. But I certainly wasn’t going to ask!


David Mark, Maynard historian David gave a lecture on Digital on June 14, 2021 at the Maynard Public Library and on Zoom.  Almost 200 ex-DECcies listened in, and several shared DEC stories in this CHAT file

Here is a link to David's lecture on YouTube.

Jackie Kahle

DECconnection member

Click on link below to see Jackie's fascinating history with Admiral Grace Hopper

Grace Hopper, Digital Equipment Corporation, and Me

By Jackie Kahle  jrtkahle@comcast.net

October 21, 2018

Jack Mileski Stow MA DECconnection member

I visited Australia a number of times during my DEC career. On one visit, after an 18 month visit to them before, I was on a 48 hour trip there. I left Singapore and arrived in Sydney and did my assignment to visit some customers and the local office.

On arrival at the airport to go back to the US, I was in line to board my flight when two somber policemen pulled me out of line and took me to a long corridor to a darkened room. It was like a typical B-Movie investigation room with a stool I was put on, a small desk, and several chairs (all that was missing was the spotlight in my face).

Then, without telling me why, they started to ask me a bunch of questions:

1.)    What is your name?

2.)    Did you ever have another name?

3.)    Why are you in Australia?

4.)    Where do you live?

5.)    What was your birth-date?

6.)    Where were you born?

7.)    Who were your parents? What were their names?

8.)    Where were they born?

9.)    What was your mother’s maiden name?

10.)  Where did you go to school?

11.)  Where have you lived in any other place? Where and When?

12.)  Who do you work for?

13.)  Who else did you work for and when?

Meanwhile, during these questions, one of these two left the room (I suspect they were checking on my answers?).

Finally, when I was about to miss the last flight out of the day, I asked why they were asking me all these questions?

The answer came with another question? “What were you doing in Australia for the past 18 months”?

I told them I was in Australia for less than 48 hours.

They then re-checked my passport and discovered that they misread it in the first place.

They apologized, and thank God, I was able to catch my flight back to the US!

And that was before 9/11.  Otherwise, I might be in prison in Australia today!

Jack Mileski Stow MA DECconnection member

In the late ‘80s I had a trip to Australia to go to a DECUS meeting. One of the things that they had was a field trip to a deep space tracking center in the Outback where they had all VAX computers. There were two buses on this trip and the corridors of the center could only hold so many people (approx. 20 or so). So the rest of us were outside waiting our turn. Meanwhile, I saw a kangaroo jump from a ditch. I never saw a live kangaroo before. I couldn’t see over the ditch and I had my camera ready. So I stood on a mound about three feet in height to see if I could see into the ditch. I was on that mound for a long period of time. I colleague of mine told me that I was on top of a giant ant hill. My entire body was covered in ants. I never in my entire life saw an anthill that high! I had no idea if they were poisonous or not? I remember a movie that I once saw as a kid of the attack of the giant ants. Since there were no women around, I took off all my clothes and tried to shake out all the ants. When I got to my hotel, I couldn’t sleep all night. Whenever there was some semblance of an inch, I jumped out of bed to look for ants. I do hope you don’t ever experience this at all!

John A. Spadafore, LaconiaNH

603.630.3652 (Cell)

I started Digital in the spring of 1980 and got my foot in the door working Security. The first time I met Ken Olson was manning the HLO2 lobby, and my boss happen to be standing behind me when Ken walked through the door. I immediately recognized him, stood up and ask to see his badge. I thought my boos was going have a seizure!! Ken flipped his badge over and I said, “ thank you Ken!” Again, my boss almost had a second seizure, I mean, I addressed him by his first name!!!! For a moment, Ken just stood there and then stepped up to the counter, each out his hand and said, “what is your name sir?” So, I looked at my badge and replied,” when Ken, the badge says John Spadafore, so that must be me!” Right about that time I thought I would heat a thump behind me from my bosses body hitting the floor passed out! Then Ken said to me, “Spadafore, I know a John Spadafore who owns an oil company, is this a relative?”   "It is my dad, Ken, unfortunately, he passed away five years ago and would surely have been proud that I am now employed by you and your company." Ken and I spoke about my day for a bit and told me how he met him and was glad that I was part of the team.

From that day on, whenever Ken would come to Hudson, I would always say hello, and would always have a smile a mile long and always wished me luck with work. I moved from Security to Datacom and while working in Datacom, I was injured by a maintenance cart be driven down the hall by the HLO1 computer room. Sent me to the hospital in an ambulance and was out of work for 8 weeks. When I finally returned, I received a phone call from Ken's administrator and asked if I could come to Ken's office for a meeting. When I got there, Ken and I sat for about an hour and a half and asked me what had happened. After our meeting, Ken said to me, “John, if you need anything, pleased do not hesitate to email or call me.” Talk about a smile ear to ear, he was so sincere and genuine, I wish my dad was alive to hear the story!

Ken, like so many others, you gave us a career and a working family that has never been matched by any other company! Digital was a job with family, I would wake in the morning and couldn’t wait to go to work, it was that much pleasure. As stated many time by others, “Digital years were the best working years of my life, and I truly miss the company and the people that Hudson Semi-Conductor employed.” God Bless you Ken, and thank you for the memories…     John.A.Spadafore@des.nh.gov

Robert (Bob) Flemings


Silly story but last gig before hanging it up was with HP Enterprise Services; first day got checked in, sent for badge photo and walked out with a number that looked so familiar; my DEC badge number from 18 years before. Also gave me hundreds of hrs vacation time; realized their mistake and next check said 2 weeks, oh well, "Thanks for the Memories".   raflemings@gmail.com
Jack Mileski Stow MA DECconnection member

When I joined DEC in 1974 all the bathrooms had wood stalls on which there was a lot of graffiti (virtually all of it is no repeatable in public). However the one that struck me was:

 Someday I’m going to own this place. (signed) Ken Olsen

Bob Nusbaum,

Yarmouth Port, MA

DECconnection member

In 1996 I traveled to Warsaw, Poland to address a meeting of the Polish chapter of DECUS, which by then encompassed users of both legitimately purchased and smuggled / knock-off DEC computers. 

After my talk, I chatted with one enthusiastic customer who told me that he had "thousands of WAX systems".  Figuring that the "W" I heard in "WAX" was just an artifact of differing phonetics in Polish vs. English, I asked "Do you mean VAX?". 

"No", he replied.  "I mean WAX - W-A-X.  That is the name of the VAX clones that were used everywhere in Russia, Poland, and the other countries where DEC was not allowed to sell during the Cold War!  They run VMS perfectly right out of the box."

P.S. - A shout-out to Jack Mileski, my first boss at DEC, who hired me fresh out of business school to product manage and bring to market an ease-of-use software package for the ill-fated PDT-11 desktop line.  The PDTs didn't survive DEC politics, but the Forms Management System (FMS) that we built for them did quite well!

         Bob Nusbaum, bob_nusbaum@comcast.net

John Holz

DECconnection member

Jack...saw your note below about dealing with the Russians. Reminded me of a couple of more stories: Lee Dickey (World Support FS) went to Russia to fix a PDP8. When he was done, the Russians asked if he'd look at some other computers. Lee found he was looking at a room of knock-off 11/45s.

When we built the 782, one got ordered and it ended up in Sweden. The Swedes were suspicious about where it was going so the opened up the boxes. When they found the 782, they removed the hardware and filled the boxes with bricks. They then sent the shipment on.

Lastly, there was a big engineering manager's meeting around 1975 at Phillips Exeter. Ken was asked why we don't deal with the Russians. He answered that "communists were boring".


Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member



The Story behind this Russian DEC manual: What was an enemy a few weeks before became a very friendly visit!

Very shortly after the Berlin wall fell, about 12 Product line members (including myself) visited Leipzig Germany in East Germany to visit with the foremost Soviet Bloc Computer Engineering Center there. This center was the epicenter of virtually all Soviet bloc hardware and software. Most of the equipment there was DEC equipment (many were smuggled - which, at the time, caused a great deal of difficulty to DEC with the US Govt. on how this stuff was smuggled behind the Iron Curtain). The Soviet Union extensively used DEC designed equipment throughout the Cold War - including their nuclear facilities (they may still be using it today) Given that the Soviet Union was now dissolving, the hundreds of these HW/SW engineers were very anxious to display their knowledge of DEC equipment in order to get jobs with DEC. Therefore they were very accommodating to us. They showed us the smuggled equipment, the many, many reversed engineered PDPs, VAXs, even copies of the DEC100 and other peripheral equipment (they smuggled some but reversed engineered them all). When they manufactured the resulting HW/SW products, the East Germans re-wrote the manuals in Russian. Hence, this is one copy they handed to me. Since it was only a very short time when the Wall came down there was basically no infrastructure. The phone didn't work and those that had to make calls had to drive about 40 miles to Dresden (where there was still heaps of debris and blackened buildings from the fire storm that the late WWII bombing did to Dresden). No way do I ever want to go to a Communist country!

John A. Spadafore

Laconia NH

I started working at Digital in 1980 at the Hudson Mass Facility,HL01. Security was my way in and spent a couple of years in this position. One of the notable highlights of this job was meeting Ken Olson at the front desk and asking him for his badge. I thought my manager was going to come un-glued at my request. Course, Ken being the gentleman he was, gladly showed his badge and complemented me a job well done!
After hearing who this gentleman was, I was impressed that he could be a such a down to earth guy and treating one of his employees as a person who had dealt with many times in the past. I found out how quick one could move through the company with a little drive and help from fellow employees. Moving from security to data com was a great move for me and it didn’t stop there. I eventually found my place working for the CAD group under the supervision of Mike Brophy and manager Victoria Suchocki. What a wonderful group of people and I truly can say I LOVED going to work!!

In 1997 when Digital finally came to an end, I moved on with the Alpha Development Group for Compaq then HD and right back to Hudson HLO2 for Intel. After just under thirty years, Intel offered many of us the retirement package and I left. Thank you Ken Olsen for a career and the honor of being part of the Digital Family. No other company can ever compare to Digital Equipment Corporation and all that it offered. I miss the people, the challenges, and the compassion in those people I worked with who put their heart into a work place that meant so much to them personally. I look back to those years and cherish all the memories and the friends who I still have today and realize my life changed because of Ken Olsen and his company.

Karen Hamilton

DECconnection member


Many years ago, before we had answering machines or voicemail, I came into work on a Tuesday to hear my phone ringing. I answered the call from a co-worker in Geneva who said he’d tried to reach me the day before. I didn’t answer so he phoned my boss’s number. When he didn’t answer my friend called the dept head, and getting worried he phoned Ann (Jenkins) and the Ken. Thinking some disaster might have happened he called the international operator to see why his calls weren’t be answered. She told him “I’m sorry sir, today is Memorial Day – the United States is closed.”   karenhamilton@verizon.net


This is a link to "Old DEC jokes" circulated by the Colorado Springs group based on submission by DEC Connection member Dale Rutschow (R.I.P.)

Newbold Noyes, Maine


This is a follow-up to Newbold's email appearing on our NewsBytes page.

I just received this video link from a DEC producer yesterday, by coincidence.


This was produced by one of our group, Joe Tyburczy, who lives in Lexington MA.  I'm trying to reach him to find out where he got this transferred, and if I can get some of the other work together, I'll have this transferred & put onto YouTube. I'll also contact the camera man I worked with, who may have more material, including some Olsen interviews.
While at DEC I interviewed a few dozen upper management folk, CEOs etc. from other corporations as well as top DEC management. Ken Olsen was the only one who was genuinely puzzled as to why we would want to interview him. His humility was part shyness I think, part worry that he was not as articulate as some of his contemporaries. He was always sitting at his desk, coat and tie on, looking uncomfortable, but I assumed that was because he didn't like being interviewed.
In one of our first interviews the sound man kept hearing a ticking sound which we couldn't track down. At one point Ken got a call which he took in another office, and the sound man approached his chair and found a piece of the material on the chair arm had come loose. He flicked the little flap of material and it made the ticking sound, so he put a small piece of tape over it. Ken came back & we continued. After a few seconds the sound man heard a scrabbling sound as Ken's fingers found the taped-down bit of material wouldn't flick... he looked down at the chair arm and said "what did you guys do here?  fixed my chair?" It was a big old Naugahyde affair, not the leather that most other CEO's & other DEC VPs had, but an old comfortable thing, big enough for a big confident man who did not need fine furniture impress others. When we had to do another interview, we found the flap of material had been worked loose, we taped it down again.
After my last interview with him, I realized we had left a piece of camera gear in his office, so returned and found him pacing around his office, coat off, tie loosened, with our piece of gear in his hands, talking with Win Hindle.  He was dynamic, vigorous, confident, articulate - I realized I had completely blown every interview I had ever done with him - we should have interviewed him standing, anywhere but behind his desk, with no suitcoat on and with some piece of Digital equipment in hand... I mentioned this to his secretary as I left, and she said that she always insisted that he wear his coat and sit at his desk, looking like a CEO should look - "proper & neat" she said. Well he never really looked "proper & neat," he was always a bit rumpled, his mind far beyond well-tailored suits and new leather arm chairs. A genuine is the word that comes to mind - an honest man - a strange combination of other worldly and down-to-earth.

newnoyes@gmail.com, 4 June 2014

Marcia Russell

DECconnection member

Upon learning of the death of Dave Knoll, Marcia wrote: Dave Knoll and Ed Savage where my first bosses. They gave me sooo many opportunities ..sigh I could not have been as successful w/o their undying support. They allowed me to be the intelligent but also goofy person I was... while doing a whole lot of creative it never happened before work I had lotsa fun too. I remember launching a manufacturing Request and Commit tutorial complete with a chick in a bikini that was named Ophelia Forecast. The physical document/manual got lots of attention and well it should because it was the first launch of the beginning of online electronic data processing directly into a computer.   marciarussell@comcast.net

Tom Hayden

DECconnection member

One day in the early 80s I watched the evening news on TV and saw a report of a meeting between H. Ross Perot and the board of General Motors. I believe it was about the time when GM bought Perot's company, Electronic Data Systems. One piece of video showed Perot in a limousine being driven into the underground parking garage at GM headquarters.
Later that same evening, I accompanied my wife on a shopping trip to the Burlington Mall. While waiting for her to come out of a store, I took a seat on a bench in the mall. I looked around and saw - there, among all the other ordinary guys sitting and waiting for (I assume) their mates - Ken Olsen. Such a difference between H. Ross Perot and Ken Olsen!       

DEC/Compaq (1974-2002) Maynard, Marlboro, Spit Brook, Merrimack geezer123v@verizon.net

Lyle Hughes

DECconnection member

HOW MY 36 YEAR DEC CAREER STARTED: I started at DEC in the Mill in 1974, badge #39667. I was hired as a Data Comm. Tech. but my Manager only had a req. for a Logistics administrator, but he said he’d get it changed after I started. I suspect this was so he wouldn’t run afoul of any Field Service job classifications.
I was in a operations group providing computer access to many Engineering and support functions mainly in Maynard ML, PK’s and Marlboro. Our computers, DEC 10’s and 11’s were located in ML5B (below the pond water level). Our clients connected through a myriad of mainly hard wired lines that ran throughout the Mill, and a “high speed” 9600 BPS line to PK and MRO. Originally, if someone needed a line to one of the systems, a work order would be filled out to plant engineering. Weeks later it got installed, (sometimes days if side deals were made at the Pub on Main St.), usually by running another 4 wire phone line from their desk to ML5B, or the nearest phone room for remote users. Repairs usually meant field service would be requested to get involved, Corporate telecomm primarily supported voice. The process and delays were unacceptable for most users and management, which is why I was hired, to facilitate new data comm. orders, installs and maintenance for our group.
My first project was to decipher and map all of the non-telco cabling 25 pair and larger, and punch down blocks in the Mill. You heard right, every building starting with ML 3-5 where our group and our public terminal room was located, down to ML5B. I started with a clip board, voltmeter and map of the mill. Every day I would trace the overhead cable to it’s cut down block, check for voltage or current, count the connections, label it and move to the next one. My neck hurt from always looking up. After 2 months I convinced my boss that the job was bigger than was scoped, (I was still working in building 3) and he allowed me to hire a temp to help out. That project took almost a year to complete, but in the process I learned every nook and cranny of the Mill, and we could then connect a new user in 1 day.
Like computers, network technology quickly became more sophisticated (e.g.DECnet, SNA,IP, Web and wireless) as did my training and skills. By 1979 my team grew to 6 people, I was promoted and we became part of Corporate Telecomm’s new data support function. I went on to work for Compaq, and HP in many Network Consulting and Management roles in services, and in the last 15 years as a Global Service Delivery Manager in HP’s Enterprise Services organization.
In 2010, like many, I was WFR’d , but I am very grateful and proud, to have spent 36 rewarding and memorable years working for DEC, Compaq and HP and the many great people I met, and worked with including my wife. And it all began at ML3-5 in September of 1974.    Lyle Hughes- HughesLT1@yahoo.com

Joseph Nahil

DECconnection member

Ken and I flew in one of the DEC jets to Toronto, Canada, to an industry convention. He was the key note speaker and I was dutifully along to play interference with members of the press. They were never Ken’s favorite people. All the way up, he smiled through his gritted teeth and would always change the subject when it was suggested that he should – at least – look at the script. God forbid! We had a few DEC security
folks with us and when we arrived at the hotel, we were whisked away to a private suite. Security thought it best that Ken relax in the suite, but I decided to go and get the lay of the land. I wandered to the press room and then downstairs to an attached shopping plaza. One of the shops was a fine leather store featuring Canadian leather, and since I needed a new brief case, I went in. and as I was selecting a nice black case, I heard, “ I like the brown one better.” I turned around and it was Ken smiling. I said “What are you doing here.”
He replied, What are YOU doing here?” I bought the brief case and we both went up stairs to find the security guys didn’t know he was gone.          Joe Nahil,

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member


During the blizzard of '78 Gov Dukakis banned the travel of roads in Eastern MA. This went on for a week.
I got cabin fever so I drove to the Mill. The place was totally empty when I was roaming my office in Bldg 5-5.

Who do I run into? It was Ken Olsen!  Did he defy the Gov. ban (like me) or was he there all the time? I never asked him.

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member


In the late 80's I went to DECUS-Australia in Canberra (the Capital). During a mid-week break, some people went skiing and some of us got on a 12 hour round trip to the deep space tracking center in no-man's land where they had a bunch of VAXes controlling the center. About half way out to the center we stopped the buses for a steak cookout in a very small park. I was sitting next to a customer during the trip. When we got to the park there were not enough picnic tables for people to sit. The customer I was with sat down on the ground. Unfortunately, he sat in a pile of kangaroo dung. He tried to wash it off in a river nearby but it didn't stop the stink! I was afraid that he would now sit back near me for the entire remaining 9 hours of the trip. However, when I got back on my bus, he was in the next one in the back with all the other people massing up front (even without a seat). When I got back to Maynard I told a bunch of people that story. One commented: "Was that a customer? Why didn't you give him your pants?" I was a very loyal employee of DEC for over 25 years - BUT NOT THAT LOYAL!!!

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member

In the days that the Mill was not air conditioned, people left the windows open on the weekend.
Bill Heffner's office was in Bldg 5-5 and he had a very early and important appointment with Ken Olsen and the Executive Committee on Monday morning at 8:00 am. Bill did his homework, prepared his slides and his executive assistant converted them to transparencies (the only technology that existed at the time) and put them on his desk.
During the weekend, pigeons flew into Bldg 5-5 and defecated all over Bill's transparencies. Since office hours were at 8:15 there was no one to help Bill recover!  I'm not sure what the outcome of this was but I'm sure it wasn't pleasant !!!

Ray Humphrey

Sudbury MA

DECconnection member

I joined DEC from Xerox in 1982 after spending some wonderful interviews with Ken, Ed Schwartz, Win Hindle, John Sims, Al Bertocchi, etc.
Shortly afterwards I recommended to Ken that we needed photo identification (ID) badges. He responded that he "knew everyone in Digital" and that, indeed, he had hired many folks, their parents and, in some cases, their grandparents. "there would be no photo badges within Digital Equipment Corporation"
Several weeks later at about 5:30 a.m., on a Monday morning I received a telephone call that went something like the following: Ray, I wandered through The Mill right after midnight. Do you know how many strange faces I saw!"
We instituted "flying squads" throughout DEC to implement photo ID badges shortly thereafter!

Galen Davis

Phoenix AZ

DECconnection member

I am new to this DEC Connection site but not new to the "low badge number syndrome."  It was a status symbol due to the sequencing of corporate worldwide new hires badges. Employees returning with a gap in service could apply for "their" old number back. Your badge number became yours and was retired when you left the company. My badge in 1962 was #307 and I wore it proudly until 1992. We would track the number of employees with badges lower than ours .. to Ken's #1. In the 90's there were an amazing number of two and three digit badge numbers in the company. When visiting facilities we would pay courtesy calls on lower badge numbers merely to congratulate them on their longevity. DEC always remembered it's veteran's anniversaries with awards and dinners. The recognition was transparent to pay grade or position in the company. My badge was always the introduction to a story of "DEC in the early days."

Notes from webmaster:

Mike Schopeke, loyal customer

Daily Herald

Chicago IL

DECconnection member

As a longtime customer I’m enjoying all memories that pop into my head as I read what others have written.
In the newspaper industry since the 70s, I have been involved with PDP-8, 11/70’s with 13 RP06’s, 11/750’s, 8550’s, and an ES-450. I can’t even remember the others we have used.
A possible good DEC Employee story…
Back in 1979 we purchased two corporate cabinet 11/70’s serial numbers 56657 and 56658.
The DEC tech that came to do the install was John Alfrinko. His badge number was 56657. He felt that Ken Olsen had presented him his own machine. In all the years that we ran those servers he would never let another tech work on those two boxes.

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member

If you ever worked in the Mill, you may be aware that in the summer time, tar could leak from the roof to the top floor of one of the Mill buildings. One day, a salesman from France showed up with one of his best customers from France. In those days, everyone wore suits to work. This French executive had a lily white sports jacket. As he was walking in Bldg. 5-5 a bit of tar fell on his white jacket. The salesperson tried to wipe it off only to leave a giant tar smudge on his jacket. Apparently it was the only jacket he brought with him. For the next two days, he could be seen walking around the Mill with this giant tar smudge on his jacket!

Tom McIntyre

Harvard MA

DECconnection member


When I came to DEC in 1978 I was working on 5-5 and would often wander down through the board shop on the way to Terminal Engineering. There was a lady with a single digit badge number who was attaching the handles to the board using a riveting machine. At that time she had been there 20 years I suppose. I remember someone remarking that her stock options were worth several times her annual income. Grin
My best Ken story was when I was working in the Mill and we were trying to find the light control for one of the crackerbox conference rooms on 5-5 before the renovation. My software development gang worked very strange hours and it was around 9:00 pm. We were climbing all over the place trying to trace the wiring for the flourescent fixture when Ken walked up and asked what we were doing. When we told him, he pointed out the breaker box about 15 feet away behind a panel. When I asked him how he knew it was there, he said because he put it there when they put up the jury rigged partitions.

Will Emerson

Maynard MA

DECconnection member

Mill Hazards or "Look out below!"
I was working in the Mill on 4-4 at the time as a "data control clerk" aka. tape library type. Anyway, to "set the scene", it was later winter, the room I worked in had a "service window" out to the hallway, across from and diagonally about 20 feet from the elevator that served Bldg 4 and Bldg 3 along with the ground floor of Bldg 6. Well, one day I'm sitting in front of my trusty VT100 logging in tapes, and I hear this "Kerrrack" followed in most rapid succession with "BOOM!!!!!!!!", and dust coming in the window. "What th' [ ] was that?" I thought, then I had an immediate thought that it would be prudent to investigate as from the volume of the noise, I considered the possibility that something really bad happened to the elevator, and Billy, the operator, especially with all the dust coming from that direction.
Well, I got to the elevator just as Billy was coming up, and he stopped and raised the gates for me to get on. "What happened?" I asked. "I dunno" he said, "but there's a lot of people wandering around down there yakking". "Billy, can you drop me off down there?". Well, I arrived on 3-1/6-1 to see a first class commotion. It turned out that the "Kerrrack" was a large chunk of ice that no longer desired keeping company with the roof of bldg 4, and in obeyance of the law of gravity took the express route to the ground. The roof of Bldg 6 attempted to intervene in this (source of the BOOM!!!!) but only succeeded in reducing the ice's velocity slightly, and the chunk of ice landed a couple of feet away from a very surprised facilities Carpentry Supervisor who had been working at his desk right below. Suffice it to say he was rather unnerved by the incident.

Bob Moore

Burlington MA

DECconnection co-founder

Deceased, July 8, 2017

I remember when they had the first Board Of Director's meeting in Concord VRO5, some time in the mid-80s. The buildings at VRO were built to DEC spec and the first one had this really neat Boardroom on the second floor. The building was designed with an entrance on each level at ground level. Obviously the ground had to have been seriously rearranged to make this happen.

Anyway as I recall, the meeting was to take place at a time of year when tulips were not in bloom. However when we all came to work that day the upper and lower walkways were surrounded with at least half-jillion RED AND YELLOW TULIPS IN FULL BLOOM Wow Mother Nature had to be really amazed at what had happened in her back yard overnight.
The rest of the story is that after the last Limo had departed and the Board has all gone back wherever they came from, an announcement was made, "anyone who wished to take home a tulip, may do so after work." And we all did because it was so easy. None of the tulips had been actually planted in the soil but they came in a pot and the pot simply was placed in its entirety in the ground. I'm sure this whole operation had been out-sourced as it happened so quick.

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member

In the late '70s a young DEC engineer, Brian Hessler, was asked to visit some customers in Europe and some DEC sites. Brian was never out of the US in his life. His first stop was to visit a PDP-11 customer outside of Amsterdam  (a parts manufacturer). After a red eye flight to Schipol airport in Amsterdam, Brian exited customs and was greeted by a limousine driver who held up a sign saying "Mr. Hessler". There was a drive for about 45 minutes outside of Amsterdam. But the limousine driver did not speak English and Brian didn't speak Dutch, so there was no conversation between them. After his arrival, the plant executive offered some coffee and a pastry and started a small talk conversation: "How was the trip?". "Have you ever been to Europe?" Blah, blah, blah for about 10-15 minutes. Then the executive said: "How are things going for Kraft Foods?". Brian answered" "Kraft Foods?" After a bit of confusing bantering, it became obvious that Brian was in the wrong place! This wasn't a parts manufacturer. It was a cookie factory. His customer was totally on the opposite side of Amsterdam! They called Brian a cab and he finally arrived at the parts manufacturer 3-4 hours late. God knows what happened to the Kraft Foods Mr. Hessler left abandoned at the Schipol Airport?

Kerry Bensman
Broomfield CO

DECconnection member

I had graduated from M.I.T. in June 1969 and had taken a job as a newbie at a major manufacturing company. Several months later I was being assigned to work in Pittsburgh PA which for some reason didn't seem right for me. So I sent my resume out to a few headhunters and, lo and behold, I was granted an interview in the mill in late winter. Not many of us (I had a four digit badge number) may still remember those days. So I arrive early and am kept cooling my heels for over an hour. Finally, I met with the hiring manager (anyone remember Maury F.) who invited me to the Mill's cafeteria. I settled on one of now famous hamburgers, which tasted like compressed computer chad from the paper tapes being produced in those days. Afterwards, I was offered one of two jobs, one for small computers (PDP-8) and the other for a big computer (PDP-6). So in my infinite wisdom, I figured big was better than small and chose the latter.
So what was my reasoning in joining DEC in 1969? This is true. I figured than any company that could mess up the interview process so bad and have such lousy cafeteria food had to have something going for it. Little did I know.
P.S. The bar and the deli across the street from the mill entrance had nothing to do with it.
P.S.S. My first "office" was next to Bob Lane's and across from Stan Olsen's. The stories I could tell. And I still miss Ethel Lane to this day.

Hank Vezina

Brookline NH

DECconnection member

Deceased, Nov. 9, 2012

Back in the late '60's when I was working at the Mill, Ken always seem to catch me throwing things. First it was a circuit board I through out the window into the Mill pond, then he wasn't too pleased when I broke a window pane of his office with a softball a while later. But on my 5th anniversary luncheon at PK-2 when Ken saw me coming up to the podium to receive my Cross pen set, he tossed the box to me before I even got close to him. After I caught it and was shaking his hand, he said "Glad to see you can catch better than you can throw".
Or how about the time just after I bought my '68 Corvette, I had parked it next to building 21 and got a call from security saying the high winds had blown tar paper off the roof and it landed on my car. When I rushed out to see how bad the damage was, I found Ken cleaning off the paper from my car. Since there was no real damage to my car, we went over and cleaned the stuff that had fallen on his Pinto.
Hank Vezina: DEC Employee from 1967 to 1983, DEC Contractor from 1987 to 1997

Edmond Hennessy


Worked for mighty DEC in the 70's and early 80's.
There were many, times when Ken & Stan Olsen and members of the Executive Team attended events.
Always interesting to engage with this group of unique individuals.
Started with DEC in the field and then migrated to a role in the Product Line (then became a Business Unit and eventually an Industry Group).
While in the field - our branch office was near Bridgeport - where Ken Olsen's daughter attended school.
Ken would make a point to drop-in at our office - hardly recognizable, as the Founder & CEO of one of the Industry's glamour Computer Makers and braintrust behind DDP and Minicomputers. He was open - sincere - the genuine article. And, he made the trip in his Ford Pinto.

Before joining DEC - a recruiter approached me and asked, if I wanted to join a "do your own thing" company (DEC was doing $200 million annually at the time), plus, he indicated that the Founder Ken Olsen's mantra was "in the final analysis, people will do the right thing."
This became an element of the DEC Creed, which was actually put to practice.
About a year ago, our firm published an article titled, "Entrepreneurs Met Along The Way - Are They A Reproducible Breed?" Ken Olsen was the headliner in the article, however many of the other Entrepreneurs profiled actually were ex-DEC employees.  Another testimonial to the impact DEC and Ken Olsen had on the Industry. Clear that there are multitudes of people that were directly impacted, by the DEC experience. Here's a link to the article and a tribute to the man.
Ken Olsen's impact - will not be forgotten - it is enduring.
Edmond Hennessy

Jack Conaway


DECconnection member

Ken was a many-faceted person who could determine the essence of problems and opportunities in many aspects of Digital's complicated business. The first time I met him was in the early 1980's. The ESG Product Line was running a CAD/CAM Expo on the west coast. It was our first show of that type and I was very surprised to see him there.
Engineering Systems was the first group to develop joint marketing relationships with third party application vendors as a fundamental strategy to leverage the sales of the new VAX computer. Ken dived into the displays with a tremendous amount of energy. He talked to our demo people about their backgrounds and even tried out some of the software. He asked the customers what they thought of the event and how important the software was to their business and asked our management about the partnership strategies and deals. I was even more surprised at the length of time he spent in long conversations at the event.
We returned to the office pleased with the customer results. A while, later Ken's office announced DEC Town the pre-cursor for the highly successful DEC Worlds that extended this model in a networked fashion to all the applications and industries that Digital served. What a vision he had!

Bruce Lynn Lexington, MA USA

DECconnection member

In 1980, early in my tenure at DEC, my father passed away. Shortly after I received a beautiful houseplant with a card signed by Ken to express his sympathy. How many companies of this size would have a policy like this? My guess would be close to zero! That was how I thought of Ken for the 18 years I continued to work at DEC and how I remember his to this day.
Bruce Lynn (Lexington, MA), Global Healthcare Solutions Practice, EMC Corporation

Jim Raffa

Stow, MA


DECconnection member

My name is Jim Raffa. I worked in the Law and Contracts Department in Merrimack, NH from February 1978 - January 1980.

My first day at Digital in 1978 was a Monday in February. It was a dark day with light snow and with a forecast of a severe Northeaster expected over the next 24 hours. I signed in, signed all my papers, was briefed on my position, met my new boss, sat at my desk for less than 1 hour. As the day finished, I said good bye to my new acquaintances. I knew my drive back from the Merrimack, NH facility to Stow, MA was going to be slow as there were 6 inches of snow on the ground when I left the facility. I did not return to work for over a week. The snow storm turned into the Blizzard of '78.
I knew that I was a new employee with no sick or vacation time built up. Therefore, I expected that February was going to be a tight month financially for me and my wife with over a week of no pay. However, when I arrived at the Merrimack, NH facility, the first thing my new boss said to me was that Ken Olsen had approved payment for all employees, even me the new employee, of salaries for the time missed because of the blizzard. The time that I missed was not to be docked from my sick or vacation time. This was one of the many wonderful experiences that I had while working at Digital and my beginning admiration for a man that remembered his employees as much as making great products and being profitable.

Bob Glorioso

Stow, MA


DECconnection member

I was fortunate. I had the opportunity to interact with Ken on many occasions both at DEC and after we both left. However, one of my first encounters always comes through when I think of him. As you may recall, the blizzard of '78 caused all the roads in the Commonwealth to be closed for a week. After getting dug out and hanging around for a few days, I decided to go into my office, then in the bowels of Building 4, and get a jump on things. So, I quickly drove to the Mill - it was only 4 miles- and started working. No one was around and the mill was strangely quiet. About one-half hour after I got there Ken walked into my office and sat down and proceeded with some small talk about the devastation of the storm and then a technical discussion of the things we in the Research Group were working on. This went on for at least an hour and, as it was starting to get dark, I headed home. Needless to say, I didn't get done what I planned but was happy to trade it for a far ranging and interesting conversation with a very nice man.
Chris Peters
Arlington, MA  USA
I spent 12 years in the Mill in the metals business on 5-1. During that time I was on the safety committee for a few years. Ken used to come down to work on some of his skunk work projects.
I would catch him in the machining or sheet metal area without safety glasses. I would ask him to please leave the area until he put safety glasses on. He would always apologize for his error – march out and come back with his glasses and promise not to do it again, until the next time he came down.
Stan Tomczak II, FL, USA Please note that if you are offended by strong language, do not continue to read this.
While working in the Washington DC Field Service Group (1970's) I was told the story by a Maynard Product Support Engineer, while he was helping me on my first "impossible to fix" PDP-8 ("straight-eight") problem at a newspaper sight. DEC had not started using microprocessor chips in the field at that time and, in fact, we did not use the term "operating system". The story goes that the earliest printed documentation was stopped before the press work by the graphic designer of the front cover. The chain-of-command went to Ken for a modification!   Some of you will remember how we used the first letter of words to form our own "DEC-speak". Well, the story continues that the controlling software would be called a monitor, it would be addressed through a keyboard (KSR "teletype"), and it would be upgradeable. The legend states to name was to be: First Upward Compatible Keyboard Monitor.

Jack Mileski

Stow MA

DECconnection member

In the mid-70's in the bathroom in the Mill on Bldg 5-5, there was some graffiti on the bathroom stall that said: "Someday I'm going to own this place" - signed Ken Olsen. Of course, I doubt Ken wrote it.

Faye Detsky-Weil

Del Mar CA

DECconnection member

A Digital Experience - by Faye Detsky-Weil: Monster.com asked people to write to them about their best bosses.

The best boss I ever had was someone who cared about me and my future. He took the time to talk to me about what I wanted to do and where my interests were. He had me write objectives for my job and for my career. At the time I dreaded it and thought of it as punishment, only to look back and realize that he was doing me a favor. He was the first boss I had who did this for me and I realized in the years that followed that he was not typical of most managers. Many have to write up performance reviews and objectives as a job requirement. He was my mentor. I was rather young at the time, but I was not afraid to talk to him about my goals. He encouraged my talking to him and knew that I was destined for a better and more fulfilling career. He saw my potential and took an interest. After I moved on, he contacted me about a position in his department. I turned it down and have always wondered where I would be had I accepted it. We worked together at Digital Equipment Corporation, the best company I ever worked for. I am still in contact with some of my coworkers, but I regret not having kept in touch with him. I thank him for making me feel respected and empowered. That man is John Doherty.

Faye Detsky-Weil, Sept 1980–May 1986 (Tax Department and Educational Services) - email Webmaster to contact Faye.

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