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Volume 2, Number 8                                                                                           August 1983


Digital Acquires New Technology For Next-Generation Vax Computers


Gordon Bell Leaves Digital


Digital Acquires New Technology For Next-Generation Vax Computers


Digital has acquired a technology license option to use advanced semicontechnology from Trilogy Ltd. and has agreed to acquire preferred a nine percent interest in that company. Digital will shares and the technology license option.


According to President Ken Olsen, "Trilogy's unique appraoch to high performance, ultra-reliable semiconductor devices represents a breakthrough in circuit integration and packaging that should result in significant improvements in reliability and performance. The integration of this semiconductor technology in Digital's larger computer systems is consistent with our practice of introducing the most advanced technology into our new products."


Founded in 1980 by Gene Amdahl and his son Carlton, Trilogy is developing large mainframe IBM-compatible computers. Using a new technology known as "wafer scale integration." (A profile of the company appeared in the June 6 issue of Business Week).


Instead of slicing a large silicon wafer into little chips and then wriing those together, Trilogy leaves all the circuitry on a single wafer (2-1/2 inches square). For the large machines that Trilogy plans to introduce in two years, 40 wafers will take the place of as many as 4,0000 separate chips, reducing the size and manufacturing costs of the machine, and improving reliability.  Because the circuitry is closer together on such a wafer, it will be able to operate far faster than is possible with conventional techniques.


The large wafers also allow space for extra circuits to make a computer "fail-safe." Two or three times as many circuits as are actually needed for a function could be put on a wafer. Then in case of a failure, a diagnostic circuit on the wafer could detect the problem and switch the signals to other circuits on the same wafer.


Digital hopes to use this technology to develop high performance, high reliability products that use proven VAX architecture.


Part of Trilogy's financing comes from licensing the new technology to other computer companies, such as Digital, that compete in different markets. CII Honeywell Bull, the Paris-based computer maker, has invested $13 million, and Sperry $42 million. Trilogy has already spent over $100 million in developing this new technology.


This move is part of Digital's overall effort to ensure its technology leadership for the future. Last year Digital spent about $450 million on research and development, opened R&D centers on the West Coast and in Tokyo, Japan, and expanded its manufacturing and design capabilities in Hudson, Mass. Digital also recently became a partner in another venture — MCC (Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corp.), a consortium of 15 high technology companies, initiated by Control Data Corp. Formed in August of 1982, this group plans to share R&D resources to address four key areas of advanced research: Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAD/CAM), electronics packaging, software productivity and advanced comput­er architecture. They recently announced that Austin, Texas, will be the site of their research facility.


Gordon Bell Leaves Digital


Gordon Bell has decided to leave Digital to join a new venture. Jack Smith, vice president, Manufacturing, who has worked closely with Gordon for well over a year, will continue to provide leadership to the Engineering organi­zation. Jack and Gordon have worked to integrate Digital's Engineering and Manufacturing strategies, and have worked together on the Product Strategy and Engineering Development Committees.


Gordon started with Digital in 1960 as the company's second engineer. He took a leave of absence in 1966 to join the faculty at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, and rejoined the company in 1972 as vice president of Engineering. He has received several awards for contributions to com­puter design, including the Mellon Award, the McDowell Award and the Eckert- Mauchly Award.


"Gordon's contributions to the company are innumerable," says Jack Smith. "He has built an outstanding engineering organization and has been directly involved in the development of several products."


"We and, indeed, the entire industry are greatly indebted to Gordon for his guidance and contributions. We will, miss him as a highly valued colleague," added Win Hindle, vice president, Corporate Operations,


Gordon made the following comments in his letter of farewell:


"Over the last 11 years, I have enjoyed working with what I believe is now one of the world's best engineering organizations as measured by technical leaders, managers and products. Leading and helping build this organization has been the most exciting project I've ever worked on. It is this group which has built the great products to feed the company. It is also why I think Digital is a leader in computing.


"As a major bonus, we have also established a computing environment which I think is both impenetrable competitively, and yet flexible enough to build on for the succeeding fifth and sixth computer generations. This structure should last for at least a decade!


"There you have it - an incredible base of engineers and an architecture that no one can touch. We are of a size that will probably require some organizational changes for better responsiveness, market coupling and easier management. Yet, there's still need for overall leadership and architec­ture; again, I think the engineering organization has these people. There's no reason to think that will all these assets, Digital cannot continue its leadership position. I'm leaving Digital in good hands.


"Now, I need a change. I am going to try something at a different scale and in a different fashion in which I expect to be both a customer of and a supplier to Digital. Given Digital's incredible product array, the limited resources of a small company will be directed at uniqueness. I intend to maintain my positive relationship with the company.


"I have enjoyed being at Digital and helping it become a legendary company. I want to remain friends with all of you, and will, no doubt occasionally comment on products. I hope to see you in the future... .perhaps at some ecumenical place such as the Computer Museum or in search of interesting and useful machines."

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