GCN at 25: VAX for the memory

One of the interesting things about looking back through 25 years of GCN is coming across extinct species of computer products'and realizing just how recently some of them ruled the jungle. Take Digital Equipment Corp.'s VAX computer.

With a 32-bit architecture and the use of virtual memory to manage its address space, the VAX (which stood for Virtual Address eXtension) was a pioneer when the first one was released in 1977. By 1988, it had become so common at agencies that GCN devoted five pages to a Buyers Guide ( 11 vendors, 124 products) on add-in memory for 'your VAX computer.' Yes, you too could add 8 MB for a mere $3,395, give or take a couple hundred depending on the product.

But VAX's days were numbered. Its architecture was soon to be eclipsed by reduced-instruction-set computing (RISC), which gained favor through the 1990s. Meanwhile, DEC was bought by Compaq, later to be bought by Hewlett-Packard Co. By the dawn of the new millennium, VAX computers weren't being made anymore, though existing models remained in use, powered by the still-vital OpenVMS operating system (formerly VAX/VMS), which in its current iterations is used for HP's Alpha servers.

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