Digital Equipment Plans to Introduce Fastest Superminicomputer in Its Class

By William M. Bulkeley
The Wall Street Journal

January 29, 1986

Digital Equipment Corp. said it plans to introduce today three superminicomputers, including its most powerful VAX superminicomputer yet. The new VAX 8800 leapfrogs Digital back into the lead for the fastest machine in its class.

Digital's 8800 has a base price of about $650,000 and is about 70% faster than the VAX 8650, Digital's previous top machine, introduced last month. Donald McInnis, engineering program manager for the 8800, said it is about 12 times faster than the VAX 11/780, which gives it an indicated speed of 12 million instructions per second, or MIPS.

Mr. McInnis said the 8800 "is ideal in computer-intensive applications such as scientific and engineering simulations. There's a crying demand in the VAX customer base for more and more MIPS." The machine is likely to be used for what engineers call "number crunching" in networks of other VAX computers used to design numerous items, including semiconductor chips and automobiles.

Digital, based in Maynard, Mass., also plans to introduce the VAX 8200 and VAX 8300, which run at about 1 MIPS and 1.9 MIPS, respectively. The two machines are successors to the venerable VAX 11/780 and VAX 11/785, and cost roughly half as much as those computers, with base prices of $80,000 and $120,000, respectively.

After failing to introduce major products in the early 1980s, Digital has been spewing out new computers during the past 14 months. "They've gotten back to the way they used to be in the 1970s," said Adolf "Sonny" Monosson, publisher of a newsletter about Digital Equipment. "I would expect they will continue to add models that are both larger and smaller over a period of time."

The 8800, a dual-processor computer that achieves its speed by having two central processing units work together, puts Digital back ahead of archrival Data General Corp., Westboro, Mass., in the race to produce the fastest superminicomputer. In November, Data General introduced a dual-processor computer called the MV 20000 Model 2. That machine has a 10 MIPS speed rating.

Digital's new machine is nearly twice as expensive as Data General's machine, even though it is only 20% faster. Recently Digital has been pricing its new computers much higher than Data General. Analysts have said that the higher prices will enable Digital to improve profit margins.

Analysts have said the strategy is effective because Digital already has many customers using VAX computers, and they are willing to pay extra for faster VAX computers rather than go to the expense of rewriting their software to run on lower-priced machines. Digital's prices are often about half those of International Business Machines Corp. for comparably fast machines, analysts said.

Digital said the 8200 is available immediately and the other two computers will be on sale in two or three months.

Copyright (c) 1986, Dow Jones & Co., Inc.