The end of an era has arrived. Digital, that unwise old ancient of the IT industry is about to bow out for ever, having been snapped up by Compaq for an astounding $9.6 billion - the industry's largest ever deal. It will be sad to lose Digital, a die-hard of the "unfriendly" days of operating systems when nothing talked to anything else and Unix was spat on from a great height. Times when engineers wore badges that screamed "Proprietary And Proud", and "clustering" was Digital's innovative take on the Roman orgy. The company's fortunes used to be great but it missed many profitable boats as it paddled its rotten raft into the Sea of Loss. There's no doubt that the deal is good for Digital - although some things are definitely for the chop. Compaq has announced that it will support all of Digital's users ranging from those using Open VMS to the nippy Alpha microprocessor. But for how long? Compaq's lips on the extended future of Digital's customers are screwed together tighter than Clinton and his press aides - allegedly. In addition, Digital's PC products have the life expectancy of a kamikaze pilot - except for the ultra-thin Hi-Note Ultra which is just about the sexiest notebook ever invented. For Compaq, the deal means it gets a huge enterprise computing services operation, large customer base and the overall corporate muscle needed to play with the big boys, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. But it's the death of Digital we're here to mourn. In short, Digital is the company that's had more facelifts than Michael Jackson and more "corporate goals" than Alan Shearer. Probably the most endearing aspect of Digital was its founder, leader, and ultimately its destroyer, Ken Olsen. Ken was to IT what Ronald Reagan was to public speaking - OK he didn't say "Abortion is advocated only by persons who have themselves been born", but he did have some doozies. The infamous "Unix is Snake Oil" quote insured that Digital missed the whole Unix thing. That, added to its failure to open-up its VMS operating system to the market, meant Unix won. In addition, Olsen showed his support for the emerging PC market by saying "PCs are a fad" and "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home." Oops, there goes another multi-billion dollar boat. Still it could be worse, Ken. Imagine if Digital was being bought out and turned inside out by a PC company?
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