Data General was a computer manufacturer that spun off from Digital Equipment Corporation in 1968. A group led by Edson de Castro broke off from DEC after the project they were working on was cancelled. Much of this group had worked on the PDP-8 minicomputer and were eager to create a 16-bit extension of it, but DEC preferred to pursue the PDP-11 project.
Data General, often referred to in the industry as DG, introduced their first product, the original Nova line of minicomputers, in 1969. The Nova was an instant hit, rapidly being adopted for a variety of scientific and embedded computing applications. The Nova was one of the first commercially available 16-bit minicomputers, and it was smaller and faster than other minicomputers in its price bracket. DG sold many Novas to resellers who included the computers in embedded application such as manufacturing machinery and power transmission control equipment.
Through the 1970, DG introduced improved versions of the Nova, along with innovative software that opened up new markets. Its Business BASIC interpreter made the Nova a multi-user system and put it into the office market. DG had particular success in the educational market by pursuing elementary and high schools as potential customers, something that few computer manufacturers were doing at the time. The company was noted for its cheeky advertising, which often took pot shots at DEC and mainframe manufacturers, in an era where it was still considered inappropriate for advertisements to mention competitors by name. This, and the company's reputation for very attentive if somewhat off-beat customer support, created an intensely loyal following -- in a sense, DG was the era's cultural equivalent of Apple
In 1978, the company introduced the first products in the Eclipse line, which was destined to displace the Nova series. The original Eclipse computers were 16-bit processors like the Novas, but after DEC announced the 32-bit VAX line, DG launched a crash project to develop a 32-bit version of the Eclipse. The development of what became known as the Eclipse/MV series was intimately documented by novelist Tracy Kidder in the book The Soul of a New Machine, one of the general public's first glimpses into the inner workings of the computer industry and programmer culture. Unfortunately the Eclipse/MV was late to market and the delay cost DG a large portion of its customer base. An innovative project to develop a variable-word-length processor known as the "Fountainhead Project" had to be abandoned due to lack of R&D funds.
By the late 1980s, the minicomputer market was fading. DG launched a new product line, a series of workstations and servers known as the AViiON. The AViiON line followed the now-traditional DG script of offering higher processing performance at lower cost, and saved the company for a while. However, in 1993, Motorola cancelled production of the 88000 microprocessor that the AViiON line was based on, and by the time DG was able to redesign the line to use Intel processors, the customer base had been lost. DG had one more trick up its sleeve: it had figured out how to use then-nascent RAID technology to build large mass-storage array systems, and it introduced this as a product known as CLARiiON. The CLARiiON line kept the company alive until it was bought out by EMC in 1999.
Although Data General is gone, several of its alumni occupy important places in the computer industry. Jean-Louis Gassée moved from DG to Apple; Edward Zander later became CEO of Motorola, and several others now occupy executive positions at Microsoft Corporation.
Product list Edit
- Nova series minicomputers
- Eclipse series minicomputers
- Data General One
- AViiON workstations
- CLARiiON mass storage systems