In retrospect: How Vobis failed with RISC workstations


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In 1993 the computer dealer Vobis offered a PC with a DEC Alpha CPU, 150 MHz clock frequency and 16 MByte RAM. That sounds ridiculous these days, but in the early 1990s one hundred and fifty megahertz was unearthly. For comparison: Intel was just delivering the first Pentium with 66 MHz.

The cooperation with DEC, the American “Digital Equipment Corporation”, came about very spontaneously, as the then project manager Mike Decker remembers. At the beginning of the cooperation, Decker was still a small technician in the house. I was told, “Go over to Massachusetts and see how it works. And you won’t come back until you understand how we can sell this thing.” Then I flew there two weeks later and was there for two weeks.

Such rush-hour actions were typical of Vobis, according to Decker. The company’s business developer flew around the world and was always looking for new innovations. Vobis founder Theo Lieven thought the Alpha project was cool and Digital wanted a consumer version of its workstation, so it was implemented. “You simply accepted that you couldn’t actually implement the project with the available resources. You wanted to have a highlight in the program and stand out from competitors like ESCOM,” remembers Decker.

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