Home Computing Reading Museum searches for 1960s tech firm workers

Reading Museum searches for 1960s tech firm workers

by Amelia Ramiro

A museum in Reading, UK, is planning to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the opening of the first UK office of the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), a US computer firm that played a significant role in the technological transformation of the Thames Valley. The exhibition is part of the museum’s Reading’s Digital Revolution heritage project, which aims to uncover the history and “profound influence” of DEC on the industry.

In 1964, DEC opened its office above Bilbey’s furniture store at 11 Castle Street in Reading with just two employees. However, over the next two decades, the company grew exponentially and employed more than 2,000 people in the town. Despite DEC no longer existing, its legacy continues to thrive in the Thames Valley, and the museum hopes to commemorate this milestone by showcasing its impact on the region.

The museum, in collaboration with Dexodus, Decus UK, and the National Museum of Computing, has received a grant of £87,145 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to support the project. The funding will be used to conduct research, collect stories and artifacts, and create an exhibition that highlights the achievements and contributions of DEC.

Former DEC employees are being encouraged to participate in the project by answering a short questionnaire about their experiences and insights into working at DEC between 1964 and 1998. By sharing their stories, they will contribute to preserving the legacy of a company whose impact still resonates today.

The project is expected to culminate in 2025 with an exhibition and a series of education and outreach activities in partnership with The National Museum of Computing. This initiative will provide an opportunity for the public to learn about the history of DEC, its technological advancements, and its role in shaping the Thames Valley into a hub of innovation.

Councillor Adele Barnett-Ward, the leisure and culture lead, expressed excitement about the project, stating that it would honor the legacy of DEC and ensure its impact on Reading’s history is preserved for future generations. DEC is widely recognized as one of the leaders in computing equipment development and manufacture, making its contributions to the industry significant.

The acquisition of DEC in 1998 by Compaq, followed by the merger between Compaq and Hewlett-Packard in 2002, marked the end of an era for the company. However, the impact it had on the development of the Thames Valley’s technology sector remains undeniable.

As technology continues to advance, it is crucial to recognize and commemorate the pioneers and innovators who paved the way for the digital revolution. The museum’s initiative will not only honor the legacy of DEC but also inspire future generations to continue pushing the boundaries of technology and shape the future of the Thames Valley’s technological landscape.

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