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DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC: The Lasting Legacy of Digital Equipment Corporation (Englisch) Gebundene Ausgabe – Juli 2003

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"DEC Is Dead, Long Live DEC" tells the 40-year story of the creation and demise of one of the pioneering companies of the computer age, and explains in detail how a particular culture can become so embedded that the organization is unable to adapt to changing circumstances even though it sees the need very clearly. It shows how the evolution of technology, organization and culture intertwine into a complex system that may leave the organization unable to cope. It shows clearly the price of success and growth and the potential problems that organizational maturity creates. Edgar Schein is one of the last giants left of the original founders of the Organization Development field - he is also a widely respected scholar and a bestselling author. This title shows how the unique culture of DEC was responsible both for its early rise and for its ultimate downfall - a real-life classical tragedy.

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Edgar H. Schein is currently Sloan Fellows Professor of Management Emeritus at the Sloan School. He is also the Founding Editor of Reflections, the Journal of the Society for Organizational Learning devoted to connecting academics, consultants, and practitioners around the issues of knowledge creation, dissemination and utilization.

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2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich Von Donald Mitchell TOP 1000 REZENSENT am 17. April 2007
Format: Taschenbuch
Professor Schein has written a helpful case history of Digital Equipment Corporation as a computer industry innovator from the perspective of its organizational culture. He draws successfully on his own direct observations during decades of consulting work, and involves others for their experiences as well in describing the organizational culture. The most helpful parts are in the form of notes and comments that occurred during the rise and fall of DEC. His main weakness as an observer is that he lumps too much of what was missing from DEC under his continuing references to the "business gene." The case history, as a result, is too light on other aspects of DEC.

Anyone who is interested in Professor Clayton Christensen's work on sustaining innovation will find deeper insights into why cultures encourage innovation failure by emphasizing one way of working on issues.

If you just want to understand the lessons of why DEC was ultimately unsuccessful as an enterprise, you only need to read Gordon Bell's postscript in appendix e. Like every other computer company at the time, DEC and its leaders did not have an actionable understanding of the implications of the ongoing productivity advances in semiconductors and how nonengineers liked to interact with computers. Our firm did consulting for another computer maker in 1978 to look at how to outperform DEC, and the vulnerability to semiconductor trends was clear then . . . even before the personal computer became important.

The book fails to explain why DEC was so insulated from profit disciplines that drive so many other companies. During its heyday, DEC and its fellow computer makers enjoyed exceptionally high rates of repeat sales (well over 90%) to the same customers.
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17 von 18 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A provacative read 29. März 2004
Von J. Mcnamara - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
Many discussions and articles that chronicle the rise and fall of Digital simplify the failure to either "The president [Ken Olsen] blew it," or "They missed the PC revolution," or some combination of both. This book shows how the culture that so successfully nourished creativity and genius in the company's nascent days brought chaos, confusion, and internecine warfare in later days when the larger company faced a host of competitors and needed to efficiently produce commodity items. I think that the authors go a little too lightly on the role of (mis)management in Digital's failure, but they do a good job of bringing to light many other aspects of Digital's problematic history. The authors seem a bit full of themselves at times, but they have a compelling and sobering story to tell.
36 von 43 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
The lasting lesson of DEC 25. November 2003
Von Stephen Buckley - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
MIT Sloan School of Management Professor Edgar Schein does a marvelous job telling the story of the rise and fall of Digital Equipment Corporation, the former #2 computer maker in the world behind IBM. The business reasons behind DEC's economic failure have been widely reported (missing the advent of the PC, having too many projects going at once, failure to market products effectively, etc.) However, the big question to be answered is why did these failures occur? To quote one passage, "Why did an organization that was wildly successful for thirty-five years, filled with intelligent, articulate powerful engineers and managers, fail to act effectively to deal with problems that were highly visible to everyone, both inside and outside the organization?"
Schein looks at DEC's failure through the lens of its corporate culture, and how it prohibited their executives from making the decisions, and taking the actions necessary to survive. Fans of Ed Schein will know his famous "Three Cultures of Management" paper, in which he describes the "Executive", "Line Manager" and "Engineering" cultures, all of which must exist and be balanced against one another for an organization to survive. Schein argues that DEC was dominated by the engineering culture, which valued innovation and "elegant" design, over profits and operational efficiency. This engineering culture dominated even the top levels of DEC, where proposals to build PCs out of off the shelf parts that were readily available in the marketplace, were shot down because the machines were thought to be junk compared to the ones DEC could build themselves.
That DEC was able to survive for as long as it did was largely attributable to its ability to innovate in a field that was so new it had not yet coalesced around certain standard systems, software and networks. However, as the computer industry became in effect a commodity market, and the buyers began to value price over innovation, DEC found itself increasingly unable, and in fact, unwilling to compete. The engineering culture which valued innovation and required creative freedom, did not want to subject itself to the requirements of being a commodity player which demanded autocratic operational efficiency and control over how resources were allocated.
Although DEC is now long gone, even readers who were too young to use computers at the time of its demise will find familiar truths in this book. As the old saying goes, the fish in the tank does not see the water it is in. Neither do we often see the cultures in which we are ourselves embedded. The real lesson of this wonderful book is to show us how our corporate cultures often prohibit us from doing the right things, even when we can see them clearly. Sometimes culture is most easily visible in the things you need to discuss, but that are simply "not on the table" for discussion.
There are many lessons here too, for companies that seek to innovate new products and services, and how to balance the creative freedom desired by the engineering culture with the "money gene" culture of sound executive management. The names of companies that have failed to realize the full financial benefits of their technical innovations is too long to list here. But the DEC story is a must read for anyone who seeks to balance innovation with sustainable economic success in any organization.
18 von 21 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
Needed to be written, needs to be read 31. Januar 2005
Von Bryan MacKinnon - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe Verifizierter Kauf
I recommend this book to anyone who is familiar with DEC or wishes to understand its enduring legacies. It is also a useful case study on who a company that was doing so well could ultimately fail; are Microsoft and IBM really immune from this fate?

I used DEC equipment during its heyday from the late 1970's throughout the 1980s. What I value most is how the technical experiences I recall from that time were given depth. The author's narrative binds together a collection of internal memos and personal recollections of many of those who were working at DEC when many of its fateful decisions were made. In general, responsibility for the ultimate failure of DEC to survive as a company is laid with the senior management, in particular with CEO Ken Olsen. The same attributes that made DEC great and innovative were the ones that lead to its downfall. Alas, DEC is not dead but lives on in all the innovations it introduced.

I would like liked to have seen some more details on the technical innovations and more exposure to the myths and legends that many of us were weaned on. But that was not the main thesis of the book so it's not a deficiency per se.

Though written in a straightforward and matter of fact way with little flourish, I was engrossed and quickly polished it off. This book needed to be written.
9 von 10 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
a sad tale of what might have beens 10. Juli 2006
Von W Boudville - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Gebundene Ausgabe
One of the first computers I worked on was a Dec-10. I also used one of the PDPs. Then I later was sysadmin and wrote Fortran code for a Vax 785. So I was rather nostalgaic over DEC's demise. This would have seemed inconceivable in the mid 80s, when DEC was at its height, and second only to IBM. But Schein's analysis points out that the seeds of DEC's fall were already flourishing at its apex.

One merit of the book is how it points out that it was not just Ken Olsen who made all the bad decisions. Notably that the "PC was just a toy". It was also the rest of the top management. Worsened by a complex matrix management structure. This had the effect of drastically slowing decision making.

The book is a sad tale of what might have beens. For instance, it is well known how DEC missed the PC revolution. But it also dropped the ball on networking. DEC came up with DECNET by 1984. It had many very capable network engineers. But DEC's routers and switches were only for DECNET. DEC could have been DEC+Cisco, if it had migrated aggressively to the Arpanet/Internet. Sure, it had some presence in the latter. But not enough. It kept pushing its DECNET and in the end the Internet just drove DECNET into irrelevance.
2 von 2 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
A very good book much better than the others I have read. A little slow and gives technology a short shrift. 12. Dezember 2013
Von G. Robinson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format: Kindle Edition Verifizierter Kauf
This is a some times draggy book but does explain the factors that led to DEC's demise. The balkanization into fiefdoms is well explained. We had VAX 3100 workstations and VAX 3800 computers. They worked great but by the mid '80s were underpowered. A new RFP was issued and DEC bid the 8600; great but overkill. I wound up working on the GE Aerospace Division Terminal Working Group (we were responsible for promoting new technologies as well as evaluating which to adopt). The VT180/278 basically shoved a Z80 with CPM or added PDP8, not a good try. None of the DEC attempts at a PC were cost effective or viable. Although Health Kit sold a kit version of the PDP11 at a reasonable price--if you didn't need software. Then in the '90 they came out with a version of VMS for the Intel 486 with full functionality. We ordered 20,000 copies with a follow on of up to 1M copies. We were told that we could not get it as Ken Olsen torpedoed the project. That could have saved DEC. We were not the only customer with strong interest and I would estimate that DEC could have sold several 50M copies.

Aside from the odd omissions by the author (DEC's PDP10/20 large scale computers are barely mentioned) and no mention of VMS on the VAX this is a great book and research resource on DEC. As for why the VMS on Intel was torpedoed it's not clear but Ken may have gotten the blame for what others did. Certainly it was a disruptive technology that would have killed off most of DEC's computer lines fairly quickly. But DEC could have supplanted MS!

DEC pioneered a lot of things that have led to the cloud computing today.
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