Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson—two engineers who met at MIT’s experimental computer laboratory. The company initially produced electronic laboratory modules but soon ventured into computing by 1960 and DEC quickly gained a reputation for producing reliable, inexpensive small computers. The PDP-7, introduced in 1964, was a small, department-size system ideal. Just 120 were produced; perhaps five survive.
LCM+L’s PDP-7 was originally installed at the University of Oregon’s nuclear physics department. After Professor Harlan Lefevre accepted delivery of the system he and his students spent the next three years writing the necessary software required to carry out their research. Once complete, the system proved remarkably reliable: over the next four decades, it logged more than 60,000 hours of use and enabled 23 graduate students to earn their PhDs. Professor Lefevre, working with Federal Aviation Administration, also completed basic research in the 1970s used to develop early bomb-detecting equipment.