ALPHA v0.3

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New Vax Reseller Sears Expects To Clean Up With Its Latest

Topic: computer

New VAX Reseller Sears Expects To Clean Up With Its Latest Offering

VAX sucks. Don't gasp and assume we're committing libel. It's true. Even its manufacturer will agree.

What we're talking about here is the VAX vacuum cleaner, a British machine that Sears began marketing this year. The introduction of the vacuum with the same name as a rather well-known line of Digital Equipment computers has created a malestrom of confusion among piles of programmers who are less than bright and don't know a suction hose from a dirtbag.

"I just don't think it's right," said I.M.A. Weenie, manager of information services for the Institute for the Study of We're Not Quite Sure What at Pork Barrel University in Pentagon, N.D.

"We spent three weeks trying to boot Ultrix 3.1 on the Sears VAX without any luck at all. Then, when we called the number for software support in the doc kit and asked for a patch tape, they asked, 'What color?' and told us Krazy Glue would probably work as well."

Weenie did find one praiseworthy feature: "It runs Donkey Kong better than a Mac."

R.T.F. Immanuel, vice president of information services at the investment firm of Crosby, Stills, Nash and (sometimes) Young, said his company finds the Sears VAX far superior to the DEC product.

"The VAXstation we were using just never got dirt out of those hard-to- reach corners and folds in the upholstery," he said.

How did this confusing situation come to pass? According to DEC spokeswoman Nikki Richardson, when DEC trademarked the VAX name prior to introducing that line in 1977, it was with the full knowledge that the British firm VAX Appliances had been using the name for several years.

The two companies reached an agreement that allowed DEC to use the name for computers and the British firm to continue using the name for household appliances.

Because the VAX vacuum cleaner had not been distributed in the United States, the two firms never clashed. Until now.

But DEC takes a game view of the situation. "We felt there was no likelihood of confusion with the appliances," said Richardson, reading from a statement prepared by company attorneys.

We asked Sears to supply specifications of the vacuum cleaner on the grounds that our readers are highly concerned with such issues as price/performance, processor speed, scalability, availability of applications and whether or not the machine has a flat-topped display you can rest a beer on.

UT: What operating system does your VAX run?

Sears: Operating system?

UT: (quoting from the well-thumbed newsroom copy of 'Computers Explained For People With Extremely Tiny Brains'): "An operating system is the software that manages the computer hardware. Its development represented a giant step forward from the cumbersome binary I/O of the early ..."

Sears: All you've got to do is plug the thing in and go.

UT: (remembering something some marketing guy said once): Why, that would make your product... that would make it "plug and play."

Sears: Yeah, you can just plug it in to any standard wall socket, and after that, you just turn it on.

UT: (typing): "... compliant with all relevant standards... features include high user-friendliness..." What is the processor speed?

Sears: Funny you should ask that. We have one at home, and we have a really big living room, and the other day my son had a party for his friends and the band he's in, Humongous Jet Flying Low Over Your House, and the Missus got the whole room clean in a half-hour with the VAX. It even sucked up those little parts that accidentally came off the dog.

UT: (typing): "high...processor...speed...and...power..."

Sears: And during the party, one of my son's friends dropped the VAX out the window, but the darn thing worked the next day!

UT: "...robust..."

Sears: It's very light. I'm not sure exactly how much it weighs, because we couldn't really get it to stay balanced on the bathroom scale.

UT: "...though the VAX has limited scalability..."

Sears: And it costs less than any one like it around!

UT: "...offers a favorable price/performance point to any comparable machine of its class..."

Meanwhile, in a move DEC says is totally unrelated to the VAX vs. VAX issue, the company announced last week that it is renaming its product lines.

PDP computers still in circulation will henceforth be known as "Kenmore Side-by-Side Refigerator/Freezers." The DECstation line will be renamed "Sanyo Color TV With Full Remote Control."

And all VAX computers and VAXstations will be recalled, so the following warning can be applied: "Do not use on delicate drapes and fabrics."

ALPHA v0.3