1. [from Virtual Address eXtension] The
most successful minicomputer design in industry history, possibly
excepting its immediate ancestor, the PDP-11. Between its release
in 1978 and its eclipse by killer micros after about 1986, the
VAX was probably the hacker's favorite machine of them all, esp.
after the 1982 release of 4.2 BSD Unix (see BSD). Esp.
noted for its large, assembler-programmer-friendly instruction set
-- an asset that became a liability after the RISC revolution.
2. A major brand of vacuum cleaner in Britain. Cited here because
its sales pitch, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became a sort of
battle-cry of RISC partisans. It is even sometimes claimed that
DEC actually entered a cross-licensing deal with the vacuum-Vax
people that allowed them to market VAX computers in the U.K. in
return for not challenging the vacuum cleaner trademark in the
A rival brand actually pioneered the slogan: its original form was
"Nothing sucks like Electrolux". It has apparently become a classic
example (used in advertising textbooks) of the perils of not knowing
the local idiom. But in 1996, the press manager of Electrolux AB,
while confirming that the company used this slogan in the late 1960s,
also tells us that their marketing people were fully aware of the
possible double entendre and intended it to gain attention.
And gain attention it did - the VAX-vacuum-cleaner people thought
the slogan a sufficiently good idea to copy it. Several British
hackers report that VAX's promotions used it in 1986-1987, and we
have one report from a New Zealander that the infamous slogan
surfaced there in TV ads for the product in 1992.