vax

Slang Dictionary

VAX

/vaks/ n.
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 U.S.

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.
FOLDOC
Computing Dictionary

VAX definition

computer
/vaks/ (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 favourite machine, especially after the 1982 release of 4.2BSD Unix. Especially noted for its large, assembly code-programmer-friendly instruction set - an asset that became a liability after the RISC revolution.
VAX is also a British brand of carpet cleaner (http://vax.co.uk/) whose advertising slogan, "Nothing sucks like a VAX!" became a battle-cry of RISC partisans. It is even sometimes claimed that DEC actually entered a licencing deal that allowed them to market VAX computers in the UK in return for not challenging the carpet cleaner trademark in the US.
The slogan originated in the late 1960s as "Nothing sucks like Electrolux", Electrolux AB being a rival Swedish company. It became a classic textbook example of the perils of not knowing the local idiom, which is ironic because, according to the Electrolux press manager in 1996, the double entendre was intentional. VAX copied the slogan in their promotions in 1986-1987, and it surfaced in New Zealand TV ads as recently as 1992!
[Jargon File]
(2000-09-28)
The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing, © Denis Howe 2010 http://foldoc.org
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American Heritage
Abbreviations & Acronyms
VAX
Virtual Address Extension
The American Heritage® Abbreviations Dictionary, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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