College's Computer Purchase Supports Labs, Keeps an Eye Towards Future

When the New Hampshire Technical College at Manchester moved to revise its computer facilities last year, it faced a formidable challenge. The two-year public college needed to upgrade its computer system with new equipment that would not only integrate with existing equipment, but would address the institution's future computing requirements. Compounding the problem was the fact that the state college was trying to implement a new system in an economy severely battered by the recession. In Line With Future Plans Following a five-month search for the appropriate vendor, Digital Equipment Corp. was selected as the school's equipment supplier because its DECpc 433 and 433 Tower Box workstations plus Pathworks LAN software would be compatible with the college's existing equipment, its plans for long-term expansion, and growth and cost considerations. "We wanted 386 and 486 PCs to replace our 286 systems," says Roxanne Gross, the college's computer coordinator. "These new systems would have to support the Tektronix test equipment and software we've chosen for our Electronic Lab, provide high graphics resolution for AutoCAD and desktop publishing applications, and be able to integrate with our [Digital] MicroVAX 3100." The other reason the Maynard, Mass., computer company was selected, according to Gross, was the "substantial savings" it provided the college. "Digital gave us the savings by giving us an educational grant. Cost was a very important consideration," she continues. The institution received a 60% grant on all products Digital provided through the Corporate Educational Grant program awarded to the New Hampshire Post-Secondary Technical Education Department. Many business reasons supported the college's choice, including Digital's leadership position in the education field, the fact that it has the largest installed base of users in this market and its large installed base of users among prominent New England companies. The latter factor provides the college's graduates with greater employment opportunities based on their familiarity with Digital's PC-LAN technology and X-Windows workstation. Other business benefits Digital provides to the college include: Service supplied by one vendor for all systems, eliminating the need for multiple calls to multiple vendors for support. A Digital statewide service contract that provides a 37% discount on all hardware on-site service, saving money after the equipment's one-year warranty expires. Equipping the college with Digital state-of-the-art workstations helps improve the institution's image, thereby attracting additional students to enroll in the future. Compatibility Is Key The DEC 433 Tower provides the college's computer operations with the best compatibility with Tektronix test equipment. Digital and Tektronix have an alliance for the development of software for the operation of hardware, providing an easy interface between the two vendors' equipment. The 433s are configured with 8MB of RAM, expandable to 64MB; a 40MB hard drive; a 3.5" floppy drive; a 19" monitor with 1,280 x 1,024 resolution; high-speed graphics; a TI 34020 co-processor; a 33MHz, 486 Intel processor; and 2MB of video memory. The machines support computing-intensive applications like engineering design and analysis; publishing and scientific modeling; and the newest versions of AutoCAD, Aldus PageMaker, CorelDRAW and Lotus 1-2-3. In addition to integrating with the MicroVAX 3100, the 433s can be used to provide wide-area network connections to the Department of Post-Secondary Technical Education's VAX 6300 in Concord. The DECpc 433 selected for the AutoCAD/Desktop Publishing Lab offers the highest graphics resolution available in the marketplace and was designed specifically for applications such as PageMaker. The Digital PC workstations and other equipment solve the college's fundamental problem in meeting the needs of its students by providing the storage and speed necessary for its curricula to run new versions of software and allow expansion to additional software packages for its academic programs. The systems also expand the computer facilities' student scheduling so that additional computer courses can be incorporated into the lab's classes. Provided to the college at no charge, Pathworks provides users with the capability to share all printers and other resources on the network; therefore, there was no need to purchase replacement printers. In addition to the 60% Corporate Educational Grant, Digital also provided ten free software licenses for the Real-Time Integrator package -- a $20,000 value. As Pathworks supports X-Windows applications, the college can now use VMS X-Windows software such as Real-Time Integrator and a large amount of other software provided by Digital without further expense. Among other technical advantages, the Digital systems can be managed from one console terminal while backup work and software installations can be performed in one central area, thus saving on personnel costs. Additionally, the VAX can be used as a PC server and a multi-user system, allowing the two labs to accommodate a planned Health and Human Services Technologies Lab of 386 PCs and future Writing Labs using dumb terminals logged into the VAX running applications such as WordPerfect. On The Forefront The Digital 433 and Pathworks equipment saves the college money in terms of training costs. Plus the new system provides greater utilization of the computer facilities' manpower and resources because the college had already made an investment in training its personnel on Digital equipment. The college also feels that Digital's commitment to open standards will protect its present and future computer investments. The expanded computer capabilities have put the college at the forefront of both academic and administrative computing, according to Dr. Richard Mandeville, the college's president. "The big winner in this collaboration between DEC and our college is the student. The student can now learn more material more efficiently and thus become more competitive in the world of work," he comments. President Mandeville commends the program with these words: "This type of business-education partnership is precisely what both the private sector and public sector need for each participant's group to become more productive and thus more competitive. A well-deserved 'tip-of-the-hat' g'es to DEC."

This article originally appeared in the 03/01/1994 issue of THE Journal.