Ancient history: the Digital logo

Sunday 16 December 2007This is over 15 years old. Be careful.

My first corporate job was with Digital Equipment Corporation. I worked in the printer group, on PostScript technologies. It was common then to simulate the Digital logo by scaling Helvetica and superimposing it in white onto colored rectangles.

But I knew that was inaccurate, and it gave a bad hacked-up impression. So I took it upon myself to create a genuine Digital logo in PostScript. My association with the logo was strong enough that I still get requests every few months for the logo. I am now an HP employee, so I have contact with even more ex-DECcies interested in the logo (HP bought Compaq which bought Digital, you see).

When the latest request came in, I decided to make a serious attempt at resurrecting the logo.

I don’t have the PostScript file for the logo any more, but it was often included in PostScript files generated from the in-house document creation tool (VAX Document). HP still maintains an archive of papers from the Digital days, so I figured a little archaeology there would yield a logo fossil.

A Google search for the term VMS in PostScript files on provided a direct hit: the first result (a paper entitled How the RDB/VMS Data Sharing System Became Fast) had the Digital logo font in it. Digging deeper, it turns out I was really lucky: very few of the papers on the site had the logo.

The logo I made was actually a font (Type 3, meaning the characters were defined with PostScript code). Back in 1987 I went to the graphic design group and got the largest photographic master of the logo they had. I scanned them, then used an early version of Adobe Illustrator to create the curves.

Here’s the historical summary I included in the font file:

The logo was designed in 1957 by Elliot Hendrickson, who was then working as an independent designer. He was contracted by DEC to do a brochure, and DEC wanted a logo to accompany it. The logo up to then had been the letters DEC in blocks the shape of the plug-in cards that DEC had been producing. Elliot re-worked the logo, incorporating letters which were hand-drawn for the purpose by Arthur Hover(?). The logo has been maintained since then in conventional technology, i.e. film masters. There was at least one reworking of the logo at some point.

The masters I received had a number of interesting features. The boxes were not all the same width, and there seemed to be no logic to which boxes were wider. The ‘g’ was the narrowest, and the ‘i’ and ‘l’ were second widest. Also, the two ‘i’s were not exactly the same shape. On ten-inch masters, (one box to an 8”×11” sheet), the boxes were not rectangles, but were very slightly tapered in weird ways. I assume that the tapering is the result of too many reproductions, but the difference in widths may have been deliberate at some time. Elliot reports that when he drew it, all boxes were the same width. I have made all of the boxes the same width, since that seems to have been the original intent, since the differences were almost negligible anyway, and since there was no logic to the differences.

The font I retrieved from the research report had none of the commentary, but here is the code (

11 dict begin

/FontInfo 3 dict def
FontInfo begin
    /Notice (The Digital logo is a registered trademark of Digital Equipment Corporation.) def
    /FullName (Digital Logo) def
    /version (1.7, 24-Apr-1989) def

/FontName /DEC_Logo def
/FontType 3 def                         % This is a user-defined font
/FontMatrix matrix def                  % Use an identity transform
/FontBBox [ 0 0 3.383 1 ] def           % Logo itself is biggest
/GapWidth .070 def                      % The width of the gap between boxes
/LogoWidth 3.383 def                    % The width of the logo

/Encoding 256 array def
0 1 255 { Encoding exch /.notdef put } for

dup (d) 0 get /DEC-logo put             % (d) gives logo
dup (t) 0 get /smalltrademark put       % (t) gives small trademark
    (T) 0 get /largetrademark put       % (T) gives large trademark

/Work 15 dict def                       % for doing work in font.

/BuildChar {
    exch begin                          % Use the font dictionary
        Work begin
            Encoding exch get           % Look up the character name
            load                        % Pull out the procedure
            exec                        % Run it.
            end                         % Work
        end                             % fontdict
    } def

Work begin

/.notdef {} def

/words {
    0           %
    moveto      % !
    curveto     % "
    closepath   % #
    lineto      % $
    boxw        % %
    boxstep     % &
    translate   % '
} bind cvlit def
( mr vy! mt rQ h[ kF aw kE" Zw kG T@ q] T@ ~I" T@ AKA Zv AQi ai AQk" h[ AQi m
t AJX mr ADw"# nI AZ[! nI Avp$ |C Avp$ |C ^h$ mk ^h$ mk bl$ l` a` gc \\U _F
\\U" VR \\T Fa cj Fa ~I" Fa ATf RS A`M `S A`M" e_ A`M je A^W nI AZ["#% !% B\\
P$  B\\P$  $#& '% !% B\\P$  B\\P$  $# ZK ^h! ZK A]p$ hO A]p$ hO ^h$# ZK AfV!
 ZK Au~$ hO Au~$ hO AfV$#& ' l[ AE~! l[ AKe fG AQX `Q AQX" [O AQX S] ANK S]
?t" S] pa ]A nR `L nR" f_ nR l[ rg l[ yS"#  B\\P!% B\\P$% $  $# ld AWi! kG A
Yn fV A^\\ _b A^\\" T} A^[ FM AXT FM }s" FN hy V{ ax ]r ax" eL aw jl fK lL g
s" lL aN$ lL \\W gM Wg ^w Wg" Wk Wh V{ \\O V{ ^a" HO ^a$ HO WN L| Ld ]~ Lc"
mN Lc rP RX t[ Td" vP VZ x? [^ x? _a" x? A]p$ le A]p$#& '% !% B\\P$  B\\P$
$# ZK ^h! ZK A]p$ hO A]p$ hO ^h$# ZK AfV! ZK Au~$ hO Au~$ hO AfV$#& ' dX Aue
! Wa Aue$ Wa A^w$ Pr A^w$ Pr ATT$ Wa ATT$ Wa ld$ Wa d? [Z _B fP _C" kU _C kH
 _A ob _r" ob lz$ lj lZ kq lM jW lP" gj lU dX mR dX rF" dX ATS$ nd ATS$ nd A
^w$ dX A^w$#% !  $  B\\P$% B\\P$#& '  !  B\\P$% B\\P$% $# J{ AIx! V~ AIx$ V~
 APR ZR ASi `f ASi" jj ASj jU AOK jT AId" dF AGI dk AGM [L AEC" OI ABQ Gq }G
 Gp ph" Gq d[ P] ]z ZP ]{" dD ]z fF aE jJ cr" jJ ^z$ yb ^z$ uz dp vw ey vu j
R" vv mn vu AOX vu AOX" vv AVC sX AZH qG A[_" k] A^w d^ A_Q `f A_R" Ru A_P J
z AXU J{ AIx"# jT }j! jT uI$ jT qP ee in \\R im" Wp il UN mC UM qZ" UN ur X{
 yI \\D yq" _U z[ fv |V jT }j"#& '% !% B\\P$  B\\P$  $# ZK ^h! ZK Awb$ hO Aw
b$ hO ^h$#)
/pathstring exch def

/round-to-pixels {
    0 transform
    round exch round exch
    } def

/DEC-logo {
    3.383 0 0 0 3.383 1 setcachedevice
    .0001 .0001 scale

    /boxw 4250 round-to-pixels def
    /boxstep 4950 round-to-pixels def

        dup 62 gt
        {   63 and exch 6 bitshift add }
        {   dup 32 ge
            {   32 sub words exch get exec }
            {   pop }

    } def

/trademark {
    /s exch .380 div def
    /w s .725 mul .070 add def
    /u 1 .673 s mul sub def
    w 0 0 u w 1 setcachedevice
    /Symbol findfont s scalefont setfont
    .070 u moveto                               % Superscript it
    (\344) show
    } def

/smalltrademark { .15 trademark } def
/largetrademark { .25 trademark } def

end                                             % Work dictionary

FontName                                        % Get the name
currentdict                                     % Get the font dict
end                                             % Close up the dict
definefont pop                                  % Define the font

I don’t remember encoding the path in that tricky way: the printed copy I have of the code was much lengthier. Updated: Alert reader Peter Weaver sent along a copy he found of the earlier version:

To draw with the font, I added this code:

/DEC_Logo findfont 100 scalefont setfont
72 72 moveto
(d) show

With that PostScript file, I could create a PDF file, an Illustrator file (back to home!) then .PNGs:

The Digital logo

Hopefully, these will satisfy the needs for Digital logo fans. If you need anything more, let me know!


20 years from now, I'll call you up (on the holographic video phone, of course) asking for vectors of the tabblo logo...
I don' suppose you know the correct colors that were used? The old blue and the newer burgundy?
Wow, who knew you were such a graphic designer manqué ? Very nice work.
cool, i thing i'll print it, cut letters and use as a stencil to paint it on my laptop
Excellent! This is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks for sharing the details!

As Boyd I'd also appreciate if someone could document the "official" colors used for the logo over time. Actually, there was more than blue and burgundy - there was the well known dark blue, a much lighter blue (which I find on some old binders with DEC training materials), there was a "grey period", and of course the last incarnation - burgundy.

Thanks for your effort, and for any info on the colors that (hopefully) will be provided.
I'll plead guilty to being the person Ned describes as the "latest request" last December. Thanks again for documenting this and making the definitive logo available to all.

I initially wanted to create a DEC Alumni LinkedIn group and use the old logo, but found a couple (now over a dozen thanks to finally having group SEARCH in LinkedIn) already there. But every one else used the awful red logo. I've always associated the red logo with the Palmer years, when he ran the company into the ground and it bled red ink. I think the classic blue would be preferred (all my business cards from 1980-1991 were blue), or the even older black that Ned included here.

Now, any one have the classic DECUS PDP-1 screen logo? [o]
One can also find a few examples at Search for "DEC logo" or "digital logo". Most of them are the red flavor; many are poor quality -- but Ned's trusty b&w one is there, too.
Ned, I remember you talking to people back then about the logo as a .ps font.
Yes on the blue, though black, orange, magenta and white were also seen. I got he white from the 11T03 I have in the rack behind me. ;)
Here's one more rather unusual digital logo sticker that I got from a friend back in the mid 80s.

Sorry, but to get to this site, you have to sign up. If Ned wants to post the image here, he's welcome to do so.
I remember that work when it first came out. Thanks for bringing it back, Ned.

This is of course the "real" logo, not the maroon "new logo" that Bob Palmer inflicted in the company just before he started selling off the bits and pieces.
[Is this thread still alive? Hope so.]

I am curious also about the colors. It is my recollection that the "standard" blue that showed up on all the business cards was printers' repro blue. And the Bob Palmer logo color was, oddly enough, not selected from the zillions of standard Pantone colors that ink manufacturers and printing houses are familiar with (and have reference swatches for). I recall that it was a non-standard combination of red/green/blue ink that had to be custom mixed by each print house and that behaved differently on each kind of paper, with the result that no two manifestations of the Bob Palmer logo ever looked the same. One of the worst versions I ever saw was the full-page ad announcing the new logo in the Wall Street Journal. The color was absolutely sick!

I also recall that the traditional logo had equal-width boxes (or nearly so, within reasonable tolerances) but that the Bob Palmer logo had noticeably different box widths depending on the width of the character it contained.

Why did I pay so much attention to this stuff? Well, around 1990-95 I was responsible for marketing a DEC software product called Computer Integrated Telephony (CIT). This was not a mainstream product and I couldn't get the attention of the big DEC central marcom design group. So I "counterfeited" my own brochures with Adobe Pagemaker, copying the standard DEC brochure style as closely as I could. They were good enough to fool the DEC document distribution people, who happily gave me official document numbers and stocked and distributed my pieces for years!

Can anyone confirm, expand or refute my recollections of the logos?
Truly, is this thread still alive? Ned, are you responding to email? I hope yes...
I am interested in knowing the Pantone colors for the old PDP-11 rack plate. I'm part of college special interest house called Computer Science House, in Rochester NY. DEC donated our first onfloor computer and our house colors were the DEC colors used on the PDP-11 -- the dark purple and fuschia/hot pink colors. Anyway - I'd like to use the original Pantone colors to create a tshirt for our reunion. Can you Ned or anyone provide the Pantone colors? Any help is appreciated!
@K: I don't have any colors, unfortunately. The best bet is to contact someone who still has original equipment, and get someone to color-match it.
I work for HP, in the same building throughout the digital, compaq, and hp transitions. I have a PDP-11 manual in my office :). Although we got rid of most of our digital equipment years ago (mandated by either Compaq or HP), there are some pack rats around the office.

The logo plate that I'm holding in my hand, at this very moment, is from our old storage controller. I don't recall which. It was post HSC-50 since that product's logo was actually painted onto the sheet metal. An interesting thing to note about this plate is that the 'd' is centered in the burgundy rectangle with the same margins as the 'g' and the 'a', unlike the digital logo on this page. In the logo above, you can see that the 'd' is almost touching the right side of its rectangle. I'll pay more attention to the coffee mugs, 3 ring binders, and other odds and ends around the office tomorrow.
Ah, the centered 'd' and the circles over the 'i's (rather than squares) was a 1990's rework, and my logo plate is probably from one of the alpha servers. Funny, I never noticed the change until seeing this page. Cool!
Re colors: The only color references I ever saw were references to a DEC standard. I never saw that standard itself, so I don't know how it defined the colors. Maybe Pantone -- but that goes back only to 1963 so it might well be that DEC used something older.

I have an old PDP11 top of rack logo plate somewhere, new/unused (stick-on protective wax paper still in place). I should dig it up and compare it against the Pantone color reference I can find nearby.
My dear uncle Elliot created the logo and every time I see it, it makes me proud. Elliot passed away about 12 years ago and at his funeral his coworkers called the logo an Elliot.
John Alexopoulos 1:09 AM on 21 Nov 2012
I have an old piece of test equipment that I am trying to find out some information on. What it does, name, etc. It has a model # of 70-17562-00 but not much else. Do you know where I could find info on it? Is it worth anything or is it scrap?
thanks for your time and help.
According to
it seems to be "a VT100 without the monitor".

I wouldn*t scrap it, probably some Computer Museum or a vintage stuff collector is interested.

As a start, try the comp.sys.dec or vmsnet.pdp-11 newsgroup or check out

Good luck,
John Alexopoulos 1:27 AM on 22 Nov 2012

Thanks for your help! I am going to put it on e-bay and see where it takes me...

John Alexopoulos 1:28 AM on 22 Nov 2012

Thanks for your help! I am going to put it on e-bay and see where it takes me...

John Alexopoulos 1:28 AM on 22 Nov 2012

Thanks for your help! I am going to put it on e-bay and see where it takes me...

I knew Elliott Hendrickson...what a pleasure he was to work with. He also played trumpet in the DECbigband.
richard tomkins 4:53 PM on 18 Dec 2014
I had heard, that the original logo had actually been hand carved wood blocks and that the film masters had come from photographs of the wood blocks.
This odd sized/dimensioned boxes could be explained by this.
Thought I post. I managed to decode the PS file that you posted.

Then I reread the post and notice you have, that already has the numbers decoded:P

Thought I'd pop in to mention that we're discussing PDP-11 and other DEC system colors over at Metafilter:
No Pantone equivalent yet, but we've found the DEC Finish and Color Standard, which has been very informative.
At one point, had a Corporate Style Guide. There were rules for placement on a page, colors with matching Pantone color numbers, and pointers to where .ps files of the logo could be found. Do any of you still have a copy of that .PS file?
The links above to .ps and .pdf files still work...
DEC Std 092 (on Bitsavers) mentions that "Digital Blue" (092-0159) is "PMS Process Blue". PMS means Pantone, I don't recognize "process blue" but hopefully it means something to others.
That standard predates the burgundy color; I assume that was some Pantone color but I don't remember and don't have a reference. Note that the burgundy color was used with a different logo; the fool CEO who presided over those changes spent large sums of money changing the dots over the i from square to round rather than fixing the company.
That looks right. The C and U in those tags stand for "Coated" and "Uncoated". Pantone has several series of standard colors, tuned for printing on coated paper (such as is used in high end magazines and other printing of that kind) and uncoated paper (lower cost printing). So in fact I believe those are the same color, and when printed according to the specifications would indeed appear the same. But the underlying ink ratios differ because the papers differ.

This is a great thread! The first computer I ever used was a PDP-10. The schools in my state used it to print report cards (among other things), and someone had the good idea of putting terminals in schools and letting kids use it.

I’ve been searching for the font used for the “decsystem10” text on the front page of the manuals. Does anyone know what it is?


I don’t know that it has a name. Several decades ago I created a TTF font file for that fond, called it “Handbook” because I copied the shapes out of the PDP-11 processor handbooks. You can find it here: Not all the characters existed in the originals I used, so several of them are made up. Also, a few like t and f come in two forms, one with short loops and one with long loops, the latter for use when there isn’t another letter next to it that the long loop would bump into.


That’s so incredible! Thank you!

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