Wang Laboratories was a computer company founded in 1951 by Dr. An Wang and Dr. G. Y. Chu. The company was successively headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts (1954–1963), Tewksbury, Massachusetts (1963–1976), and finally in Lowell, Massachusetts (1976–1997). At its peak in the 1980s, Wang Laboratories had annual revenues of $3 billion and employed over 33,000 people. It was one of the leading companies during the time of the Massachusetts Miracle.
The company was always directed by Dr. Wang, who was described as an "indispensable leader" and played a personal role in setting business and product strategy. Under his direction, the company went through several distinct transitions between different product lines.
Wang Laboratories filed for bankruptcy protection in August 1992. After emerging from bankruptcy, the company eventually changed its name to Wang Global. In 1999, Wang Global was acquired by Getronics of The Netherlands.
The first Wang VS computer was introduced in 1977, about the same time as Digital Equipment Corporation's VAX, and continues to be in use 34 years later. Its instruction set was compatible with the IBM 360 series, but it did not run any IBM 360 system software. The VS operating system and all system software were built from the ground up to support interactive users as well as batch operations. The VS was aimed directly at the business data processing market in general, and IBM in particular. While many programming languages were available, the VS was typically programmed in COBOL. Other languages supported in the VS integrated development environment included Assembler, COBOL 74, COBOL 85, BASIC, Ada, RPG II, C, PL/I, FORTRAN, Glossary, MABASIC, SPEED II and Procedure (a scripting language). Pascal was also supported for I/O co-processor development. The Wang PACE (Professional Application Creation Environment) 4GL and database was used from the mid-1980s onward by customers and third party developers to build complex applications sometimes involving many thousands of screens, hundreds of distinct application modules, and serving many hundreds of users. Substantial vertical applications were developed for the Wang VS by third party software houses throughout the 1980s in COBOL, PACE, BASIC, PL/I and RPG II. The Wang OFFICE family of applications and Wang WP were both popular applications on the VS. Word Processing ran on the VS through services that emulated the OIS environment and downloaded the WP software as "microcode" (in Wang terminology) to VS workstations.
The press and the industry referred to the class of machines made by Wang, including the VS, as "minicomputers," and Kenney's 1992 book refers to the VS line as "minicomputers" throughout. Although some argue that the high-end VSes and their successors should qualify as mainframes, Dr. Wang avoided this term. In his autobiography, Dr. Wang, rather than calling the VS 300 a mainframe, said that it "verges on mainframe performance.". He went on to draw distinction between the "mainframes" at the high end of IBM's line ("just as Detroit would rather sell large cars ... so IBM would rather sell mainframes")—in which IBM had a virtual monopoly—with the "mid-sized systems" in which IBM had not achieved dominance: "The minicomputer market is still healthy. This is good for the customer and good for minicomputer makers." Wang Laboratories positioned the VS line as minicomputers, and reflected this in its marketing collateral and press releases. Later models, the small VS5000 series, launched in approx 1988, were user installable, the smallest being physically similar in size to PCs of the era. The largest supported an increasingly substantial number of users.
Browsing the Collection
There are 23 images of disks for the Wang VS in this collection, including games and applications.