Robert Palmer (computer businessman)

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For other people named Robert Palmer, see Robert Palmer (disambiguation).

Robert B. Palmer (born September 11, 1940) is an American businessman in the computer industry who was the last Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Digital Equipment Corporation.

Palmer was one of the founders of Mostek Corporation, which was founded in 1969 by former employees of Texas Instruments. Mostek made logic, memory, and microprocessor chips. In 1980, United Technologies Corporation (UTC) acquired Mostek Corporation, and Palmer became Executive Vice President of Semiconductor Operations.

In 1985, Palmer joined Digital where he served in various executive positions until being appointed as Chief Executive Officer and President in October 1992, replacing founder Ken Olsen.[1] Prior to Palmer's appointment, Digital had reported its first quarterly loss ever in 1990 and a net loss for fiscal year 1991. At the time the company had 35 plants around the world which were underutilized. Palmer undertook numerous restructurings, massive layoffs (more than 60,000 people), and plant closings in an effort to remain competitive. In addition to his duties as CEO, Palmer became board chairman in 1995.[1]

In 1993 Mitsubishi agreed to manufacture Digital's new Alpha 21066. In 1994 Digital sold its Rdb database software operations to Oracle Corporation. The following year Digital and Raytheon formed a multiyear, multimillion-dollar agreement to upgrade the onboard computer of the US Navy's E-2C Hawkeye aircraft.

In 1997, Digital sold its printing systems business to Virginia-based GENICOM. That year Digital sued Intel, accusing it of using some of Digital's patented technology to develop the Pentium microprocessor. Intel countersued, accusing Digital of violating 14 Intel patents. To settle the litigation, Digital sold its semiconductor production operations to Intel in 1998. Digital also sold its networking business to Cabletron. After divesting of several businesses, restructurings, and strengthening the Digital's financial position, Palmer announced that the corporate strategy would focus on the Internet in enterprise computing.[2]

By the mid-1990s, Palmer had recognized that the consolidation of the computer industry, as the proprietary architectures that Digital had previously did well with were now giving way to the standardization of the personal computer (PC), and in terms of scale Digital's annual production of PCs was 1 million units which was one twelfth of the volume of market leader Compaq. In June 1998, Compaq paid approximately $9 billion to acquire Digital. As expected, Palmer stepped down after negotiating the merger.[3][4]

In April 1999, Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) held its annual general meeting and announced that they had decided to elect Robert Palmer to its board of directors.[2] Palmer has served on the boards of a number of other companies as well, such as SEMATECH, the Semiconductor Industry Association, the Semiconductor Research Corporation, Cicada Semiconductor Inc. and NLine Corporation.[3] Palmer is also on the Board of Trustees of the Cooper Institute for Aerobic Research, a non-profit preventative medicine research and education organization.[1]


  1. ^ a b "Robert B Palmer". Forbes. 2005-12-15. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  2. ^ "Digital's Palmer elected to AMD board". The Register. Retrieved 2008-01-21. 
  3. ^ "Former Digital Equipment chairman joins NLine board". 2001-03-02. Archived from the original on 2002-11-02. Retrieved 2008-01-21.