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DeveloperDigital Equipment Corporation
Written inPascal
OS familyDEC OS family
Working stateHistoric
Source model?
Initial releaseearly 1980s
Latest release? / ?
Marketing target?
Available inEnglish
PlatformsVAX family
Kernel type?
Default user interfaceCommand-line interface

VAXELN is a discontinued real-time operating system for the VAX family of computers produced by the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) of Maynard, Massachusetts.

As with RSX-11 and VMS, Dave Cutler was the principal force behind the development of this operating system. Cutler's team developed the product after moving to the Seattle, Washington area to form the DECwest Engineering Group, DEC's first engineering group outside New England. Initial target platforms for VAXELN were the "backplane interconnect" computers such as the model code-named Scorpio. At the time there were no VAX microcomputers. When VAXELN was well under way, Cutler spearheaded the next project, the MicroVAX I - the first VAX microcomputer. Although it was a low-volume product compared with the New England-developed MicroVAX II, the MicroVAX I demonstrated the set of architectural decisions needed to support a single-board implementation of the VAX computer family, and it also provided a platform for embedded applications written in VAXELN.

The VAXELN team made the decision, for the first release, to use the Pascal language as its system programming language. The small and very focused development team built the first product in approximately 18 months. Other languages, including C, Ada, and Fortran were supported in later releases of the system as optional extras. A relational database, named VAX Rdb/ELN was another optional component of the system.[1]

VAXELN allowed a developer to write a self-contained embedded system application that would run on VAX (and later MicroVAX) hardware with no other operating system present. The system was debuted in Las Vegas in the early 1980s, with a variety of amusing applications written by the development team, ranging from a system that composed and played minuets to a robotic system that played and solved the Tower of Hanoi puzzle.


The system was originally supposed to be named ELAN (Executive for Local Area Network), but DEC discovered at the last minute that it was trademarked in a European country where DEC wished to conduct business. The company holding the trademark to ELAN was the Slovenian sports equipment manufacturer Elan. In order to avoid litigation DEC quickly renamed it to VAXELN by dropping the A, much to the disgruntlement of the developers. Some documentation and marketing material had already been printed referring to the product as ELAN, and samples of these posters were prized for many years by members of the original team.


  1. ^ "VAXELN 2.2 Brochure" (PDF). 1986. Retrieved 2020-11-12.

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