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Behind the explosive growth in the US computer industry are scores of individualistic, inventive companies -- many of them located along Route 128 in the Boston suburbs. The firms, closely bound by old school ties and intellectual interests to universities in the area, are leading the world into new frontiers of technology. They are also helping propel the Northeast into the highest level of prosperity in more than a decade.

At manufacturing plants in Massachusetts, thousands of skilled workers design , test, assemble, and ship this new computer technology to industries around the world. These new computers are the brains of automation -- the modern slide rules of engineers, the adding machines for store clerks, and the new blinking, beeping, talking toys under the Christmas tree. For the Bay State, they have meant a rush of new jobs and new sources of tax revenue.

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Staff photographer Peter Main took his camera into one of the state's leading assembly plants -- Wang Laboratories Inc. in Tewksbury, to take most of these photos. The firm, a leader in the production of high technology office equipment, has seen its stock soar on Wall Street and its profits rise by an average of 61 percent a year for the past five years. Digital Equipment Corporation, whose computer board is shown at left, is another high-growth firm -- up an average 26 percent in profits each year over the past five years.

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