Digi-Key Company History

It was Dr. Ronald A. Stordahl’s interest in ham radio that provided the springboard for what has become Digi-Key Corporation today. While in college he assembled and began selling a digital electronic keyer kit for sending radiotelegraph code for ham radio operators. It was called the Digi-Key.

After obtaining his PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University of Minnesota, Stordahl returned to his hometown of Thief River Falls, Minnesota. The keyer kit was discontinued and he began selling electronic components in 1972. The Digi-Key “keyer” is long gone, but Digi-Key Corporation has become one of the fastest growing electronic component distributors in the world. We continue to operate on the premise of providing our customers – you – with superior service, focusing on the key areas of product selection, product availability, on-time delivery, and responsiveness.

From the start, Digi-Key used direct marketing as its exclusive means of reaching potential customers. In its first ten years, marketing efforts were focused on the electronic hobbyist. Then, in 1982, the company began directing catalog mailings to the commercial market. As a result, the commercial user has grown from 20 percent of total business to more than 98 percent.

Over the years, Digi-Key has done business with some interesting customers. Components purchased from Digi-Key are found in satellites orbiting the earth. We’ve sold components to Paramount Pictures for use in science fiction movies. Barry Goldwater once purchased a digital clock kit. Disneyland and the Space Agency are also included on our customer list. In fact, 99 of the top 100 electronic companies in the United States have done business with Digi-Key.

In four short years, Digi-Key moved from being the 16th largest to the 5th largest among the more than 300 electronic distributors in North America. Today, Digi-Key is the 4th largest electronic component distributor in North America and the 5th largest worldwide. It is Digi-Key’s customer-centered business philosophy that continues to drive the company’s rapid growth.

“The good idea still remains,” according to Stordahl, “Along with a great group of people dedicated to providing the best possible service to our customers. Service is the key.”