MAYNARD, Mass. (AP) _ Digital Equipment Corp. announced Tuesday it would close a plant in Phoenix and eliminate more than 400 jobs, which might require the first layoffs in company history.

Digital, which has been slashing its payroll for months to cope with a slump in computer sales, said it would try to find other slots in the company for some workers.

Also, Digital plans to offer a financial package similar to a severance program the company has used to encourage workers to voluntarily leave their jobs.

''We hope to do this without a layoff and preserve choice, but it's possible we may not be able to do that,'' Digital spokesman Jeffry Gibson said.

Digital President Kenneth Olsen has said repeatedly the computer company hopes to avoid layoffs, but he could not offer any guarantees.

The Phoenix facility employs 476 people, down from a payroll of 1,800 workers several years ago, Gibson said.

No timetable has been set for the actual closing or for shifting businesses away from the site.

The Phoenix site has several operations, including a low-volume manufacturing plant for printers and a distribution center.

Digital, which recorded its first-ever quarterly loss earlier this year, cut its payroll by 3,000 positions in its last fiscal year. This year, the company plans further cuts of 5,000 to 6,000 workers.

Digital employs 123,500 people worldwide.