We all owe Ken Olsen a thank-you ecard. Without him I wouldn't be typing this, and you wouldn't be reading this. The computer pioneer passed away Sunday at age 84.
Olsen was the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), which was one of the first companies to make computers for commercial use. Back then computers were the size of Winnebagos, roughly speaking. DEC began in 1957 and was sold to Compaq in 1997 for $9.6 billion.
Bill Gates has called Olsen "an inventor, scientist, and entrepreneur ... one of the true pioneers of the computing industry."
Olsen, simply put, was a pretty big deal.
He was also a major influence in my life and his influence is still important at Microsoft through all the engineers who trained at Digital and have come here to make great software products.
If Olsen had been missing from the chain of events, personal computing would not have been possible. That man influenced Gates, for crying out loud.
Olsen was called "the most successful entrepreneur in the history of American business" by Fortune in 1986. It's possible we've never heard of him because 1) we're not that old or 2) we're not that into computer history, but better late than never.
Thank you, Mr. Olsen, for using your powers for good and not evil. I mean, he was a computer genius, he could have built man-eating robots instead.
Here's a great seven-minute overview of the Genius of Ken Olsen.
Photo via YouTube