Left: Steve Jobs on the Cover of Time Magazine (Source: Time Magazine)
Right: Ken Olsen on the cover of Fortune Magazine in 1986 when he was named the “America’s Most Successful Entrepreneur”.
Two Tech Legends Pass Away in 2011
As the world mourned the death of Steve Jobs, a true tech visionary who was in the forefront of innovation delivering the right product to the right market at the right time, little did people know that another tech pioneer passed away earlier this year.
Ken Olsen, the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) passed away in February, 2011. Ken Olsen was the Steve Jobs of the 60s and 70s. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates defined the technology landscape for Personal Computing while Ken Olsen was the man behind the mini computer revolution.
The early day computers, known as mainframes were only affordable for elite government agencies and departments. These machines which often occupied entire buildings operated in batch mode with very little user interaction. The user provided the instructions to the computer, the machine will process those instructions for hours and then provide the output.
Ken Olsen and DEC pioneered the mini computer. A computer that was much more smaller in size (compared to the mainframe) and one which provided true interactive computing. For 3 decades DEC systems (such as PDP series and VAX series) were use in nearly all industries. The DEC systems provided the much needed computing power for enterprises and for the academia in research and development.
Even in the the 1990s during the early days of the Internet, DEC Alpha servers were powering many popular websites such as Alta Vista, a popular search engine prior to Google’s inception..
Today many of us have taken the mini computer revolution for granted. But in fact the mini computer revolution is the one that paved the way to Personal Computing. It was the bridge between the Main Frame era and PC era. Like Steven Jobs, Ken Olsen was a great innovator of his time.