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Doug's Mailbag: Remembering Ken

Readers share their memories and thoughts of Ken Olsen:

Being a former Digital employee I have to agree with your sentiments that with the passing of Ken Olsen. We did indeed lose a good one. Although I didn't work in the mill (as the headquarters was known), I worked in a facility that was close enough that we did see Ken Olsen often enough. One of the many things I heard about this guy when I first started working there was his penchant to be just a regular guy.

He wasn't 'Mr. Olsen' or 'Sir.' He was just Ken (although most people referred to him as Uncle Ken). Maybe not to his face, but that was how he was known when he wasn't around. It wasn't meant in a mean or devious way -- it was just because everyone really liked the man. How many CEOs can you say that about in this day and age? He was just an all around great guy that truly cared about his employees. From handing out turkeys at Thanksgiving to every employee at digital to renting out Canobie Lake Park for multiple weekends in the summer for his employees and their families. Anybody that legitimately needed the corporate helicopter could call and reserve it with the only stipulation that if someone higher on the food chain needed it, they could bump your reservation.

The only mistake Ken Olsen made (other than the often, out of context quote regarding home PCs) was turning over his company to Bob Palmer. But that is a story for another time.

The first computer I worked on was an old DEC, circa 1992. It just ran DOS and had Lotus 1-2-3. It was a great machine and never crashed or had any problems, a real workhorse and practically indestructible. They don't make computers like that anymore.

Ken Olsen was not just a pioneer in the computer industry but also was involved in many charitable endeavors for which he never looked for publicity (unlike other more modern computer giants with the initials W.G.).

Ken was the most unpretentious CEO I ever met. I first met him at DECworld and thought he was just some local DEC guy visiting the show until our salesman straightened me out.

A guy who deserved better than he got.

Your story hit home. I recently was talking to one of our newer salespeople today and explained our history in OpenVMS. (Had to talk about clustering, David Cutler, VMS to WNT, and more.) Amazing how you get the blank stare from anyone under the age of 35-40 when you say DEC.

While most of our business nowadays is Windows/Linux/AS400, we still see the occasional OVMS deal roll through the door. (Just closed a deal with Volvo in that  was 100 percent OVMS.)

Hope all is well.

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Posted by Doug Barney on 02/11/2011 at 1:18 PM


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