LOS ALAMITOS, Calif., 8 February, 2011 -- Digital Equipment Corp. founder and CEO Kenneth Harry Olsen, recipient of the 1985 IEEE Computer Society Entrepreneur Award, has died at age 84. The computer pioneer's death was announced by Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he served as a trustee and where the Ken Olsen Science Center holds his archives.
Born in Stratford, Connecticut, Olsen attended Massachusetts Institute of Technology after serving in the Navy during World War II. He worked at MIT Lincoln Laboratory on the TX-2 project before co-founding DEC in 1957 with colleague Harlan Anderson and venture capital provided by Georges Doriot's American Research and Development Corp.
His valuing of innovation and technical excellence spawned and popularized techniques such as engineering matrix management that are broadly employed today throughout many industries. Microsoft founder Bill Gates called Olsen "one of the true pioneers of the computing industry" and termed him "a major influence" in his life.
In 1986, Fortune Magazine named Olsen "America's most successful entrepreneur." He was the focus of a 1988 biography, "The Ultimate Entrepreneur: The Story of Ken Olsen and Digital Equipment Corporation," by Glenn Rifkin and George Harrar.
Under Olsen's 35-year leadership tenure, DEC pioneered the concepts behind interactive computing. Creating one of the first digital computers for commercial use, DEC marketed the "mini-computer" and set records in size and affordability. The company also set industry standards in program languages, operating systems, networking architectures, applications software, computer peripherals, component and circuit technology, manufacturing processes and business practices.
Olsen was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame (1990) and the Computer History Museum (1996). He served on the boards of several prestigious organizations including the Computer Science and Engineering Board of the US National Academy of Sciences, and as a member of the President's Science Advisory Committee. He was awarded the National Medal of Technology in 1993.
Olsen was co-awarded the Computer Entrepreneur award in 1985 with Control Data Corp. CEO William Charles Norris "for pioneering work with concepts and development of minicomputers."
Gordon College will hold a public memorial service for Olsen on Saturday, 14 May 14 at 2 p.m. A documentary of Ken Olsen is scheduled for release by the College later in 2011.