Talk:Ken Olsen

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MIT Degrees[edit]

User:Sakhalinrf claimed that Olsen had EECS (Electrical Engineering and Computer Science) degrees from MIT. First of all, there were no degree programs in CS anywhere in 1950 when he earned his Bachelor of Science degree, and secondly this states clearly that his degrees were in EE.--Rogerd 22:20, 13 November 2005 (UTC)

My reply[edit]

I already responded to you on your user page, so I will just cut and paste my comments here.

First off, your link that you gave me, which is here this is itself wrong. That article states that he has an M.A. degree in electrical engineering from MIT. MIT has never given out M.A. degrees in anything, and especially not in engineering.

Secondly, I will tell you my source - it is the MIT Infinite Connection website, which is the MIT alumni website that lists every alumni's degrees. If you are a member of the MIT community, you can go there and check it for yourself. Infinite Connection states the following.

• 1950, SB - Bachelor Of Science, Course 6 - Elec Eng & Comp Sci • 1952, SM - Master Of Science, Course 6 - Elec Eng & Comp Sci

Infinite conection is available at this website. If you have an affiliation with MIT, or know somebody who does, you will be able to see for yourself. If you don't, maybe I can send you the file or otherwise arrange for you to get temporary access to the database.

But the point is, that's MIT's own alumni database. If MIT itself says that Olsen has a degree in EECS, then he has a degree in EECS. You might say that MIT is wrong, but hey, I don't know what to tell you. MIT has the right to say whatever it wants regarding what degrees it hands out. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Sakhalinrf (talkcontribs) 19:58, November 13, 2005 (UTC)

This is not MIT itself saying that Olsen has a degree in EECS, it's MIT's alumni website scripting that was saying he has that degree. (That website no longer lists Olsen.)
I say we listen to reality -- i.e., that there were no computer science degree programs anywhere at that time. And for that matter, let's listen to Ken Olsen himself, who points out in an interview that there were no computer science courses to take at MIT back then. Surely, to get any degree, one ordinarily takes some courses in the subject? Yakushima (talk) 06:07, 26 September 2008 (UTC)

It was just EE in 1950[edit]

See MIT EECS Department Facts for the history of the department. The department was not renamed to "Electrical Engineering and Computer Science" until 1975. As far as the alumni database goes.... I would guess that it stores the degree as a Course number (in this case, 6) and prints out whatever the current name of the department is. AFAIK, the EE and CS degrees are separate, anyway - you get a degree in Electrical Engineering or in Computer Science and Engineering, but not in EECS. FreplySpang (talk) 07:03, 22 November 2005 (UTC)

My reply to that[edit]

I understand what you are saying, but I'm afraid that I don't think that matters.

Here's the listing of the various types of course 6 subjects that MIT includes in its alumni database, along with the number of people who earned degrees in that type in parantheses:

"6 - Elec Eng & Comp Sci (12788) 61 - Electrical Engrg (4731) 62 - Elec Eng & Comp Sci (1841) 63 - Computer Sci & Engrg (3806) 6A - Elec Eng - Internshp (2229) 6B - Elec Eng (Illumintg) (5) 6C - Elec Eng Communictns (101) 6D - Eecs- Doctoral (1077) 6H - Eecs-Sm Pre Hst (4) 6M - Eecs-Sm / Eng (1254) 6P - Elec Eng & Comp Sci (2180) 6T - Eecs Sm/tech & Pol (30) 6W - Elec Engrg Woodshole (22)"

So if MIT wanted to designate Ken Olsen's degree as a Electrical Engineering degree (and not an EECS degree), then the answer is simple. Just designate his degree as a "61" degree. But they don't do that. They choose to desiginate his degree as a "6" degree.

Now, I do agree that it's "weird" to give Ken Olsen an EECS degree when EECS wasn't even taught. But hey, MIT has the right to decide what sort of degree he gets. We may think that MIT is wrong to do that, but hey, that's MIT's decision to make, not ours. After all, MIT confers formal Electrical Engineering (course 61) degrees on nearly 5000 of its graduates. So if it chooses to grant Ken Olsen with an EECS degree (course 6) and not an Electrical Engineering degree (course 61), I would assume that MIT has a reason to do that. We may disagree with the reason, but it's MIT's call, not ours.

Sakhalinrf 20:54, 13 January 2006 (UTC)

The Snake Oil Comment[edit]

Are we really upholding a neutral point of view by not giving context to the snake oil comment? A fuller version of it that I can find is:

"Asked to comment on the recent uproar over the AT&T and Sun Microsystems Inc. Unix-development alliance, Olsen, without mentioning particular companies, likened some vendors of Unix products to 'snake oil' salesmen and said the claim that Unix will resolve incompatibility problems within multi-vendor networks is 'a naive idea.'"

Andrew.langmead 14:01, 25 January 2006 (UTC)

Error in Biography[edit]

The page previously stated that Ken Olsen founded IBM (??), not Digital. I corrected the mistake and added a link to Digital's article. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by EmirCalabuch (talkcontribs) 15:58, 25 January 2007 (UTC).


"Olsen co-founded Digitial Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1957. The company began as a manufacturer of "single-board" computers. The first product was called a Falcon. These products were sold to scientist and engineers. Later the company developed a 16 bit laboratory computer called the pdp-11. DEC developed market dominance in scientific, engineering and manufacturing computers between 1970 and 1990. The company reached $13 Billion in annual sales before it was acquired by Compaq Computers in 1997."

The paragraph above had been added to the external links section of the Ken Olsen article in a 17:00, January 24 2007 (UTC) edit. I moved it here because, although it didn't belong there, oddly attached to a Snopes link, there may be details in it which could improve the article itself. — Athaenara 15:01, 14 May 2007 (UTC)

Edit reasons[edit]

While I'm sure there's a wealth of information regarding both this guy and his ventures none of this has proper citation, and this particular section:

and he almost ruined his company!!and in 1987 gave the first of his infamous 'snake oil speeches' and quipped, "UNIX is snake oil", referring to the Unix Conspiracy.

Is proof enough to me that the writer has either some ridiculous agenda or a blog he copied this from. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:34, 1 January 2008 (UTC)

Personal life?[edit]

How about his personal life? I see that his wife just died. Any information about their marriage, children, etc.? Where was he born, raised, etc.? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:32, 11 March 2009 (UTC)

Removed "No reason" for computer in the home quote[edit]

I have temporarily removed the section on the claimed "no reason" for computers in the home quote. The citations given for the "infamous quote" are of inadequate quality. The material is potentially libellous. Wikipedia's policy Wikipedia:Verifiability#Questionable_sources directs us to remove such unsourced material. To be quite clear, the citations given do not support the claims made - they support the claim that someone else believes that Olsen said what is claimed, but we are still non the wiser as to where these _beliefs_ came from. The BBC article cited simply claims that Gordon Frazer believes (how?) that Ken Olsen said something. No citation is given for an actual news source or interview or record of who it was that recorded this comment. The website "" whose tag-line is "rumor has it" is about as far from a "reliable source" (see Wikipedia:Reliable_sources) as you can imagine.

This is an important quotation and should be restored but only if proper citations can be given. See WP:ProveIt and WP:Burden and the Wikipedia policy on biographies of living persons.

A recent contributor made a number of worthwhile changes that included claims that Olsen was quoted out of context, which is quite possibly the case. The title "business missteps" was and is completely inappropriate, as no claim was made that any action by Olsen was in some way a "business misstep". The story of the growth of the legend of the supposed quote might well be worthy of discussion, but not under such a libellous heading.CecilWard (talk) 11:02, 11 July 2009 (UTC)

Removed "and are indeed among the least understood in the industry" because these are weasel words. Removed "and promulgated the idea" as there is conflicting evidence for his advocacy of PCs; his NY Time obituary (reference 11) quotes him being dismissive of them.

Generally, the lack of any criticism of Olsen here, especially his role in the rapid decline of DEC, threatens the objectivity of this article. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:11, 20 August 2014 (UTC)


At the age of 84, do we need to have a cause of death? Here is the Gordon College announcement: --WiseWoman (talk) 21:08, 8 February 2011 (UTC)

Picture Needed[edit]

Surely there must be some freely available public picture, or otherwise, of Ken Olsen available that can be posted in this article. (talk) 15:50, 20 April 2012 (UTC)