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Ken Olsen and the Quotation Misinterpreted Around the World

Posted by Judy on Feb 20th 2022

Happy Birthday to Ken Olsen. Born Feb 20, 1926, he was the co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) in 1957 with colleague Harlan Anderson. He pioneered the mini- and micro-computer markets and was known throughout his career for his fostering of engineering innovation. In 1986, Fortune Magazine named Olsen “America’s Most Successful Entrepreneur”. The same year he received the IEEE Engineering Leadership Recognition Award. But by the end of the 1980s, the mini and micro computers were being overtaken by the PC. A remark Olsen made about home computers is often cited as evidence of his dismissal of the PC , but it has been misinterpreted.

In 1977, referring to computers used in home automation at the dawn of the home computer era, Olsen is quoted as saying "There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home." Olsen admitted to making the remark, even though he says his words were taken out of context and he was referring to computers set up to control houses, not PCs. According to, "the out-of-context misinterpretation of Olsen’s comments is considered much more amusing and entertaining than what he really meant, so that is the version that has been promulgated for decades now.”