Snopes on Ken Olsen

From: Paul Koning <>
Date: Wed Sep 22 08:19:20 2004

>>>>> "Tom" == Tom Jennings <> writes:

 Tom> Yeah, this is silly. Ken Olsen was a great guy, but he was as
 Tom> human as any of us, and made mistakes. He probably yelled at his
 Tom> dog too. Clearly, DEC missed the boat. I can personally attest
 Tom> to the TOTAL CRAP JOB they did with the Rainbow.

 Tom> (I can't believe I'm making this capitalist argument, I hate its
 Tom> results :-) but it wasn't his place to "predict" the use of
 Tom> computers in the home, but to CREATE it, and DEC had as good a
 Tom> chances as any, though historically the entrenched make poor
 Tom> pioneers (but then there's IBM, so much for consistency).

The underlying problem is that Ken had no clue about marketing, and
even less about sales. DEC was successful for so long in large part
because the products were so good they "sold themselves", and a
"processor handbook" was all the marketing you needed. When that
stopped being true, so did DEC.

You'd find good marketing people from time to time at DEC, but good
marketing as a high priority company activity just didn't exist. I
didn't learn just how much you can get from good marketing until years
after I left DEC.

Similarly, consider the cluelessness of a CEO who absolutely refuses
to consider commissions for salespeople.

A comparatively smaller problems is that Ken couldn't stop himself
from fiddling with engineering details even after DEC became a 50,000
person company. There are notorious examples where he personally
redesigned products that were just weeks from release, causing large
scale upheaval that delayed things for months (and, clearly, to no
useful purpose). Consider the MMJ jack...

Received on Wed Sep 22 2004 - 08:19:20 BST

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