In 1977, Ken Olsen, founder and CEO of DEC, made an oft-misapplied statement, “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home”. A favourite of introductory college computing modules – supposedly highlighting the difficulty in keeping pace with rapid change in computing technology, it appears foolish at a time when personal computers were already under development – including in his own laboratories. The quote is out of context, of course, and applies to Olsen’s scepticism regarding fully-automated assistive home technology systems (climate control, security, cooking food, etc.). However, as precisely these technologies gain traction, there may be little doubt that, if he stands unfairly accused of being wrong in one respect, time will inevitably prove him so in another.
So, in short:
- Yes, he did say that
- No, that wasn’t quite what he meant
- He wasn’t (obviously) wrong at the time
- He is now/will be soon