RIP Ken Olsen

Ken Olsen, who founded Digital Equipment Corporation (usually known as DEC or Digital) in 1957, died yesterday (Sunday). DEC had considerable influence on the computer industry, on New England, and on my life.

Many years ago, I joined DEC in the UK, the land of my birth, as an instructor teaching software, mainly database software. Staying with the firm and with database, I moved to France and then to New England. After a few years, I felt that it was time for a change – from the industry, but not from New England.

DEC sign DEC was acquired by Compaq, which was later acquired by HP. Most of DEC, that is. The database part was acquired by Oracle.

Years after that, I was on Newbury Street in Boston, and came across this sign. It had obviously been buried under another sign, which was in turn making way for yet another sign, at the same building. It was a rather sad relic of the firm.

That sad stuff said, I’m glad that I was part of DEC, and that it was part of my life. All the best to Ken Olsen’s family, and to everyone else who ever referred to him as “Uncle Ken.”

Oliver Noggin Pops His Clogs

There’s a lot of very good TV for kids. I’m not saying that just to comfort my parent-self, but also because of most of the kids TV shows on WGBH TV: Word Girl, Arthur, etc.

When I think back to the TV I saw as a kid, my fondest memory is of Noggin the Nog. Oliver Postgate wrote and told the stories, while his partner Peter Firmin did the visuals. If I had to explain why storytelling is so wonderful, I’d play the introduction to Noggin.

Let’s enjoy some Noggin together now, and then meet again after the video in for more Oliver info.

Oliver just died, at age 83. I found out his death via Nicholas. The BBC obit emphasizes some of Oliver’s other creations, such as Bagpuss and Ivor the Engine, but it is for Noggin that I will always remember him. I don’t think he’d object to my use of the Brit expression to pop one’s clogs.

Michael Hammer: RIP, Reengineering, Reading

Michael Hammer passed away yesterday. There are already many obits, including the at one at the Hammer and Company site.

He is best known for his work on reengineering, and in particular for the book Reengineering the Corporation. It’s a book I am reluctant to recommend.

That’s because it is a classic example of an article padded out to book length. The article in question is great, and stands well today.

I first became aware of Hammer via a video on IT architecture, before he found reengineering and fame. The switch he made, then, was the classic one from doing things right to doing the right things – and not doing the wrong things, even if they are customary. I’d say that the spirit of reengineering is alive and well in the stripped-down design of many current web services.