Daily Archives: February 8, 2011

Ken Olsen And His Beautiful Machines

Published February 8, 2011


DEC PDP-1 (Marcin Wichary/Flickr)

How important was New England native Ken Olsen? Consider this tweet from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen:

Condolences to DEC Founder Ken Olsen’s family. BillG & I wrote Microsoft BASIC on DEC PDP-10 mainframe. Ken’s work was vital to our success.

But the real measure of this man is found in the outpouring of support from ordinary people who worked for Olsen.

“DEC and Ken Olsen’s style and vision allowed me to reach my potential and fostered independent thinking,” writes Richard Green in the comments on our obituary. “I started as a lowly break/fix tech. I never felt that I WASN’T a part of DEC. If you wanted to learn something or do something new in your career, DEC was the place to be.

“If you never worked there, it is hard to appreciate what is was like. There were long hours, many all-nighters and we weren’t getting rich, but I couldn’t wait to go to work everyday.”

A colleague of mine said Digital Equipment Corporation is the reason a lot of people are in Massachusetts today. Olsen co-founded DEC in Maynard in the 1950s, building the company into a giant. At its apex, only IBM was a bigger tech company. When DEC began disintegrating in the 90s, some Massachusetts towns were devastated.

“I’m so sad to learn that Kenneth Olsen, the co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, has died,” writes WBUR’s Curt Nickisch on his personal blog. He continues:

When I arrived in Massachusetts to report business and technology for WBUR, I started hearing the lore of the golden days of the Bay State computer corridor. Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, dominated for decades. It was the poster child of the “Massachusetts Miracle.” It was the Google of its day, the cool company you wanted to work for.

Curt interviewed Green, the commenter I quoted, for a remembrance on WBUR’s All Things Considered. A year ago, Curt produced an interview with DEC’s other co-founder, Harlan Anderson.

What strikes me about DEC’s machines is how pretty they were. IBM, the rival that would win the personal computing wars, defined the beige box. Long before Apple’s candy-colored iMac, DEC computers were little pieces of art. Photographer Marcin Whicary posted some beautiful photographs of the PDP-1 on Flickr.

Olsen died Sunday in Indianapolis. He was 84.

Boston Police Report Body Found In Jamaica Plain

Published February 8, 2011

Boston homicide detectives are investigating the death of a woman, believed to be in her mid-30s, whose body was found in Jamaica Plain this morning.

It it’s ruled a homicide, this would be the second of 2011. At this time last year, there were twice as many homicides.

Police say the woman was shot in the head. She was found at 21 Kenney Street, near the Jamaicaway, and pronounced dead at the scene.

Anyone with information about the death can call detectives at (617) 343-4470 or can leave an anonymous tip by calling (800) 494-8477 or texting TIP to 27463.

The first homicide victim was Nicholas Buford, 21, of Dorchester, on Jan. 4.

Hubbub believes every life is important. We’re mapping and following up on every 2011 homicide in Boston.

Got Salt? Us Neither

Published February 8, 2011

Rock salt crystals

Rock salt crystals (Glyn Nelson/Flickr)

My boss, who lives in Newtonville, was lamenting the fact that he couldn’t find rock salt anywhere this weekend — and the workers at Home Depot were jerry-rigging roof rakes to keep up with demand.

After hearing last week’s story by WBUR’s David Boeri, you would think there’s plenty to go around. There are 50-foot mounds of the stuff in Chelsea, and the trucks don’t stop trucking. But that’s the commercial end of the salt business. Retailers and their distributors can’t keep up with demand..

I called or visited six stores last night to see if they carried salt or ice melt forumla. Here are my findings:

  • Tags Hardware, Cambridge: Sold out, stock expected Tuesday.
  • Home Depot, Watertown: Sold out, restock unknown.
  • Lowe’s, Dedham: Sold out Sunday, restock unknown. Operator suggested a grocery store.
  • Which led me to… Star Market, Brookline: Jars of salt for sale at $7.99; no more bags left.
  • Star Market, Brighton: Out of stock. The sign for ice melt is still visible, but the display has been replaced with wiper fluid.
  • True Value Hardware, North End: “Tons of it.”

I informally polled my Twitter followers to find out if they have had any luck:

  • Katy Aronoff: “Not salt, but there’s shortage of roof rakes. People were lined up at Salem NH Home Depot on Fri for shipment that never came.”
  • Jeremy Marin: “Has anybody not had trouble? Local TrueValue told me they can’t even order more – not expected in warehouse ’til Fall. … Foodmaster and Shattucks (Ace) in Arlington had as of yesterday. Nobody has Calcium chloride though.”
  • Carissa O’Brien: I” found regular salt, and an organic calcium mix (for the roof) at Aubuchon Hardware, Maynard.”
  • Catherine Mather: “slim pickings at Home Depot Medford on Saturday, but I noticed a lot at Whole Foods Medford on Sunday.”
  • Margaret Felice said she found “plenty” at Home Depot in the South Bay shopping center.
  • @AndreaWBZ: “use kitty litter instead.”

Have you had luck? Tell us where you are able to find salt.

Tuesday Morning: Truck Day

Published February 8, 2011

Good morning! It’s Truck Day, the first sign that spring actually does come after winter. The Red Sox’ 18-wheeler leaves Fenway today for Ft. Myers, Fla., for spring training. Pitchers and catchers report Sunday.

Computer pioneer Ken Olsen, once dubbed “America’s most successful entrepreneur” by Fortune Magazine, has died at 84. Olsen founded Digital Equipment Corporation in Maynard in 1957; Digital would become the second largest computer company, behind IBM. WBUR’s Curt Nickisch, the Boston Globe and the New York Times remember.

A federal judge has refused to halt the February special election to replace former City Councilor Chuck Turner, who is sentenced to prison on corruption charges. Turner said his civil rights were violated when the board expelled him in December. Under state law, Turner wouldn’t be able to serve anyway because he will be incarcerated.

A Globe review of fresh census data show a 17 percent rise in Massachusetts couples living together who identify as same-sex. That’s in comparison to 2000, four years before Massachusetts became first in the nation to legalize gay marriage.

Today in weird: A New Jersey woman is charged with trying to smuggle $50,000 worth of cocaine through Logan Airport after she swallowed 50 condoms filled with the (other) white stuff. Police say 21-year-old Luisa Gil was arriving from the Dominican Republic.

Speaking of the white stuff, more snow is coming. More than 60 schools are closed or delayed, many of them over concerns about weakened roofs.