Kenneth H. Olsen
Born Feb 20 1926 - Died Feb 6 2011
Magnetic Core Memory
Magnetic Core Memory
Patent Number(s) 3,161,861
Kenneth H. Olsen, described by Fortune magazine in 1986 as the 'most successful entrepreneur in the history of American business,' invented vital computer components and cofounded Digital Equipment Corporation, developer of the minicomputer.
Olsen improved upon Jay Forrester’s original coincident current system used in the Whirlwind project at MIT by making memory smaller. His improvements led to the development of magnetic core memory. This led directly to the personal computer market of today.Magnetic core memory also is a non-volatile storage device which means it can retain data indefinitely without power. Military and government installations often find this system attractive, and for years after the more sophisticated MOS memory, semiconductor companies continued to use magnetic core memory.
Born in Stratford, Connecticut, Olsen began his career working summers in a machine shop. Fixing radios in his basement gave him the reputation of a neighborhood 'Edison.'
After serving in the Navy between 1944 and 1946, he attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he earned a B.S. (1950) and an M.A. (1952) in electrical engineering. During his studies at MIT, the Office of Naval Research of the Air Force recruited Olsen to help build a computerized flight simulator. Also while at MIT he directed the building of the first transistorized research computer.
In 1957, Olsen, along with Harlan Anderson, an MIT colleague, formed the Digital Equipment Corporation with a $70,000 investment from General Georges F. Doriot at the American Research and Development Corporation. Digital began producing printed circuit logic modules used by engineers to test electronic equipment. The company also started developing the world's first small interactive computer.
In 1960 Digital produced the Programmed Data Processor or PDP-1, a computer that used a cathode ray tube monitor. In 1965, after two more generations of PDP computers, Digital brought out the PDP-8, the world's first mass-produced minicomputer. Later, using integrated circuits, the PDP-8/1 proved cheaper and faster than transistor-driven machines. In 1970 Digital produced the PDP-11, which became the most popular minicomputer line in history.
In the 1960s Olsen received patents for a saturable switch, a diode transformer gate circuit, magnetic core memory, and the line printer buffer.