Tom Olson – 1938 to 2019

Tom Olson explaining how he spent a night in the brig
Tom Olson – Dec 2016 Interview

Memorial Service
Saturday, November 2nd, 3:30 PM
Terzich & Wilson Funeral Home
225 E. Rose, Sonora, CA
(209) 532-3131

Graveside service
Monday, November 4th, 2:00PM
Mission City Memorial Park
420 N. Winchester Blvd.
Santa Clara, CA 95050

It is with a heavy heart that I report that, according to informed sources, Tom Olson, the founder of Tomco and Olson Technologies among other companies, passed away on October 24th, 2019.* For those who didn’t know Tom, he was an unheralded leader in the cable industry, particularly during its formative years in the 1970s.

His equipment and designs were probably embedded either directly or indirectly (e.g. via Scientific Atlanta, Jerrold, RCA labels) into virtually every cable system in America at one time or another. Not that he would probably care much, but Tom Olson should be in the Cable Hall of Fame for his contributions to the industry.

Beyond his technical prowess, which was impressive, it was his people skills that made a difference. He seemed to know everybody and was extremely generous with his time and expertise. A mutual friend, who has also made significant contributions to the cable industry, wrote of the influence of Olson,

“There are so many successes in my life that I owe to Tom. He was one you could count on. When I had problems he was there to help out.”

Although he probably wouldn’t call himself a mentor, he was. And, he was a great friend to so many people from all walks of life, including this author. It was easy to appreciate his technical knowledge when, after a few seconds of sitting down at a workbench, he would correctly diagnose a problem that had vexed this wanna-be technician for what felt like hours. But it was his commonsense wisdom and straightforward talk that served him well in business and life, and also helped others stay on the right path.

He impressed upon me that the value of college to an employer was that it showed that the graduate had the ability and discipline to learn. At the same time, he showed by example, that the learning never stops with his many ventures that continued throughout his life.

His LinkedIn profile (he has two of them) provides a glimpse of his ever-present humor, where, in addition to his listing of Rochester Institute of Technology, he lists HKU (Hard Knocks University) under education.

He also jokingly claimed on his other LinkedIn profile to be the “World’s oldest practicing analog designer!!” The ironic thing in that statement is that, for all of his accomplishments, Tom’s humility was one of his best qualities; perhaps only surpassed by his humor, as, again, evidenced in his LinkedIn profile,

“I am proficient at deleting Linkedin messages and endorsements!!”

Of course, he used his humor and metaphors to deliver serious messages. Again, in his own words from his LinkedIn profile,

“My goal is to help return the USA to a manufacturing nation. Don’t expect our government to provide any help. We all need to take the initiative and begin buying American again!!! One grasshopper on the tracks doesn’t stop the train, but 100 million of them is a different story.”

It was an honor to capture Tom on camera in 2016 talking about his journey, which, surprisingly, had not been well documented until that point. Still, with the 3+ hours of film, there was so much more we still had to discuss, like his foray into racing. And although I saw him in August, I didn’t have the camera with me. His mind was as sharp as ever, but his body wasn’t so cooperative.

We will miss you, Tom, but your spirit, wit, and wisdom will live amongst us forever. Condolences to Sue and the rest of his family. Rest in Peace, Tom.

*Tom would appreciate the use of the phrase, “informed sources”, to report his passing, as he used to make fun of reporters who used that term.

Click the link above to watch and learn more about Tom Olson

Other References

To read his obituary on click on the following link

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