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

Facebook Threads

8 responses to “Tom Olson – 1938 to 2019”

  1. Bob Acheson Avatar
    Bob Acheson

    Tom was my first boss/employer in Cable. I worked at Tomco in Mountain View in 1973-1974. Good boss, great guy.

  2. Ken Pyle Avatar
    Ken Pyle

    Omigosh, Bob, I forgot that we had shared that connection. You are another testament to the many and subtle impacts he had on the cable industry.

  3. Joanne Olson Pirnik Avatar
    Joanne Olson Pirnik

    What a lovely tribute Ken! Thank you!

    1. Ken Pyle Avatar
      Ken Pyle

      Thanks, Joanne. Your father was a role model for so many.

  4. Joe Delgado Avatar
    Joe Delgado

    Sorry to hear about Tom, I hope Sue and the family are OK. Every year I told myself I was going to go and see him, well now….. I can’t. Thanks Ken for the update.

  5. Joe Van Loan Avatar
    Joe Van Loan

    I had the privilege of knowing Tom. He was a kind and gentle man. He had an amazing ability to recognize needs and produce high quality products to meet those needs. .
    I will miss him.

  6. Joshua Turner Avatar

    Services are being held this Saturday November 2nd in Sonora, California and a graveside memorial will be held on Monday November 4th in Santa Clara. Please see details below.

    Memorial Service
    Saturday, November 2nd, 3:30PM
    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

    Thank you all for being a part of my grandfather’s life. I know how much he valued his family, friendships, and being part of the electronics community he so greatly loved. He will be missed by all, but never forgotten.

    Joshua Turner

  7. Michael M. Salour Avatar

    I had the pleasure to know Tom since mid 1980s and throughout the years we stayed in touch. In fact we last talked three weeks before his untimely passing. Tom was a man of extraordinary wisdom and a wonderful human being. The act of engineering innovation was a strong focus in Tom’s career and he was indeed a very gifted engineer and was highly respected and admired by all who were privileged to know him. We shall all miss him and my thoughts and prayers are with Sue, Tamara, Joanne, Sara, John, and the rest of his family during this difficult time.
    May he Rest In Peace.

    Michael M Salour

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