The Evolution of Computing

The Evolution of Computing

While it was refreshing trying to establish the tone of my blog and build the foundation of what I hope to share/discuss with those reading my entries, I never got to the point of what I had hoped to discuss. I guess that’s the purpose of blogging though. Whatever shape the post decides to take, then that’s the way it shall be. I could have continued the diatribe I reckon but I would rather post in smaller “bite size” chunks as that’s the way I personally prefer to read blogs.

The Evolution of Computing, as I’m going to refer to it, is based on my personal history and experience witnessing technology progress. It’s truly amazing to reflect on how much positive change has happened. The possibilities to communicate and opportunity to great things done these days, as opposed to a few short years ago, are absolutely daunting when one puts things in perspective.

I would like to use the Evolution of Man analogy to share my thoughts:

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Mid-80’s = The Dark Ages

In the mid-80’s my parents purchased our first high-powered IBM whiz-bang PC. We had a few DOS based games and programs but the one thing that I gravitated to most was the modem for chatting with my friend. It was fun to play DOS baseball games but nothing beat the fun Kent and I enjoyed acting like top secret spies with our new found communication device. We had secret code words like “blue dot” and “green square” to encode our conversation should it have been intercepted by the enemy. Who the enemy was? Who knows? There wasn’t really one but the point is that this was the introduction for Kent and I to this thing called “The Internet”. In retrospect I guess we were forward thinking enough to consider internet security? Who knows, this was truly the inception of the internet. We really weren’t but it’s a good story and I’m sticking to it! Our modems were communicating at something like 2400 or 9600 baud rate and we couldn’t have been happier. This was the age of dumb terminals, DOS applications and barely good enough connections. Sounds archaic but that was only 20-something years ago.

Early 90’s = Medieval Times

This was a fun time for most, I believe. During this era of IT Evolution was when the masses were introduced to the Internet for the first time. Most of us were probably on dial-up connections via service providers such as AOL, Compuserve, Earthlink and other providers for our personal internet use at home. In other words, not for work purposes. If most of others experiences were most like me, we were ecstatic to connect at blazing speeds up to 44.6 KB/s on our 56.6 KB modems (minus overhead). Broadband technologies such as DSL or Cable Modems were still in their infancy in the early 90’s. Also, dial-up internet connectivity at home, for the most part, I believe was still being used for personal use and not business connectivity. Businesses, at this time, were the only ones that could qualify for and afford expensive dedicated high-speed internet connections.

During the 90’s this ‘internet access’ trend would progress quickly and eventually the availability as well as affordability of high-speed connections came to the masses. In masses we all ditched our dial-up connections in favor of always-on high-speed DSL or Cable connections.

This era in time was instrumental in setting a solid foundation for quick adoption of technology in the future and for the business community, in particular. How in the heck did I draw this connection between the internet revolution and how would business eventually benefit? Enter the 21st Century…..(read below)

Early 21st Century – Revolution

During this era of time in the ‘Evolution of IT’ the .com bubble was in full inflation mode. Companies were hiring like crazy. Venture Capital money was available to anyone with a story and a .com domain name. We were a society living in excess and times were good.

There were still common challenges for businesses that continue until this day that cause inefficiencies and cost money. Things such as training employees to use corporate IT systems. For example, companies hire people that are skilled in particular areas to do work such as accounting, shipping, marketing or sales and not to do e-mail. E-mail is a tool for people to use to accomplish their primary job functions. With the work force somewhat familiar in using basic e-mail functions based on their personal experience with AOL, Compuserve, Earthlink (as I mentioned in the previous paragraph) no longer did businesses have to invest time and money so heavily to train employees to use this powerful communication tool. Communication is key to success and e-mail and chat have found their place in the business environment. The ground swell continues and online resources such as chats, blogs, tweets, status updates and other social media technology continues to infringe of the borderline between personal and professional. One thing I might mention is that I feel that now business struggles with another problem regarding e-mail and other new technology, abuse. Unfortunately, try as you might, you can not trust all the people all of the time. Hence, I digress and that’s a whole other topic to discuss at a different time.

Point being in the previous paragraph is that familiarity with e-mail, using web browsers and other basic computing operations has, in the long run, saved companies countless of millions or trillions of dollars. It’s hard to measure this statistic, however it’s important to remember that when individuals invest in themselves, whether for personal internet accounts or education, it seriously benefits the business community eventually.

Now (2009) – Present Day

Now, in the Year 2009, we live in amazing Technological Times. From the days of 2400 or 9600 baud rate modem chats with my friend in the 80’s, to my blazing 56.6 KB dial-up access via Compuserve (with Windows operating system non-the-less) into the 90’s with my new found friend, DSL high-speed internet access, the foundation has been laid for unbelievable innovation. Again, when was the last time you were trained to use e-mail? It’s nearly expected and that was the company to train you on the intricacy of your new job and get to help them be successful quicker.

Disclaimer on the next for paragraphs: Even though I’m not a certified software programmer or systems architect, I have visions of utilizing current IT technology to do things like never before.

I believe we’ve overcome some major hurdles in a relatively short period of time. I would have to think that our internet connections at home and work are stable, for the most part. I think getting access to high-speed connections is more of an option than only 5 or so years ago. Security is getting better, believe it or not. Many legitimate operating system alternatives such as Apple MacIntosh and Linux are making serious inroads into Microsoft’s dominance. Safari, Firefox and Chrome are taking some significant market share from Internet Explorer. Options of services, software, hardware and even technology building infrastructure ideology are all available to us these days like never before.

Think how powerful and nibble modern day technology has made us. To illustrate my point, assume I wanted to create an online store that sells CD’s, Movie’s and millions of other goodies. In the Dark Ages or Medieval Times it would cost me tens of thousands or millions of dollars, if it could even be done with a small business budget. These days I can simply sign-up for free as an Amazon.com affiliate then subscribe, again free, to their Web Services offering. The Amazon.com Web Services program is very straight forward. Imagine that Amazon just takes all the data for their products and thorough the information out there for the whole world to consume. That’s exactly what they are doing, making their ‘data’ available for ‘consumers’. As an affiliate I don’t necessarily need to consume everything but I consume what I want and need. Maybe I only care about consuming product photos, current availability and price. I might not care about posting to my web site all the banter that consists of customer reviews. (No offense against reviews and I find them extremely helpful when I’m investigating a product or service, however sometimes it’s difficult to find the truth, if you know what I mean). Anyhow, with a few simple lines of code I can request only the information I find useful to my web site. I incorporate this dynamic (always updated and current) information into my web page and it would give my web site a fresh look and feel every time someone visits my web site without me having to change anything. Not only a true time saving but also highly productive. This is just an example to share the power of Web Services and this is certainly powerful but, combine this with other concepts and you have…..eerrrrr……ummmm…… ‘Web 2.0’. Just kidding. What is Web 2.0? Point is, businesses can create what we make of it and the possibilities and technology is there. What ever you want to call it is whatever whether it be 2.0, Gore’s next conquest or Generation Z…. I don’t think it can or deserves to be defined, quite frankly. Every usage and implementation is unique and incorporates a miss-mass of legacy as well as new technology and ideology to build their IT systems. Definitions are for the marketing peeps! Whoops, that’s me . Seriously, I appreciate definitions from the sense of having common-ground landmarks for discussion; however mis-definition creates confusion and is counter productive.

Evolution of Business IT connectivity

In conclusion, I hope I’ve been clear in defining the general timeline of events. Certainly your personal experience and my timing might not be totally accurate but I hope you can appreciate the concepts. In addition, I have tried to identify a few specific events that we might have similar experience to illustrate my points. Please feel free to disagree and drop me a note on my blog. I am always open to difference of opinions and hope to learn from listening to others.

One of the topics I hope to cover in depth in the future is the concept of Cloud Computing. This is an absolutely fascinating idea that combines all of the basic building blocks I’ve eluded to above, and then some which I’ve covered in the ‘Evolution of Computing’; Availability, Usability and Economics.

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