Tuesday, January 05, 2010

IT has been forty years for me!

Where were you forty years ago, on 5th January 1970?

For me, it was my first day with IBM Australia, a big switch from high school chemistry teaching. I stayed with IBM into the 1990s, long enough to join the Quarter Century Club, before voluntarily accepting an early retirement package.

None of my kids were born, but the eldest was on her way, so 1970 was an auspicious year for me and my wife.

Over the years at IBM I worked with a wide range of industries and IBM systems: time sharing, mainframe, real-time process control, enterprise networking (SNA), AIX (in the mid-1980s -- IBM’s version of UNIX, before Linux ever appeared on the scene), the IBM PC, and more.

I was longest  involved with small business systems: the IBM Rochester, Minnesota, line of products: System/3, System/34, System/36, and especially the fabulous System/38 plus its follow-on the AS/400 (which I supported throughout the Asia/Pacific region).

I didn’t give up the IT industry after retiring from IBM and since the mid-1990s have been an “independent  consultant” -- which is something of an oxymoron -- working with Lotus Notes (mainly) plus assorted other technologies.

What does the future hold? Well, things are still looking rosy: (^o^)

hope and expect to spend a few more years in the IT industry, before finishing up in that great Recycle Bin in the sky.

The only thing about the future of IT that I can be sure about is that it will be considerably different from the present. Hardware will inevitably continue to get cheaper and yet more powerful.

For example, in 1970 the IBM System/3 was released worldwide (in 1969 in the USA). It came with 4 Kb of magnetic core memory (that’s Kilobytes, nit Megabytes), optionally expandable to 8, 12, 16 Kb. There was a fixed 12-inch single disk platter with 2.5 Mb capacity, or you could opt for 5.0, 7,5 or a missive total of 10.0 Mb of disk. It hade a revolutionary 96-column card reader-punch (three rows of 32 columns, and was about one-third the size of the original generation of 80-column Hollerith-style cards).

And it was very expensive, I can't remember exactly how much but it was tens of thousands of 1970-value dollars. Crikey, even an entry-level $50 mobile phone probably has greater processing power than that! So I expect that forty years from today a similar comparison will be able to be made: quantum computing at enormous speeds, petabytes of storage capacity in ultra-tiny devices (able to be misplaced with ever-increasing ease), and who knows what other advances?

On the other hand, and being pragmatic (not cynical), it’s on the people/software side where I reckon things won’t improve so much. It’s the human interface that will forever remain the weakest and most fragile.

So I confidently predict that a large proportion of applications will continue to be poorly designed and programmed. IT projects will continue to underdeliver or fail at an alarming rate – but unfortunately those responsible will continue to wriggle their way out of responsibility and move on to other projects where they’ll can apply the same mismanagement techniques!

Ah well, ‘nuff said, you've gotta always look on the bright side of life

What do YOU think the IT industry will be like in forty years from now?

What triumphs (and catastrophes) are coming down the track? Microsoft versus Apple versus Google versus IBM versus who knows what?

Will we make it past 2014?

If we get past the point of Google domination in this second decade, will we survive 2038 or any other future stumbling points?

Anyway, whatever turns up make sure that you “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” won’t you! … Watch Bobby McFerrin’s famous rendition here. (Try here for a completely different song on the same theme, if you’re a fan of The aliens.)

Whatever happens, don’t feel blue: (^o^)

UPDATE: Worried about what the future might hold?  Here’s a good set of tips by Josh Kaufman, over at The Personal MBA: Don’t Make Predictions – Be Prepared for Anything

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