Then and Now

I was talking with our senior partner Art Marks this morning about tech predictions for 2012, and he made a couple of interesting observations.

Back in the day Art used to run GE’s time-sharing service.  At the time, some of his main headaches were:

  • Finding points of presence, on-ramps to the GE network.  This involved painful and protracted negotiations with postal and telephone authorities, who viewed time-sharing as both a nuisance and a competitive disruption
  • Training users how to use the computer.  Time-sharing terminals were unintuitive, inflexible, and unforgiving.  Users had to supply all of these.
  • Finding and integrating applications for the GE service in order to incent users to sign up and to differentiate GE from other service providers.

Fast forward to today’s network:

  • With wireless connectivity shared between cellular radios and WiFi, points of presence are almost ubiquitous.  Most carriers accept the fact that they must carry both “open system” and proprietary traffic, although there’s still some fear and loathing about that.
  • Users today train the computer how they want to communicate with it.  OK, not quite, but we’re getting there.  New services like Siri on the iPhone, voice search on Android phones, and location-aware services on all platforms, work with the user and attempt to be intuitive, flexible, and forgiving.
  • Instead of a few huge applications which are bears to maintain and integrate, users today use a multiplicity of small single-purpose apps which are increasingly mashing up dynamically to produce larger-scale results.

Who says there’s no such thing as progress?

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