It’s Time to Heave a Sigh

Next year’s content changes in Management magazine will include this column, which makes this valedictory.
When I started writing this page 10 years ago (January ’92), the world, IT, and the pene-tration of computers into Enzed’s management were very different. I still recall with amusement getting complaint from the company which then bought advertising under my column. Although I was vanishingly careful on that point, I was castigated for the number of acronyms and arcane terms – managers were not then considered computer-literate (certainly, few had computers on their desks). So I had to bow to their assumed ignorance. I translated; I explained; I talked down. And tried not to sound as if I was.
That first column in 1992 underlines how dicey IT predictions can be. It stated, on the best science then available, that clockspeeds (an arcane term) in microprocessors (another one) would hit the wall at 100MHz (strike three). Now some chips run at 2GHz, 20 times faster than the 1992 ‘wall’, and chipmakers say they will reach 20GHz, 200 times faster.
But the first column had one thing right. It predicted the demise of the ubiquitous chip of the Intel X86 kind (cisc chips), technology whose roots are firmly in 1967. The momentum built up on it means rigor mortis will take time to become apparent, but the writing was on the wall then, and is on it even more firmly now. Even Intel is slowly shifting to risc chips. There is limit to how much money people are prepared to spend on incremental advances in computer power and few extra features – how many times they are willing to fall for all those old tricks. Hence the present downturn in the IT market.
So we are in long transition. That noise you hear coming out of IT is the rattle of the strengthening shakeup. Other ways of doing IT things are coming. In 1992 the internet was for most of us just glow on the horizon – it was December 1994 before this column devoted an issue to it – and although still very crude it has made vast difference to the way we live and work. That will keep accelerating. And other chips will emerge, for which Microsoft will be surplus to requirements.
That column on the internet in December 1994 had it right: “In short, it is communications medium for human beings. There are witty human beings, wise human beings, weird human beings, wicked human beings. The internet has them all. And if the irrepressible pundits are right, it will soon have you too.” They were. It has.
Reviewing decade in page is impossible, but the rise of the internet obviously dominated IT and telecoms, to the point where the column long ago shifted its focus to network matters.
However, thanks to President George W Bush, and the internet, which dropped the following into my mailbox, the chaotic state of both technologies can be nicely summarised via this poem, assembled from presidential quotations by Richard Thompson of the Washington Post.
I think we all agree, the past is over.
This is still dangerous world.
It’s world of madmen and uncertainty and potential mental losses.
Rarely is the question asked:
Is our children learning?
Will the highways of the internet become more few?
How many hands have I shaked?
They misunderestimate me.
I am pitbull on the pantleg of opportunity.
I know that the human being and the fish can co-exist.
Families is where our nation finds hope, where our wings take dream.
Put food on your family!
Knock down the tollbooth!
Vulcanise Society!
Make the pie higher! Make the pie higher!
The last words in this last column, appropriately, also supplied by the internet, were first quoted here in December 1994: “The bridge is crossed, so stand and watch it burn.” Farewell!

Nobilangelo Ceramalus: Writer, commentator, journalist, desktop publisher, graphics-designer, illustrator, webmaster, photographer.

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