Taking a look in the rear view mirror

Taking a look in the rear view mirror

The Internet goes commercial

The Internet scene in the mid-1980s was dominated by discussions of acceptable-use policies, through which government and academic users sought to restrict Internet access to, well, government and academic users. Unacceptable uses of the Internet, such as porn and spam, hadn't been thought of yet; in those days, unacceptable meant commercial. Today, billions of dollars in transactions flow through the Net every month. E-commerce became an obsession when the dotcom bubble started to inflate in 1997. Even after the bubble popped in 2000, however, corporate enthusiasm for the Internet hardly slowed. Today, some of the hottest ideas in the industry - Web services, VoIP, service-oriented architectures and utility computing - are grounded in the Internet.

Monopoly musical chairs

IBM dominated computing until the late 1980s. But its 1981 release of the IBM PC and the acceptance of PC clones, which were packed with Microsoft software, created a desktop computing market that changed the face of IT and put Microsoft at the centre of power in the industry. Microsoft now faces threats from Linux, Google and Europe's antitrust regulators.

The Y2K 'problem'

The first printed mention of a Y2K Armageddon was made in IDG's Computerworld in 1984. In 1993, we printed Peter de Jager's estimate that Y2K repairs would cost $US100 billion. As hysteria mounted, cost estimates soared to close to $US1 trillion. On January 2, 2000, the whole thing was seen as a bad dream and promptly forgotten. IBM said the average large company spent up to 400 man-years on the problem.

The new face of outsourcing

The practice of IT outsourcing stretches back to 1949 with ADP's mission to be the payroll service for the world. In 1962, Ross Perot started EDS as a general purpose IT outsourcing shop. And when Lou Gerstner took over IBM in 1993, his turnaround strategy was largely based on pushing outsourcing services. But outsourcing became a contentious labour and political issue early this century when multinational corporations stepped up sending IT work offshore during an economic downturn. India's offshoring revenues in fiscal 2005 skyrocketed 34.5 per cent to $US17.2 billion, with more than a million Indian IT workers serving overseas customers.

The rise of PCs

Personal computing is just one dimension of the epochal movement of computing away from centralised mainframes to client/server computing, multi-tier distributed computing, grids and more. But unlike the emergence of the minicomputer and the server, the rise of the PC had special meaning for IT managers: It meant they were no longer in control. That Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet user was programming, whether the IT shop liked it or not.

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