Monday, July 16, 2007

The times they are a-changin’

Today (Monday 16 July 2007) is my youngest daughter’s 21st birthday – so happy birthday to Jennifer. I started to think how things were different 21 years ago from how they are today – and hence I stole the title from Bob Dylan’s third album (released 1964) for the title of this blog.

21 years ago I’d just started working for Xephon (which I still do). I had a small laptop at home that I used for all my computing – although it was a Sinclair Spectrum and needed to be plugged in to a TV to see anything! IBM was the top mainframe computer company and you could use VM, VSE, or MVS as your operating systems. CICS and IMS were very popular transaction processing systems. But no-one had heard of OS/390 or z/OS. SNA was still king of communication with TCP/IP hardly being mentioned.

At work we shared Apple II computers – a luggable Mac each was still in the future. And we had so many pieces of paper!! We needed manuals and cuttings from the papers – you forget how the arrival of the Internet has made research so much easier. So, that’s another thing that’s changed – the Internet has revolutionized our lives. I can remember giving a course at that time where I would explain to people how many ways they interacted with a computer without them realising it. It sounds laughable today – you’d never do anything else on the course if you stuck to listing each person’s computer interactions!

The other thing that was missing 21 years ago that is such a necessary part of our lives is the mobile (cell) phone. You could be out of contact for a whole day and this was considered normal. Nowadays people expect an immediate answer. If you’re not getting calls on the phone then it’s text messages. There’s never been a generation of humans with such strong thumb muscles before! Teenagers can’t spell, but they can text amazingly fast.

21 years ago computer games were very simple. There was just no thought that a game would be able to respond to movements of your body like the Wii does. But, perhaps, back in those halcyon days, we went outside and played tennis or went swimming – sport that didn’t involve a TV screen.

Was it really a better simpler time? Were politicians less corrupt and the world a safer place? This is probably the wrong blog to answer those kinds of question. Would a CICS user from 1986 recognize a CICS screen from 2007? The answer is probably no. Gone are those green screen to be replaced by browsers. They wouldn’t recognize SOA, Web services, and all the other current buzzwords.

And yet despite all these changes listed above (and many others), a typical CICS or IMS user would still understand the concept of entering data and getting a suitable response.

So perhaps when you look at things from a personal perspective, although Dylan was right the times they are a-changin’ (laptops, phones, Internet, etc), the man-in-the-street still goes to work, it’s just what happens behind the scenes that has changed. For him, the French expression plus ça change, plus c'est la meme chose – the more things change, the more they stay the same – might have been a more accurate title for this review of 21 years. What do you think?

2 Comments:

Blogger A Anand said...

Digital convergence — combining computing, communications, and entertainment — is driving growth in modern times. It is taking shape in the form of new kinds of business and consumer products and new business ventures and alliances. Riding on this convergence wave, Apple has made a comeback through innovative products like iPod and iPhone.

Modern man still has to go to work but many have the options to work from home too thanks to advancement in communication technology. I think this would have been difficult 21 years back.

- Aseem

7/16/2007 02:48:00 PM  
Blogger Colin said...

I agree, Aseem. It's really amazing to watch the (r)evolution. The big question that remains to be answered is, "Is this necessarily a good thing?"

7/16/2007 02:54:00 PM  

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