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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A century of IT

web3.University of North Texas
A Century of IT (Excerpts)
Last month marked another significant IT anniversary. IBM turned 100 years old, marking a century of development in information technology. From card sorters and typewriters to mainframes and supercomputers, IBM had a large role in how we organized and transmitted business information in the twentieth century.
Another way in which IBM supported the popularization of the Internet was via the development of the IBM Personal Computer. While the first IBM PC predated the commercial Internet by many years, it was the IBM PC standard that changed the course of computing and IT. The Apple II started the personal computing revolution, Commodore, Atari and Radio Shack (TRS-80) had their brief contributions, but it's no question that the IBM PC and the many compatible hardware emulations to follow opened up computing to a much wider audience.
The PC also served as a platform for networked communication, with store and forward networks like FidoNet acting like a BITNET for the masses. Later, in the heyday of dialup networks like Compuserv and AOL the PC was a popular platform for such connectivity. The personal Internet would not have happened nearly as quickly without the personal computer.
IBM was the dominant computing company for a large part of the twentieth century. You might say that information technology was to the 1900's what railroads were to the 1800's and IBM was in the middle of it all and driving much of the progress for most of the century. IBM no longer makes PCs (they sold that business to a Chinese company, Lenovo), but the idea that ordinary people can write apps, create videos, or develop the next big thing on the Internet would not be possible without the IBM's pioneering role in defining information technology and personal computing. Even considering the positives and negatives associated with IBM, you can't deny its influence. That's a pretty impressive 100 years.

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