Was the IT industry exciting and predictable?

Claiming that the IT industry used to be exciting and predictable is a distortion of reality covered by the term “Nostalgia”.

I came across an interesting post on Business Insider claiming that the IT industry used to be exciting and predictable!

As you get older you also tend to get a bit nostalgic. “The good old days”. Claiming that the IT industry used to be exciting and predictable is a distortion of reality covered by the term “Nostalgia”.

I started in the IT industry in 1980 as a sales rep for Control Data Corporation. Exciting it was, but predictable is was not. CDC was a very innovative company (outside its’ core business, unfortunately). CDC invented the Cybernet, which was a host of Cloud based services for the professional community. They invented PLATO, which was an e-learning platform delivered in a SaaS format. What they failed to do was foreseeing the minicomputer. While CDC was trying to beat Cray with a monster of a super computer (Cyber 205), Data General, DEC, Prime, HP and IBM was eating away on the big scientific data centers, which was the core business of CDC. Flabbergasted at the executive level CDC also missed the PC wave. Eventually CDC (with 65.000 employees in 1980) ceased to exist.

Maybe the IT industry was exciting and predictable before I joined in 1980, but ever since it has only been exciting.

What has happened in the IT industry, which has changed it completely are 3 things:

1. the appearance of non-proprietary “standard” platforms (well, maybe not all of them are non-proprietary)
2. the appearance of “consumer” oriented packaged products and services (large volume/low price)
3. the Internet

In 1980 (and before I presume) IT was for business and government. All my customers in the early 80’ies were big enterprises. We were dealing with IT savvy people who had no other place to go. As soon as we had placed a Cyber computer in their data center, they basically had to come to us for applications and services. The market was not very transparent. Neither we nor the customers had a full overview over the market for hardware, software and services. Shopping around was difficult. Predictable it seemed to be, but boy did we get surprised when the budget suddenly went to a DEC/PDP or VAX.

All that has changed today for the consumer and the small businesses. I believe enterprises and government still have lots of legacy systems, which makes them less flexible in choosing new products and services.

The creation of a “consumer” market for IT products and services is a fantastic opportunity for a lot of inventive entrepreneurs. The enterprise and government market is still there and provides opportunities for other inventive entrepreneurs. It is exciting and unpredictable. This is life and this is business. This is what makes it fun and prevents sleepy monopolies dominating our lives.

Can the predictable be exciting?

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