Friday, July 24, 2015

What's Exciting About High Tech?

Coding with my team at Apple in Mariani One
Perhaps I'm getting grumpy in my old age, but I don't see anything new and exciting when it comes to high tech and the Web. As a matter of fact, I haven't seen anything too exciting in years.


When I first began coding, as a kid, in the late 1970s, everything was exciting. In 1977, the first three PCs came to market: Apple ][, Commodore PET, and the TRS-80 Model I.

I cut my teeth on the Model I, since access to it was easy through Radio Shack Computer Centers. I learned BASIC and Z-80 assembly on my Model I. In junior high school, we had PETs in school which worked similar to the Model I. The Apple ][ was an impressive machine, but they were hard to find. First of all, they were a tad expensive (everything's expensive when you're a kid). Also, there was only one place, which was close enough for me to bike to, that sold them. That beloved computer store is now a Starbucks.

Through out the 1980s, computers kept getting noticeably faster and bigger, in terms of memory. The Model I had a BASIC interpreter, which ran a bit slow with it's 1.77 MHz processor. Then BASIC compilers came to market, and the world got fast. Very, very exciting.


The 1990s were exciting, even for casual consumers. The World Wide Web was born, making use of the Internet which had been around for decades. Sending an e-mail from one part of the world, to another, for free, was a big deal. In 1997, I deployed with the Marines to the Persian Gulf. We had one digital camera for my battalion and the wives, back home, had another digital camera. Marines' wives gave birth, back in the states, and a couple hours later, fathers could see their newborns while floating in the Indian Ocean. We were amazed. And e-commerce for consumers was quickly becoming the killer application. Billionaires were made at unprofitable companies, many of which couldn't scale.


The dot-com bubble burst in the Spring of 2000 due to overzealous investing and things calmed down for a couple years, at least in the high tech business world. But, software engineers still had exciting technologies like VoIP (free audio and video calls), XML, RSS, and podcasts. We began to say good-bye to dial-up and hello to broadband. Then came Web 2.0 (dynamic webpages and user generated content). A couple years later came social media, cloud computing, cloud storage and mobile smartphones with GPS. For software engineers, compiler technology was innovative when source code could be changed, compiled, and placed into memory to continue running without needing to stop your application for recompiling, linking, and launching.


That leads me to today. As I look at the world of high tech I don't see much that excites me. Perhaps I'm standing too far away??? The only things, in the past few years, that's moved the needle for me was Swift, Uber, Lyft, and Car2Go.

So, what am I missing? What's the hot high tech, nowadays, that changes the way consumers and software engineers do business? I'm talking about something that couldn't be done five or ten years ago?

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