In many ways the fancy, even magical, world of IT can be broken down into three basic elements; storing stuff, calculating stuff and moving stuff. Everything we see around the Internet is driven by the inexorable progress of broader networks, larger storage and faster processing.
Ten year trends for networks, storage and processing show them getting ever faster, broader and larger.
We may not yet know how we are going to use all of this extra capacity, but one thing we can say is that the past shows us the future.
I started my IT journey at a time when we regarded kilobit networks as broad, megahertz processors as fast and megabyte storage as huge.
When I started in IT as a career I supported IBM DISOSS on the mainframe and the nearest thing anyone got to a desktop device was an IBM DisplayWriter. There were also a few VAX machines around used by those specialists in the engineering organisation.
The DISOSS system I supported, for those of you too young to know any better, was an early email system. It was so early, in fact, that it was pretty much bounded by the mainframe on which it ran. There was no connection to the internet, and limited connections to other parts of the organisation. SMTP was frowned upon as not being ready for the enterprise.
Apart from the DisplayWriters everyone else accessed the system via a dumb terminal over a dedicated SNA network; TCP/IP wasn’t ever discussed. We now have access to megabits of bandwidth at our houses, all of it running TCP/IP of one form or another.
I carry around more storage in my bag than was available within the multi-room mainframe that I started on.
The way that we use applications and services has changed radically. The internet has seen to that.
Information was an expensive commodity back then, most information is now effectively free. Search is expected and it’s free too.
Text was the only way of communicating, even tables within text were difficult. Every day I deal with diagrams photographs, graphical representations. Every time I start Audacity to edit some audio I am blown away by the realisation that I am doing this on a consumer PC with free software.
Years ago I used to have a set of floppy disks in a draw. Managing the data on these disks would take a significant amount of time. I probably had less than 100MB stored, but managing it was a complete pain. I now manage over 1TB of data, but only spend a minimum amount of time managing it.
I used to spend more on a CompuServe email account than I now spend on hosting this blog where I get unlimited storage. The paid-for email account could only handle a tiny amount of storage and it couldn’t handle attachments at the beginning. I now have a choice of multiple free email services allowing me to store hundreds of gigabytes and easily handle large emails.
To use someone else’s words, remember: “you aint seen nothing yet”.