Extrapolation is second nature to me. It’s how I’m wired. I look at how things are and I make an instantaneous projection of how they will be in the future. Maybe it’s intuition; maybe it’s analysis functioning at a cognitive level that I cannot quite discern. Maybe those two possibilities are actually the same thing.
Either way, it’s a part of my nature and it has fueled a lifelong passion for futuristic thinking.
At the same time, there is much to be learned by looking back, and I indulged myself a bit recently as I thought back to what the information technology industry looked like when I first entered it. Here are a few recollections:
- It wasn’t called IT, it was called DP (Data Processing).
- I programmed by typing lines of code onto 80-column cards using a keypunch machine – one line at a time. (When I was done, I put a rubber band around my card deck in case I were to drop it.)
- To compile my program, I ran the card deck through a card reader. (Then I printed off the compiler output on an impact printer to see if it had compiled cleanly.)
- My first programming language was FORTRAN. (My second was COBOL. My third was IBM S/370 Assembler Language. My fourth was C. My fifth was MS Visual Basic.)
- One of my first tasks when I installed a new computer was to assemble the Supervisor (e.g., operating system).
- Virtual storage was a relatively new concept.
- Bisync was the dominant communications protocol.
- Few of my customers could afford a 9600 bps phone line for data communications.
- Online transaction processing was capturing the imagination of the industry.
- 1MB of real memory was usually enough.
The main observation I make, retrospectively, is that nearly everything changed at a rate and to a scale beyond anything I imagined possible back then. I take that lesson forward now, yet I suspect the future will still be beyond what I can imagine today.