Being Different, Being the Same

I got to watch this during my twenty years in the Computer Industry – ten years in Southern California (1980-1990) and ten years in Silicon Valley (1990-2000). There was a lot of innovation during that period – but most people were not interested in it.

There were some intelligent people doing some amazing things – but most were fairly stupid (or even somewhat crazy) – and they were not penalized for being this way. This was normal, and everybody knew it.

In fact, a certain craziness was rewarded – if it impressed the higher ups – who were often not too bright themselves.

The amount of money wasted this way was phenomenal. Huge amounts of money was shoveled toward the Computer Industry – and they burned it up recklessly. And no one seemed to find this objectionable. Money was made to be wasted – and they were wasting it.

This was the end of an era – when crazy things often happen. A successful social process is pushed farther and farther – well past its useful limits – and then everything collapses.

The successful social process in this case was Manufacturing. An affluent Middle Class was employed in making more and more products – especially more and more cars. This was exemplified by Detroit – who went from riches to rags in only a few years.

The people involved could not understand this – their whole way of life was gone!

But I started to write about the Computer Industry, and its problems. They still thought of themselves as being in Manufacturing, when those days were long gone. This is an important point, and I must amplify on it.

Manufacturing involved the assembly of mechanical parts – the Assembly Line. And the Computer Industry started doing the same thing – putting parts together. The result was a huge personal computer, that you added Adapters to – to make it do more things. Mine had every Adapter possible – including one for the Internet, and one for a SCSI hard drive. Big, but not very smart.

But computer hardware and software were moving in a different direction. They were not getting bigger, they were getting smarter. And the result is today’s laptop computer – a few chips, a keyboard, a display, and a power supply. And software components that know how talk to each other. A different device entirely.

The Computer was getting smarter – and people were getting smarter – but only a few of them – maybe ten percent.

The rest were getting dumber. They were made to function in an economy that was no longer – and their skills were no longer needed.


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