It occurred to me the other day that we are in the middle of a changing of the guard in the IT business.

The IBM System/360 mainframe computer was announced in 1964 (all dates are from Wikipedia), which is 50 years ago.

An IBM System 360
An IBM System 360

I think it would be safe to say that most people working in data processing at that time are now fully retired.  That was the year I started university, and the systems were decks of punched cards and “real time” was submitting a program deck for overnight execution.

The IBM  System/370 was announced in June of 1970 and I would say that a great many of the “IT guys” who were working at that time will be either retired or very close to it.

An IBM System 370 model 165
An IBM System 370 model 165

Jumping forward to 1977, a lot of progress had been made, with the Commodore PET, the Apple II, and the TRS-80 all being delivered.  Most people who were working in IT at that time would probably be in their late 50s and many would be today’s IT leaders and executives.

The IBM PC went on sale in 1981 and Time Magazine made The Computer the machine of the year in 1982.  I remember buying that issue and putting it on the pile of reading that had to be done!  Not much has changed in that regard, although a lot more of the information is online now.

The original IBM PC
The original IBM PC

Back then our main source of information was printed magazines (and vendor sales people, of course).  I remember Telidon home terminals and I was an early user of Wang word processors.  Also around that time, the seven layer network architecture called Open Systems Interconnection was being published as an ISO/IEC and ITU standard (in 1984, actually).

The OSI  Model is now 30 years old.  Although no one has really changed the number of layers since then, there has been lots of debate and many clarification attempts over the years.  The Internet became the successful network ecosystem but the idea of layering remained, and the idea of a layer providing services to the layer above has had significant influence (ITIL, SOA and cloud computing).  People who had just started their careers in 1984 are now also in their 50s!

There have been many, many major developments in IT since that time … for example, the world wide web in the early 90s, and cloud computing in the mid-2000s.  It’s hard to even remember the time before the Web existed!

What occurred to me is that we are getting past the stage where anyone still working can claim to have been part of the complete evolution of IT from its beginnings.  It makes you wonder just how far we will move forward over the careers of those who are just starting in the IT business today!

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