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Skills in the ICT Industry then and now 45 years of Improvement?

Updated on March 11, 2013

Skills in the ICT Industry then and now 45 years of Improvement?


How has the ICT industry developed over the last 45 years? Well firstly the hardware, the valves, solid state transistors and wired cores have given way to the Silicon chip. Intel has grown from nothing to a major international corporation.

We have moved from punched cards to screen input.

Computers have shrunk in size and improved power exponentially (Moore's Law)

Communication has improved from galvanic telephone lines operating at 1200 baud (bits per second) to today's multi gigabyte fibre optic based broadband.

Instead of one very large mainframe computer we have both mainframes (ignificantly smaller) and the modern PC.

These Pc's are more powerful than the Cray 1 computer of yesteryear which was the world's largest and fastest computer.

Computers could only be bought by governments and very large corporations.

So much for the Hardware

Here are some highlights


  • IBM markets 1401 computer
  • UNIVAC III marketed
  • About 8,000 computers in use worldwide


  • Xerox Corporation comes into existence
  • American Standards Association publishes first IT standards
  • IBM introduces 'golf ball' typewriter
  • First time-sharing computers developed


  • English Electric Leo comes into being by merging of of English Electric computer operations with Leo Computers . This is significant because the Spectra 70 design becomes the basis of most new mainframes ncluding the IBM 360 and 370 range of computers in the future
  • ICT buys Ferranti
  • ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) introduced


  • IBM 360 computer debuts


  • IBM System/360's begin to be delivered
  • Digital Equipment launches PDP-8 minicomputer


  • ICT becomes ICL
  • Intel founded by Bill Groves
  • Computer Sciences becomes a public company and lists


ARPANet is started . this was launched in universities in the USA (Originally a military application) and the precursor of the modern internet.


  • launch of Apple II ,Commodore PET and radio shack TRS-80


  • First commercial Pc software VisiCalc and WordStar launched for PC Dos computers


  • Apple Macintosh launched


  • Microsoft' launches Windows


  • Microsoft release Windows 3.0
  • Fortune says that Bill Gates has become the world's richest man


  • Dot com Crash

What about ITC techniques?

In the 1960's applications were not put onto computers willy nilly Each system that was to be computerized was subjected to a stringent work study and every element of the business was flow charted and mapped. The incoming data was listed and compared to the output required. Clearly reports could not be done if the incoming data did not exist. Today we have wonderful new techniques called Business Process Mapping (BPM) and (you guessed it the business is subjected to a stringent business Process and every element of the business was flow charted and mapped). We also have people who specialize in produce "Master data" which means that "incoming data was listed and compared to the output required".

The data in the old days was meticulously planned and organized for easy access and sorting by keys (process called normalization of data). Today we have Data Base administrators who "was meticulously planned and organized (data) for easy access".

We also had to be very careful to ensure that programs re used code for calculation and aging routines and so we invented sub programming and routines which were not data dependent (re-entrant programming). Today much is made of using pre programmed routines and libraries of this code exist for use.

Today this concept has gone up a level and whole programs or suites of programs are be reused (packages) or used in an integrated way to build a cafeteria of re-usable code and is now being packaged as Services Oriented Architecture (SOA).

We had to fit systems within the limitations imposed by the hardware and software limitations of he time. Today we have almost infinite resources and thus need to suit the Hardware to the solution and this called enterprise architecture.

Progress or Not

In years gone by businesses were built on a slower time scale. Operations manuals were the order of the Day. Every business function in a given business was minutely documented and revised as needed. When you joined an organization, you started at the bottom and worked through every facet of the business, over time. When you knew how an operation worked you were then moved around to different branches of different sizes to understand local differences ultimately becoming a General Manager with an intimate understanding of the business.

Today it is instant gratification. Very few businesses have an intimate understanding of the holistic business themselves. The Old gray GM's have gone. Section managers, silos of operation, niche experts have become the order of the day. That is why the old techniques are being repackaged (reinvented perhaps) and remarketed to try and address the difficulties of doing a proper job in producing workable ICT solutions.

So in summation technology is significantly better but the road to business solutions is still struggling with problems and not much has changed. In fact the more things have changed, the more they have remained the same. It seems that in life and ICT we don't learn the lessons of the past and history definitely repeats itself.


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    • profile image


      9 years ago

      very insightful analysis!

      thank you!

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Yes Paraglider deskilling is a major downside of technlogical advance. Do you know that moths were attracted to the valves causing short circuits in the early computers (early 60's) and when the computer failed you had to  look for the problem. This is where finding the bug or debugging originated.

      The Telecoms industry has the same type of problems. the ITC comms people don't have telecommunications grade skills neccessary for telephony (mobile or fixed line).

      Thanks for taking the trouble to read and comment. Much appreciated as always.

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 

      11 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      When I started in the BBC, programme source selection was done by electromechanical 'uniselectors'. We also had quite a few radio studios left where all the active devices were thermionic valves. Routine maintenance included removal of valves to clean the pins. The problem we have now (in broadcasting) is that everything is based on mass storage and server systems. To maintain these systems needs ICT expertise, but it's very hard to find ICT people with even the vaguest knowledge of electronics, signal processing, etc. Or optics, or acoustics, or . . .

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Yes a afraid that does date us somewhat. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • 2patricias profile image


      11 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      Interesting account! One of Pat's first jobs was as a key punch operator (that shows her age).

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I've been asking that same question so many times, Sixtyorso :)

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Absolutely spot on. Bureaucracy rules and another Job and another acronym gets created. Why don't organizations follow the principles of good general management and know what goes on in their organizations?

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Absolutely, Sixtyorso, nothing beats common sense. As far as CMM is concerned, well… that’s a different story. Standards such as CMM, ISO 9001, ITIL and so on are nice, but people tend to live by them according to the letter, rather than according to the spirit. They’re supposed to improve quality, but quite often only increase the number of reports being produced. The way they are implemented by organizations too often lacks common sense in my opinion.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Ananta Thanks for your comments. As usual good comments enhance any I hub and I value the time and trouble taken to read and comment.

      The debate on agile and extreme programming rages forth and the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) now takes its place in this debate. Nothing beats good common sense, proper Project planning and management and a good clear and lucid set of requirement criteria leading to a good test case, but as most people say:

      "I am too busy to learn the quick (correct) method"

      Some 80% of all IT projects fail and this is a debate in itself.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      In addition to modern PC’s vs. one mainframe with dumb terminal, we have also seen the rise of mini computers, such as IBM System/36 and Unix-computers, whereas now we also find great numbers of PCs working together in grid-computing.

      With regard to the development (or rather: software engineering) process, we have seen the waterfall-methodology make place for more iterative and incremental processes, such as eXtreme Programming, DSDM (Dynamic System Development Method), Agile Computing and RUP (Rational Unified Process). The business and the IT department are (still) moving closer towards another in attempt to reduce time to market. At the surface it may seem as if we have made just little progress, but then again, how much did the real world really change? Banks are still offering financial products. These may be marketed under different names and the structures have become more complex, but BASICALLY their business hasn’t changed that much: they move money around. The same can be said for a lot of industries. Even internet businesses have to worry about the same issues as traditional business: how to market their products.

      Great hub, Sixtyorso!

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Hi Rodney yes many memories of that era. thanks for stopping by and commenting

    • Just_Rodney profile image

      Rodney Fagan 

      11 years ago from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City

      Great Hub. Your comment on history reminds me of the period of Big Blue after releasing the superbrain, 'Its Backward Management', as the first you new when the system needed specific running maintance, is when the Site Engineer appeared with a Hot A Emergency part.

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Marisue Thanks for stopping by and commenting. It is always a pleasure to hear from you.I will be looking at your new tales shortly

      CWB Wise man your Uncle. Thanks for stopping by and commenting much appreciated.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      My uncle worked for IBM in Poughkeepsie, NY when they started working on the first computers. He was head of the tape drive division. He has never owned a computer and refuses to discuss his reasons. He’ll talk about the work he did and has a few funny stories but he opted for a buy-out when the chance came along and never looked back. Go figure.

    • marisuewrites profile image


      11 years ago from USA

      wow sixtyorso!!  What a history description of progress!!  I'm going to make sure my brother Tom sees your hub - he'd find this interesting too as he lived thru it all trying to brave the techno war...  

      by the way, I did another Tales from the badge post, you say you like them so.... =))

      our push button world drives me nuts and I'm addicted to it at the same time. I think our technology level creates more work; we're report crazy on the info highway. It's easy to forget about the customer...

    • sixtyorso profile imageAUTHOR

      Clive Fagan 

      11 years ago from South Africa

      Mulder Thanks for stopping by and commenting

      Louie Likewise always glad to have you read and your comments are welcome

      Lissie Yes we still have a requirement for COBOL skils but these people are mostly retired or sadly dead now. Thanks for reading and commenting, much appreciated

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      11 years ago from New Zealand

      My partner was still working on late 60's technology at a bank 18 months ago. Your friendly bank probably still uses COBOL files (no database) to run the backend transaction system - so soem things haven't changed. I can (just) remember when it was a big deal to revisea document because it had to be re-typed - the WP has killed a lot of trees since then: in the same way businesses today don't understand their business processes - but want IT to automate - sorry not going to happen!

    • Louie Jerome profile image

      Louie Jerome 

      11 years ago from UK

      Very interesting hub, but I was just enjoying a late breakfast and all those figures have given me indigestion! Tee hee! Indigestion remedies, then and now....mmmm, let me see...maybe..

    • mulder profile image


      11 years ago from Warnbro Western Australia

      very intrestring hub sixtyorso I like it .


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