Visual Basic (early 1990s)
More than the language, Visual Basic (VB) is about software components. It has made software development easier as easy as assembling Lego blocks together. It created a whole new generation of software programmers, and enabled the adoption by developers of the Microsoft platform. This relationship has endured, and remains one of the single most important factors for the enduring success of Microsoft and the Windows platform. A quote from SF Systems puts the importance of VB on context:
Just over 10 years ago, the process of building a simple Microsoft Windows-based application could have been described as unruly, complicated, and time-consuming. Building these rich graphical applications–a task we today take for granted–was anything but trivial before the introduction of Visual Basic 1.0 in May 1991. With Visual Basic, programmers could for the first time implement Windows applications in an intuitive, graphical environment by dragging controls onto a form. By enabling both professional and casual programmers to maximize their productivity, Visual Basic ushered in a renaissance of Windows-based application development.
The Internet and the Web (1994 onwards)
The combination of HTML, HTTP and Mosaic sparked off a million dreams. Even as email, web browsing and instant messaging became part of our lives, companies like Yahoo, Netscape, eBay and Amazon became the darlings of the stock market. “Dotcom” became a synonym first for all that was wondrous about the Internet, and later for all its excesses. The Internet bubble did burst and it was not unexpected. But on the way up and on the way down, it unleashed a whole slew of forces that we are still coming to terms with.
Two defining moments on the way up came when Cisco for a brief period in time became the most valuable company in the world, and AOL bought Time Warner. Today, the Nasdaq is down more than 70% from its peak. Yet, the importance of the Internet does not go away. If anything, we are only now beginning to realise its real impact.
Email and IM have multiplied by 10X the people we are interacting with (and in many cases, 10X more often). Thanks to the Web, we are processing 10X the information that we did a few years ago. The velocity of business is that much faster it may have been okay to get a fortnight old information about sales and inventory levels just a few years ago. Today, anything less than real-time seems unacceptable.
As David Weinberger writes in his book “Small Pieces Loosely Joined”, “For all the overheated, exaggerated, manic-depressive coverage of the Web, we’d have to conclude that the Web has not been hyped enough.” The Force is still with us and getting stronger.
Bandwidth Explosion (1996-2000)
Moore’s Law promised doubling of the capacity of the processing power of chips every 18 months. Gilder’s Law went one step better. It stated that bandwidth doubled every 9 months. Driven by cheap money, continuing innovations in fibre optics and rising demand, telecom companies worldwide put in place a massive supply of bandwidth in the last few years of the previous decade. Falling prices of ever-increasing communication pipes heralded the “death of distance”.
Telecom companies may now be paying a price for the excesses of that period, but the fact remains that the worldwide bandwidth explosion helped get tens of millions consumers on the Internet, and laid the foundation for eBusiness and the pervasive, real-time infrastructure that we are now seeing.
Next Week: The Present 10X Forces