TECH TALK: The Years That Were: 1996 (Part 2)

Mark Halper wrote about A World of Servers Great and Small in Forbes ASAP (June 3, 1996):

In [Oracles Larry] Ellison and [Suns Scott] McNealys view call it the nothing but net vision servers will hold all the applications and data that any $500 user would need. In the same fabric, servers will server the 150 million-odd PCs entrenched in the business world and now getting hooked into corporate Intranet networks.Already a corporate fixture dispensing and managing databases, applications, messages, print commands and other daily occurrences, the server will take on even larger dimensions in a world wired to dumb boxes. The more powerful the server, the more powerful the network, and the richer the network, the richer the network computer, says Ellison.

Forbes ASAPs year-end 296-page issue (December 2, 1996) had articles by many luminaries on the techno-future. Here are some excerpts:

Bill Gates: To make intelligent bets, you have to understand what will be going on in the next ten years. Most people overestimate what is going to happen in the next two or three years and underestimate what is going to happen in the next decade.In ten years, it gets wild. One is the predictable result Moores Law has on computer capability. PC power in absolute terms gets so large that your ability to do rich thingslike keeping your entire personal photo collection on your PC will be a piece of cakeThere are breakthrough things that are certain to come between now and 2006. Extremely cheap flat-panel displayOne the surface of my desk and a lot of my walls, Ill have displays with project status, sales data all there. Input will be done with pointing devices or by talking to the computer. The computer will be talking to us, and it will see. It will see when we walk into a room.

Nicholas Negroponte: So, what is the next Big Thing? What atoms will be turned into bits and really change the world? For me, the answer is simple: cash. What we know today as coins and paper currency will become bits. I dont mean credit or debit cards or accounting systems of that kind. I mean stored value, bits on your hard disk or in your electronic wallet.

Ann Winbald: Object-oriented programming software that can re-used and interchanged among programs has finally hit its stride. For years,software developers have talked of object-oriented software: smart components that can be assembled into a manageable environment. Programmers dared to imagine marts of such components, where they could buy and sell each others components instead of recoding already invented parts the equivalent of a bill of materials for the software factorySmall developers have become specialty parts suppliers to the growing population of software assembly-line workersThe true realization of a working software assembly process, readily available tools, and a rich supplier base has just begun to materialize as we approach the turn of the century.

Scott McNealy: Go webtop. Publish all the information on your internal web. Dont send it to employees on paper or even email, because by the time they can print it out and get through it, its already old. Give the user safe and instant access to the network from a personal web page, from any machine, using any operating system, at any time, with dial-tone reliability. Thats a utility model of computingThe digital industries are converging on this utility model. Data tone will become as commonplace as dial toneThis is where I think the puck is heading. Its a new wave of network computing, based on the fat-server, big-pipeline, thin-client model. Its applications written once to run anywhere, safely. Its web-centric, web-toned and irresistibly open.

Tomorrow: 1997

The Years That Were T

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.