Computer networks (and their “killer app,” email) made the entire process digital, ensuring the proliferation of the message, drastically increasing the amount of data created, stored, moved, and consumed.
Connecting people in a vast and distributed network of computers not only increased the amount of data generated but also led to numerous new ways of getting value out of it, unleashing many new enterprise applications and a new passion for “data mining.” This in turn changed the nature of competition and gave rise to new “horizontal” players, focused on one IT component as opposed to the vertically integrated, “end-to-end solution” business model that has dominated the industry until then.
The cloud—a new way to deliver IT, big data—a new attitude towards data and its potential value, and The Internet of Things—connecting billions of monitoring and measurement devices quantifying everything, combine to sketch for us the future of IT.
See also A Very Short History of Data Science and A Very Short History of Big Data If you were asked to name the top three events in the history of computer technology (or the history of what came to be known as the IT industry), which ones would you choose?
But I would argue that the major quantitative and qualitative leap occurred only when work PCs were connected to each other via Area Networks (LANs)—where Ethernet became the standard—and then long-distance via Wide Area Networks (WANs).
With the PC, you could digitally create the memo you previously typed on a typewriter, but to distribute it, you still had to print it and make paper copies.
Author’s note: I began to write a history of computing at Princeton a decade ago while working in the University’s Office of Information Technology. Princeton’s computing story begins not with Alan Turing, Alonzo Church, John von Neumann, or Albert Einstein, but with Oswald Veblen (1880-1960; Ph.
D., Chicago 1903), who came to the campus at the request of University president Woodrow Wilson 1879. His uncle Thorstein, who wrote (1899), is better known, but Oswald arguably had a more lasting impact.
In the wake of World War I and the increased mobility of military equipment, much more accurate and timely methods for firing were needed.
Veblen undertook the creation of trajectory tables that would take into consideration variables such as altitude, wind, temperature, shell materials, azimuths, and the like to achieve specific firing distances.