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Back to the Future!

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We have just gone past the date (21st October 2015) when Marty McFly enters the future in the second of the Back to the Future franchise having “travelled” from 1985. I thought it may be interesting to look at a few things that have changed in the world of IT and also remind myself of those things that never seem to change.

What has changed?

  • Bandwidth. I used to dial up to Lancaster University’s JANET network using a 2400 baud modem. For those who never saw a modem, imagine transferring approximately 240 characters a second using a box the size of a large router. Compare that with my domestic ISP who now lets me download data at approximately 6.1M characters a second – a 25,000-fold increase!
  • Storage. Terabyte arrays have now been common for some time and we are always going to need more storage. Storage is cheap, but good storage less so. I do remember a hospital I was doing some work at paying £2000 for a 20MB hard drive (yes, megabytes) in the 1980s. A domestic hard drive is probably 2 Terabyte now – a 100,000-fold increase. Put another way, the whole of the reporting database on that late1980s drive is smaller than one image from my camera.
  • Development tools. The choice of tools and the platforms on which to develop are now legion. In the 1980s you had new choices like Turbo Pascal and perhaps C if you were a hardy soul. C# and C++ were not around. Character applications were still the norm so you had other options such as COBOL, assembler, FORTRAN and Basic. Early Turbo Pascal shipped on one floppy disk.

What hasn't changed?

  • I want more. The more you give, the more they want right? Everything has to be quicker and slicker. This is how it should be as it keeps IT as a core component of an organisation and helps it deliver the competitive edge.
  • They don’t understand. I’ve read a number of articles recently suggesting that there is still a lack of understanding between IT and the business. Really?
  • The impossible. You are regularly asked to deliver the impossible in terms of function and timescale. And yet, many times it seems, you do just that. Take a bow!

What's next?

Advice abounds from so many sources that sometimes it can be a bit bewildering. Client Advising at LexisNexis is available to you as a free service to help you manage the “I want more”, act as an interpreter if needed, and help you to keep delivering the “impossible”.

So, maintaining the 1980s theme, “who you gonna call?”.

About the Author:


In an IT career that has spanned well over twenty five years, Karl spent time in consultancy, operations, product management and solutions design. As a Client Advisor, he is here to help you get the most from your systems and can bring that variety of experience with him to help you. Some of his colleagues have pointed out that he is a geek by nature due to his keen interest in all things technical. Particular areas of focus include integration and mobility. His spare time is taken up with walking (slowly), basketball (also slowly), and photography (excruciatingly slowly). He also maintains an extensive computer lab at home. The “geek” tag is probably well deserved.

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