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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

History lessons from Carnegie, Rockefeller et al

The History Channel recently ran the series, the Men Who Built America. It was a documentary that tracked the rise of U.S. industrial might following the end of the Civil War.

They focused on the pantheon of American big business – Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan.

But, it was the concluding episode of the series, covering the rise of Henry Ford and the automobile, that got me thinking about the technology market.

The point they made as their wrap up is that Ford’s success wasn’t built on oil, steel or railroads to feed industrial development; instead, he focused on bringing an affordable product – the automobile – to the average consumer.

Of course, he couldn’t have built the Model T if the oil, steel and rail infrastructure wasn’t already in place.

In many ways, we’ve lived through a similar era. We have our icons who created the building blocks of the IT market in the 1960s, 70s and 80s.

The dotcom era in the late 1990s ushered in the consumer era, which if you think about smartphones and tablets, is as strong a driver of new technology as there ever has been.

Many have called the last 20 years the democratization of technology because you don’t have to be a computer scientist or a programmer to do some amazing things on a computer or other device.

But, of course, none of this would be possible without infrastructure that was built in those earlier decades.

So if the IT infrastructure build out of recent decades is the equivalent of the rise of oil and steel and the iPhone is our era’s Model T, what’s next?

I’m convinced the best is yet to come.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Nov 28, 2012 at 9:52 AM

Reader Comments

Fri, Nov 30, 2012 Kevin

I loved that series too. I was paying attention to the business side. Who is willing to take risk right now? However I do see the creation of IT ecosystems expanding. All media on all devices anywhere. My only concern is will someone ensure the "ecosystems" integrate. I don't know, but does face time and skype play together? How many people changed cell carriers so they could call family and friends for free in the late 90's and early Y2K? I know I convinced some of my friends and family to switch. I'd like to choose between Android, Apple and Windows without having to worry that I would be limited in what I can do on my device. I wonder if the IEEE gets into the weeds on this? And why to this day am I stuck to one choice in cable TV providers?

Thu, Nov 29, 2012 ck Denver

The best may yet be coming, but they did not have the gigantic obstacle we now have: rampant government growth and spending.

Thu, Nov 29, 2012

A very thoughtful piece! I really enjoyed this series on the History Channel and agree that the best is yet to come.

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