Re: History of the IT industry

Subject: Re: History of the IT industry
From: Geoff Lane <geoff -at- gjctech -dot- co -dot- uk>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sat, 31 May 2008 08:34:54 +0100

On Saturday, May 31, 2008, Fred Ridder wrote;

> But if it's on the Web, it *MUST* be true, right??? So I guess
> Merriam-Webster must have got it wrong when they cited 1978
> as the origin of information technology. Does that mean we can
> also discount their definition of the term, since they clearly got
> the date wrong?
---

Webster must have got the date wrong if we are to believe it's
definition: "the technology involving the development, maintenance,
and use of computer systems, software, and networks for the processing
and distribution of data".

I'm not sure about networks being necessary for IT (unless you include
sneaker-net and snail-mail). However, the technology is 19th Century
with Charles Babbage's Analytical Engine and Ada Lovelace's creation
of what many consider the first computer program. Returning to Webster
for a definition of technology: "a manner of accomplishing a task
especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge". Although
the Analytical Engine was never built, the concept and hence "IT" was
born at or before that time.

Before Babbage, "computers" where bods with pencils who laboured over
tables of ballistics data, navigational data, etc. "Computer" was the
job title given to those workers. So IT could go back to when a
computer system was a room full of information workers laboriously
producing data tables, which were printed and distributed to the
military and others who needed them.

Of course, there were a couple of inventions that made the life of a
computer easier. On was John Napier's logarithms and the other was the
slide rule. However, the Pilgrim Fathers relied upon navigational data
that computers produced. Since their voyage predates the 1652
invention of the slide rule by over thirty years, it's clear to me
that IT also predates that invention.

So I guess that it depends on how you define "computer" and "computer
system". One thing clear is that even if you claim IT requires a
"digital electronic computer" Webster is way off. 1978 is far too late
because Alan Turing designed and Tommy Flowers built Colossus - a
digital electronic computer - during the WWII, which allowed the
Allies to use IT to defeat Germany.

--
Geoff

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Follow-Ups:

References:
History of the IT industry: From: Michael West
RE: History of the IT industry: From: Fred Ridder

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