22000: The End of the World – Not and Sort Of
As the clock ticked toward the end of 1999 and the start of 2000, the big question was, “Will the digital world stop dead as the ball falls at Times Square marking the end of the year, the decade and the millennium?” The answer (since you are reading this digitally, it is a little self-evident) was no. What will never be fully answered is just why didn’t all things digital turn into all things stopped? Was it the many billions of dollars spent fixing up all those old COBOL and FORTRAN programs? Or was the whole thing way overblown and simply a way for out-of-work programmers to get a nice paycheck? I’d vote for something in the middle. While the rest of the world did not melt down, many of the dot-com companies did evaporate in a mist of overpromises and underdelivery.
32001: Disaster and Recovery
The terror attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., on Sept. 11, 2001, drove the discussion of disaster recovery, security and war from discussion points to crucial action items. The direct attack on the financial and government centers of the United States wobbled but did not halt the country’s heartbeat. As the military geared up for invasion and war, the technology community spread out its computing operations, buttressed the technology infrastructure and girded for a digital battle still taking place.
Enron filed for bankruptcy in December of 2001, but the full effect of the collapse reverberated throughout 2002. How could such a digital house of cards have been constructed in full view and by some of the supposedly best minds that the business schools could graduate? Out of the debris arose Sarbanes-Oxley and a host of compliance regulations that required a rethinking of technology spending and priorities. At least we learned from the collapse and such a huge bubble could never happen again, correct? Whoops, see 2009 and the banking meltdown.
52003: Blogging Through Iraq
When America went to war, the bloggers were embedded along with the troops. War coverage has changed as radically as war itself, as social networks extended to reporters, bloggers, troops and generals, and – oh yeah – the bad guys were also using the Web. The Iraq War was a turning point for big media, as all those pesky bloggers proved they were faster, more technically astute and more pointed in their views. Almost forgotten, an acknowledgment to all those techies who were called up and kept the data networks secure and running through sandstorms and direct and cyber-attacks, and based on equipment often never meant to run in wartime conditions.
62004: Boston Is Identified as Center of Universe
Just kidding here, but the Patriots and Red Sox had, let’s just say, satisfying seasons. Without getting into political debates, the presidential election of 2004 was a good example of government’s inability to anticipate and advance the technology agenda. You’d think that a country that was the first to put a man on the moon could come up with a safe, secure, private and moderately foolproof way to cast ballots and count votes. Not the case in 2004 and not the case now. That was the downside tech event of 2004. The upside event was in August when Google went public at $85 a share. Join me in saying, “Shoulda, woulda, coulda.”
72005: Storm Warnings
Hurricane Katrina swamped New Orleans, and the rest of the world watched as emergency and relief efforts proved woefully underprepared to deal with the scale of the disaster. Data disaster recovery again moved up the IT agenda, and I’d argue it gave rise to a new way of thinking about data backup and recovery. Why build a site that might never be used and would suck up a lot of money? Why not think about a new way of computing where the resources are distributed throughout the country and the world? Sure sounds a lot like cloud computing to me. Of course, Hurricane Katrina was not the only big event in August of 2005. Who can forget that on Aug. 23, Facebook bought the name, you guessed it – Facebook – for $200,000 from Aboutface Corp. Soon the world was busy friending one another and providing important updates about their puppies and dinner plans.
82006: An Inconvenient Year
This was the year when everything seemed to go wrong and events that should have been warning signs were ignored. Al Gore came out with the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” and touched off a Web war between global warming believers and naysayers that continues today. Rumsfeld resigned, Iraq sunk into bloody morass, and the crisis in Darfur seemed bottomless. What good happened in the tech world? Well, Twitter was founded in March 2006, and now all your followers can instantly know what you had for breakfast.
92007: A Real (Estate) Frenzy
Let’s go back to 2007. Back to California. To San Francisco, from Seeking Alpha: “DataQuick: The median sales price for existing homes in San Francisco was $790,000 last month, up 1.4% compared to a revised April ’06 ($779,000), and up significantly (4.9%) compared to the month prior.” Can we possibly read that type of information now and wonder why those numbers made all of us supposedly well-educated real estate consumers think that type of price inflation was all the more reason to, you guessed it, buy more real estate? All the warning meters should have been in the red zone with the klaxon horns blaring. But no, we kept on buying, banks kept on lending, and the country was quickly digging ever deeper into the financial hole. Where was tech in all this? What happened to financial modeling and risk management software? The inability of business intelligence software to sound the alarms about financial institutions taking on way too much risk was one of the great tech failings of the decade.
102008: Wait While I Twitter My Facebook Update
This was the year that big media and big politics crumbled in the face of media in the hands of the masses. Again, political leanings aside, the vote went to the swiftest at managing the digital media stream. For big media, the haves were the ones quickest to embrace the change, while the have-nots were faced with declining revenues and audiences. Along the way, the economy crumbled as the real estate and banking bubble burst, leading the way to a grim start to the end of the decade.
112009: Hey Buddy, Can You Lend Me a Dime? Via Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn?
Banks were getting bailed out, housing developments were sitting dark and forlorn, and General Motors – I mean G.M. – the backbone of U.S. manufacturing, was running around Washington, D.C., hat in hand. As the year ended, things were looking better, but there was a feeling that something had profoundly changed. The idea of jumping in your car from your driveway on the cul-de-sac 50 miles from your job in the office park seems more and more absurd. Sorting out the folly of the first decade of the 2000s may take another decade, but I’ve got to believe tech can play a big role in getting us back on track.