Looking for Signs of Rebirth in Technology

How many times can you have the conversation regarding hope for an uptick in the technology business?

How many times can you have the conversation regarding hope for an uptick in the technology business? If my trip to the West Coast last week is any gauge, the answer is many more times than you care to. In cabs, restaurants and airport lounges, techies were trying to read the digital tea leaves, hoping for signs of rebirth.

Amid rumors of a big price chop from Intel and Cisco, which are still facing a huge inventory bulge, it might seem that the dark cloud is permanently positioned over Silicon Valley. But, maybe not. Amid the gloomy news, there seem to be job "opportunities":

Bug extermination. This job has been around for a while, but the Code Red virus and its sequel make it clear that the interesting part of security is being replaced by trying to patch the holes faster than the bad guys can find them. Trying to keep up with the application and operating system patches for one system is a pain. Multiply that by the tens or hundreds or thousands of servers a big corporation runs, and you soon see where patching could become an entire department.

And as in any good bureaucratic department, youll soon develop specialties. Not only can you have IIS patchers swatting Code Red bugs, but evidence that viruses can travel in PDF files (the Peachy virus) and new flaws in the 802.11a wireless protocols promise a new group of patching specialists ready to jump on the payroll.

Warehouse management. Each week, some big telecom company comes out with a horrible financial report that includes a couple billion inventory write-downs. This week, it was Ciscos turn to dance around the fact that this most digital of all companies built a lot more stuff than any customer needs. Now, eBay is a great idea, but seeing those Cisco Catalyst 6000 switches amid bids for "Shoeless" Joe Jacksons bat and Hula-Hoops is bizarre. Somewhere, Cisco, Lucent, Nortel and others must have a mountain of switches, routers and other telecom gear moldering unused and unwanted. Managing and moving around all that gear seems like a long-term employment opportunity.

English majors. English majors have been the low people on the pyramid in the tech sector. Math majors, however, were held in esteem. Before the dot-com crash, you had a regular parade of digital execs championing the need for more math for high schoolers in this country. Those are the same execs who later flunked basic accounting in a spectacular manner.

For now, we can skip the math and go right to the English department for new names for the products and services that might get the tech industry back on track. The first candidate for renaming is Web services. Not a week passes without some company saying it is now or intends to be the leader in Web services. Problem is, no one can define Web services or their benefits. Theres no one better to explain the unexplainable than the English major who has struggled to understand "Beowulf."