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April 29th, 2014

Tech PR viewpoint: Future tense or future perfect?

Tech PR viewpoint: Future tense or future perfect?

Tech PR viewpoint

In a previous post, I indulged in a little nostalgia and looked back at technological wonders of the past. This time I’m squinting into tomorrow’s world. It was all triggered by a new report from Pew Research which decided to delve into ‘US Views of Technology and the Future’. Now, we’re pretty familiar with reports that look ahead to the tech trends we might expect over the next 12 months, five years or even a decade. Big consulting and analyst firms like Gartner, Deloitte and Accenture consistently publish digital visions along these lines around the turn of each year. But Pew has taken things just a tad further, asking the public for their views of the technology treats that might be available 50 years from now, and not merely a few financial quarters away.

As a result, the responses entirely bypass Big Data, streamlined logistics, media pay models, 3D printing, the wearable web or indeed smart devices of any kind. Instead what Pew received were blue-sky visions of teleportation devices, space colonization, terraforming, bioengineered beings, lab-grown organs, artistic robot carers, controllable weather systems and brain implants with every conceivable goal. It really is something wonderful. Sure, there are the same dreams of flying cars and personal rockets that geeks have craved since geeks themselves were first imagined, but today’s visions are so much richer than ever before – and all because we are that much better informed about the stunning potential for innovation, rapid development, technological perseverance and the od curveball.

Dive deeper into the Pew report and you’ll also discover whether or not Americans think such developments would be changes for the better or for worse. It’s fascinating stuff. And that’s why we thought it would be fun to ask you to have a few visions of your own. How do you see the technological world around you in 2064? What will be the single greatest innovation of that age? And what dreams will humans have to continue to dream about, even in 50 years’ time?

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April 12th, 2014

Tech PR viewpoint: IBM Mainframes turn 50!

Tech PR viewpoint: IBM Mainframes turn 50!

Did you know that there are probably people working in the same room as you who were born in the late 1990s? I’ve got documents older than that stored on my laptop. Tell them to ‘change the record’, or try making the ‘call me?’ signal at these bright young things, and they will stare at you blankly through Google Glass and race off on their hoverboards. Or something like that.

I always act like this when a nostalgic technology milestone makes me feel about 100 years old. In last week’s Prompt newsletter we wrote about the Netscape browser’s launch 20 years ago. This week I find out that the IBM mainframe is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Fifty years? Seriously? And later this year the British rival to the System 360 — the ICL 1900 — will also turn 50. How can that possibly be?

Regular readers and personal friends will know that I have a bit of a ‘thing’ for ‘proper’ computers like the IBM mainframes. Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC, was the first tech vendor I worked with, and of course everybody knows that I have a PDP in my kitchen. But I might have to start covering it with a tablecloth now, just in case visitors get the wrong idea about the longevity of my career, and start searching for IBM 360s in my spare bedroom.

Those particular mainframes from Big Blue were – unbelievably — launched on 7 April 1964. They were upgradeable, backwards-compatible, future-proof, all-powerful, the size of a small family car, and are still in widespread operation today. Charlie Ewen, CIO at the Met Office, a user of mainframes for 40 years, told the BBC this week: “We don’t see mainframes as legacy technology. They are resilient, robust and are very cost-effective for the work we do.”

Aren’t we all eh, Charlie? Aren’t we all…

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