The new economy is just like the old economy

“Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” – George Santayana, Philosopher

Not long ago everyone was talking about the new economy and the news media had several stories about the “new economy.”   It turns out the new economy is just like the old economy, and the ole economic laws still apply.

The software industry is experiencing a lot of growing pains experienced by other industries.   Since the first computer language appeared in the 1950s there has been a churn, of both hardware and software.  Hardware companies like Wang, Control Data, and Digital have come and gone and were replaced by Microsoft, Dell and Apple.   Software languages have come and gone, too.   Assembler, Fortran[1], and COBOL have been replaced with Java,  Java Script, and C++.  Long before there was Word, there was WordStar and WordPerfect; and, before Excel there was VisiCalc and Lotus. Whatever happened to Lotus 1-2-3?

History Just Repeats Itself

Mark Twain once quipped, “History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot.”  These days, software development rhymes a lot with other industries.   I hear from software developers that the software industry is unique, and no other industry has experienced the same type of growth that software development has experienced.   If we look back in history, then we understand that several other industries have experienced rapid growth rates similar to the software industry.  The growth curves for the railroads, telegraph, telephones, textiles, and the auto industry all have the same shape.  There is rapid growth, the industry peaks, and employment falls off.  Some industries, like the telegraph, just disappeared.

I am not suggesting that the software industry is exactly like every other industry because there are similarities and differences.  What I am suggesting is that by looking at other industries, we can get an understanding of the future of the software industry.   What I am suggesting is that the software industry does rhyme a lot with other industries.


[1] While I started out in Assembler, I was always fond of Fortran.  Fortran first appears as a useful programming language in 1966 and received major upgrades by 1977.  Believe it or not there was a new release of Fortran in 2003 and another release planned for 2008.


Published in: on October 31, 2009 at 11:07  Leave a Comment  

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