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BLOG: 20 years in technology – how the world has changed!

Anthony McLachlan | Dec. 21, 2012
YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, smartphones and other ‘front-end’ phenomena truly deserve credit for driving the information revolution. For me, this 20-year milestone is a good time to acknowledge the network builders.

Twenty years is a long time to be in the technology business.

Twenty years ago, a typical day at the office for many in Hong Kong or Singapore still included... well, a trip to the office - filled with wired phones, fax machines and desktop PCs that worked over a rudimentary network backbone. On the engineering side, developers had to source years of datebooks and information in the corporate library to design various chips, versus the centralised data repository they use today. Knowledge was stored in people's heads in the form of experience, and not universally available to those with the acumen to navigate Google and Wikipedia.

In the early 1990s, Microsoft was just releasing Windows 3.1 and Intel the Pentium processor, and the World Wide Web was born at CERN in Switzerland. Few realised at the time how dramatically these technologies would evolve and shape the way we do business today.

That was the time when network specialists like Ciena came onto the scene, and began to experiment with ways to improve network capacity for an as-yet unimaginable future. A future that we live in today.

As the 90s progressed, names like eBay and Google first appeared on the scene. Various revenue models for "dot-com" businesses arose, and, in many cases, failed. Many questioned the viability of these Internet businesses, and indeed several of these companies went bust. And who can forget the hysteria over the Y2K bug that never was.

From about 2004 when Facebook was launched, followed by YouTube with the "Me at the Zoo" video, social networking and user-generated content took data consumption to unheard-of heights. The iPhone and iPad, which appeared in 2007 and 2010 respectively, took this boom in data consumption mobile.

In parallel, fibre optic networking companies were developing solutions that drove the creation of intelligent, robust telecom networks. Fibre optic technology virtually eliminates restrictions in data capacity - allowing service providers to build faster, stronger, more resilient networks for consumers participating in the data revolution.

These eventful, glorious decades in technology have been mirrored in and played a large part in moulding the economy in Asia, too. Singapore and Hong Kong went through the Asian crisis, the dot-com bubble, health scares, the worldwide banking crisis... and yet, continued to build out the infrastructure needed to evolve to offer value-added services for companies all over the world. Today, technology has transformed these economies, like many others in Asia, into something dramatically different from 20 years ago.

The Internet has helped build a global economy that has deconstructed borders and geographies thanks to the ubiquity of smartphones, laptops and global connectivity. Google - a noun and a verb - has truly democratised access to information. And 20 years from now, our technology and the Internet will only get faster, with infinitely more capacity to store and transmit data, which will create a host of new and unheard of applications with implications for all of us.

 

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