Computer Technology 3 Essay, Research Paper
Over the past half century, computer technology has transformed our world by providing us with incredible tools for processing and communicating information. A number of organizations have recognized the importance of computer technology by establishing museums or archives dedicated to the history of computing and the computer industry but, unfortunately, very little has been done to preserve the history of the software industry.
And yet, the reason that computers have had such an impact on our economy and our culture is because people have thought up an astonishing number of useful things to do with them. It was the creators and marketers of the software that made computers useful in so many different ways who drove the proliferation of computer technology into every aspect of our life. Without them, computers would just be intricate combinations of metal, plastic and silicon, of interest only to the scientists and engineers who build them.
We believe that the history of computing is incomplete without the history of software and the software companies that created the market demand for computer technology. The Software History Center has been established to preserve some of that history and to encourage other history institutions to seek out and preserve the materials that will record the development of the software industry for posterity.
Our current focus is on the development of the software products industry between the 1950s and the 1980s with an emphasis on business application and system software written for IBM mainframe and midrange computers.
We’ve chosen the non-PC world because very little research has been done on the early years of the mainframe/midrange software products industry. Many books and articles have been written about PC software companies (dozens of books on Microsoft alone), but almost nothing has been written about the hundreds of successful software companies that preceded the PC. The records of events that occurred during those years are in grave danger of being lost if they are not located and archived soon. Most of the early companies have been absorbed by other firms and many of the early software executives and developers will be retiring soon, if they have not already done so.
We’ve initially chosen business application and system software because it was this marketplace that provided the most opportunities for entrepreneurial software firms. These small firms played an extremely important role in expanding the use of computers in the pre-PC era, but most of them are now gone. To the extent that records of these enterprises exist, they are probably tucked away in the personal files of the individuals who founded these companies or worked for them. These records are likely to disappear within the next few years unless they are identified and preserved.
We’ve chosen the IBM mainframe and midrange computer marketplace simply because it was such a huge chunk of the overall computer market from the 1950s through the 1980s and because so much more software was written for IBM computers than for all other kinds of computers. These limitations aren’t intended to imply that software products from a later era, or for non-business applications, or for computers other than IBM, aren’t important to the history of software. But we need to keep our project to a manageable size so we’re focusing initially on the material that is most readily available and most immediately vulnerable to loss.