When technology is ahead of demand: how did you think about IT development in 1985

Original author: Erik Sandberg-Diment
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The possibilities of using personal computers in business are enormous. As practical evidence of these capabilities, one can present word processors and table editors - they have become not only widespread tools of professionals, but also the means on which daily business starts to depend. However, in the process of strengthening the current situation, difficult times are coming for our modern electronic applications.

Among these applications are teletext, video tex and email. The first two of them, most likely, will cease to exist, and the latter obviously suffers from much slower growth than its supporters predicted. The reason for the lack of rapid progress is that in each case, technological advances far exceed the needs of users.

Consider teletext, the most primitive of the three applications mentioned above. Teletext - continuous transmission of information on a TV screen. The data is transmitted through the blanking frame pulses separating the fields from which the video broadcast images consist.

The effect is approximately the same as if you were looking through a window with the blinds down, but not closed. You see the landscape outside the window, but do not pay attention to the lattice of the blinds. When transmitting teletext, the so-called “lattice” transmits text signals - although the text usually appears in the form of a narrow bar at the bottom of the screen. The consumer, using a special decoder, can switch from a football match to a text message about the weather forecast or the latest news from Beirut.

Companies spend millions of dollars on teletext projects - these amounts could bring a lot more profit if they were simply placed in a bank at interest. Because users are ultimately interested in football. Teletext turns into unnecessary and unnecessary information.

The only exception is when this redundant information is addressed to people with hearing impairments. Teletext technology originates from the transmission of subtitles at the same time as the usual broadcast of a television program, so that the presenter’s story can be heard and read. This is a great use case - and the only one in which teletext features can be used for a long time.

Videotex is a slightly different technology because it is interactive. This is a bi-directional system that allows the user to select information or a task that he wants to perform. Initially, the choice could be made using a special terminal or keyboard, used in conjunction with a standard TV. Both methods included the need to spend a lot of money on something that in reality was unnecessary for users, and both of these methods did not become popular. Over the past year or so, supporters of video tex have become actively interested in the world of personal computers. This change in marketing course is aimed at popularizing services - and, among other things, helps to justify the reason for acquiring a home PC.

Central to the new video library is the concept of home banking. For the vast majority of people and companies, however, it is hardly more convenient to carry out banking operations from a computer than to pickle pickles from a barrel with a toothpick. Home banking programs, even the highly publicized Pronto program sponsored by Chemical Bank, are growing much slower than predicted. Video tex services, according to their creators, will continue to support activities such as stock market brokerage, travel services, buying cataloged goods, and even housing search services. However, I doubt that many will be willing to exchange real shopping for the opportunity to buy a new refrigerator or washing machine, simply by pressing a few buttons on the computer.

We are the nation of those who come to the store to “gawk” at the goods. With all due respect, I can only shake my head, thinking about the millions of dollars that are spent on developing applications for video tex companies that do not seem to understand the fundamental principles of using personal computers. PCs are needed to save money and time and for entertainment. Videotex has nothing to do with this. “We expected a lot from information services that are not supported by either teletext or video tex,” says Michelle Preston, technology industry analyst at LF Rothschild, an investment company. "They simply do not provide a sufficient level of value to succeed."

Now consider email, this new offspring of mail services and numerous companies from the Bell Telephone Telephone conglomerate. Currently, companies promoting this service, called e-mail, also provide related services such as connecting a subscriber to the Telex network and delivering documents in letter format to many points in the United States within two hours. They all found that email alone now cannot attract enough users to exceed business costs from investing in this technology.

E-mail allows you to type letters on a PC or from a terminal, and then send them by cable, telephone modem or via satellite to a PC or terminal of the recipient. One of the so-called advantages of this system is the ability to save and redirect messages. The user can send messages at any time and, unlike telephone communications, e-mail does not require the presence of the recipient at the other end at the time of transmission. But in this regard, and the good old mail works in exactly the same way.

Given all this, email in most cases is no more effective than regular mail or telephone communications, which the former is intended to supplant. In addition, it does not provide parcel delivery capabilities, as another innovative system does - express delivery service from Federal Express.

In addition, email faces a compatibility issue that has hit the entire PC industry since its inception. At the moment, there are about a dozen services, including: MCI Mail, EasyLink from Western Union, Dialcom from the ITT Corporation and Quick-Comm from General Electric - none of these services can be connected with others.

The situation is comparable to the emergence of a dozen different postal services, each of which may or may not deliver messages from the particular company for which this message was intended. Before sending a letter, the company will have to determine whether it can actually be delivered.

The problem is compounded by the fact that there is no central sending system for email. And there is no single guide for subscribers of different services that could help companies determine which potential recipient of an email belongs to which service. Today, the solution to the dilemma for e-mail is seen in a hybrid consisting of half-e-mail, half-e-mail traditional, which became the embodiment of the now popular orange MCI envelopes.

There is a high probability that even before a universal e-mail network, e-mail, along with teletext and video tex, is created, they will turn into a handful of specialized applications. In general, from a technology point of view, these information exchange concepts seem interesting. But from an economic point of view, such ideas are naive and, more importantly, no more convenient than existing alternatives.

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