This Day In Information: The IT Industry in 1971

Today in 1971, Time magazine published an article on the computer industry, titled “A Growth Industry Grows Up.”  It started with “It was only 20 years ago that the world’s first commercially sold computer, a Univac Model I, was installed at the Bureau of the Census in Washington. Today hardly any type of commercial or human activity in the U.S. goes unrecorded, unpredicted or unencumbered by computers.”

And continued with: “For the past three years, one-tenth of new U.S. investment in plant and equipment has gone into computers, enough to make electronic data processing the nation’s fastest-growing major industry. Last year computer-industry revenues rose 17%, to some $12.5 billion. Still, the computer industry may in some ways be a victim of its own success. Computer technology has raced ahead of the ability of many customers to make good use of it. Not long ago, the Research Institute of America found that only half of 2,500 companies questioned felt that their present machines were paying for themselves in increased efficiency.”

And ended with: “For all the change that it has already wrought, the computer has barely begun to transform the methods of business and very probably the character of civilization.”

The size of the US computer industry in 1970, $12.5 billion, is about $71 billion in today’s dollars. HP, the world’s largest computer (“information technology” in today’s parlance) company, reported revenues of $126 billion in its last fiscal year. According to IDC, the global IT industry was $1.5 trillion in 2010.

And as for information technology racing ahead of the ability of its customers “to make good use of it,” here’s a recent testimonial from HP’s CIO, in an InformationWeek article, tittled “IT is too darn slow”: “Mott has cut the time it takes to complete the typical HP IT project down to six months, but now he thinks he needs to slash it again, to three months. Instead of big-bang IT, he wants IT’s impact to be constant. ‘We ought to be changing the productivity of everybody in our organization every 30 days–in HP, not IT,’ Mott says. ‘If we’re going to keep up with the growth in front of us, we better figure out how to do that.'”



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