Monday, 26 September 2016

A brief history of computing technology

I believe, as innovation scholars, that we must acknowledge where our history, or starting points, rather than indulge in the unjustified belief that new ideas, that creative acts, begin with a blank canvas.

The three presentations below highlight the context and milestones in the history of computational technology:
  1. Timeline of Computing History (by link)
  2. Some Milestones in Computer Input Devices: An Informal Timeline (by Bill Buxton link)
  3. (A History of) Mobile Computing (by Jesper Kjeldskov link)
They help us to understand something of the history and context from which we begin. An understanding of our history forces us to acknowledge the resilience of certain ideas, concepts, aspirations, and observe the often selective couching of seemingly incontrovertible "facts" surrounding the design and development of technology. These beliefs are a subtext to the unfolding history of computing technologies. For example, the pace of technological centred development and innovation ever increasing (where in fact it is faddish and gyrates; transformational change creeps up on society before seemingly bursting onto the scene).  The resilience of various beliefs and assumptions held by managers, designers, users and others also demands scrutiny, for example: belief in the agency of technology; the presumed rational/irrational behaviour of users; appealing to the efficacy of management structures; the aspiration to acquire control knowledge; the oft stated belief that technology should “just work”.

But technology initiatives are also political actions, people creating value, new resources, contesting for new properties. Yet the creative spark that ignites the art of designing, developing and applying technology is elusive and unmanageable. Technology, innovation, organisation, society, knowledge; so many questions arise. What is management's role in motivating change? What is the impact of each wave of newer and ever better technology? How does innovation advance? Incrementally, slowly, abruptly, diffusing, drifting, adapting, evolving? What are the actual trajectories of innovation as it happens? We know fads and fashions come and go but society is in thrall with the 'new', the radical shift, that more often than not fails to acknowledge its own past or pedigree, its reliance upon older things, systems and ways of knowing the world.