Saturday, January 06, 2007

Innovating in the 70s

I just finished reading iWoz (the story of the uber geek Steve Wozniak). Steve single-handedly built the first personal computer. I was struck by the number to times Steve and Steve (Jobs) had to go looking for information. Lack of access to information created near insurmountable roadblocks. Access to information helped solve big problems quickly.

It is remarkable how the internet and search have empowered 100s of millions of people to innovate by providing quick and easy access to information. The rate at which new products (especially software) are being delivered is fueled by the ease of access to information. I wonder how things will be 30 years from now. It is very hard to even start imagining. I am sure that a smart mathematician can figure out the law describing how the rate of innovation is dependent on the time to get to the right bits of information.

The book took me back to my early days as a software engineer. I was hooked to computers and software. I could feel what Steve had to go through to enter programs in machine language. The first program I wrote was for a programmable relay that I had built using the Intel 8080 microprocessor for my Engineering Degree Project. I would sit for hours trying to debug problems with my code. Mistyped HEX characters were the most common reason my programs failed.

Once I finished school, I joined my first job and got a chance to work on an Apple IIe computer. I used dbase to write programs. I was hooked - a software engineer was what I wanted to be.

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