I've noticed something odd over the last few months. Whenever I read something written between 1982 and 1988, or reflect upon those years, they seem increasingly distant, foreign, almost quaint. Quaint in the sense the Eisenhower years seemed by 1968, or the earnest hopes of the early sixties from the depths of the mid-seventies. Who would have imagined a few years ago that in the first months of 1991 the news would be filled with a war in which an alliance of the Soviet Union, Syria, Britain, France, Egypt, and the United States used high-tech weapons to flatten an Arab country, of the reorganisation of Europe around a united Germany exporting, among other things, rubble from the Berlin Wall and curios of the departing Red Army, and of a collapsing Soviet Union which even Russia (Russia!) was considering abandoning, careening into a crisis of unknowable magnitude and consequences, spurring sober observers to fear ``a nuclear Beirut.''
If the pace of change in the world seems breathtakingly fast and ever-accelerating, developments in our own software industry are even more rapid and revolutionary. Often it seems like the pressing concerns of six or twelve months ago are no more relevant to our current priorities than the Wars of the Spanish Succession or the controversy over N-rays. Compounded exponential growth is thrilling to experience and pays well, but it demands of those who would prosper by it the ability to make ever larger adaptations with less and less time to prepare.
When a company ceases to change at the rate demanded by the industry it exists within, it finds itself rapidly left behind. Before long, its customers discover products of competitors that better meet their needs. As market share slips, sales fall, and earnings decline, the management of the standstill company asks, ``What's happening? We're still doing all the things we used to do.''
Surely they are, but that's no longer enough. Times have changed but they did not. Increasingly their company and its products seem like relics from the past, almost...quaint.
Editor: John Walker