Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

Summary: A blast from the 1991 past: A look at 10 technologies - hardware and software - which have, and could last another 20 years.


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  • When the technology was founded: Around 1860 when the first QWERTY-keyboard was developed.

    Why the technology will be around for another 20 years: The keyboard is in practically every device there is - even to the mobile device and television remotes. For some time, the keyboard was restricted to simply the word processor and the computer. It took a while for mobile devices to take advantage of the QWERTY keyboard style on handsets.

    However, innovative technologies allow a wider breadth of input into computers and mobile devices. But even with touch technology, arguably spurred on by tablets and touch-screen phones like the iPad and iPhone, the keyboard still reigns as the most natural and innate input device for all to use.

  • When the technology was founded: Microsoft Office was first released in fall 1990 for Windows 3.0. 

    Why the technology will be around for another 20 years: Without doubt, Microsoft Office is one of the most used, and understandably the most expensive office and productivity suite of programs on the market. Because of its userbase in the hundreds of millions, ranging from large corporations to governments, it is almost as widely used as Windows itself.

    But the one thing that hinders it the most is that bar the Office:mac edition, it only runs on the Windows platform. As so many people use Office as a document standard, it all but forces out competitors as its market dominates further. 

    There is a good reason why it has become what it is. Not only does it dole out everything that one needs in an office suite, but has always maintained its version history to each major release of the platforms it is supplied on; both Windows and Mac OS X. 

    Office will, in my opinion, no doubt survive for the next 20 years on any platform that Windows becomes or evolves into. 

  • When the technology was founded: 19th century, part of Charles Babbage's Difference Engine.

    Why the technology will be around for another 20 years: To put it simply and bluntly, how else would we get stuff out of the computer?

    Printers are absolutely vital to our everyday living and working. Without them, there would be no such thing as a 'papertrail' and there would be nothing to screw up in a moment of frustration to throw at your co-workers. The fact of the matter is, unless we suddenly all ditch the very notion of paper altogether - which is unlikely to ever happen, then printers will remain a vital part of our technologically progressive society.

Topics: Hardware, CXO, IT Employment

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  • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

    I agree Office will continue, it is an extraordinarily good tool, but will it continue in its current form as a desktop application or move into the cloud? I've run IT departments for several companies and, at the moment, local desktop Office is a vastly superior option - especially for any business that makes use of large Excel spreadsheets (and who doesn't?) but I can't see desktops being a requirement more than another 5 years. I suspect Office will remain, but with an increasing % of users in the cloud. Does that means Google Docs will crowd Office out? I'm still betting on Microsoft, most of my users love Office, I'd be hard pressed to get them to give it up to save a few bucks..

    Anne Currie
    CEO Qlockwork time tracking for Outlook
    • I'd expect no less


      from someone who'se company is directly dependent on Office. I've found few that love Office. It's a necessary evil.
      • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

        I tend to agree. In the early days, I much preferred WordPerfect. Unfortunately, Word became the standard and I was "forced" to work with it through my employers.
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      Already on the cloud, I had one client where Word would open on a Citrix session, nothing installed locally...
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      AnneCu --

      Personally I like Office and client-side apps in general. I dislike cloud applications, their assumption of constant internet connection, and the control over your own data that you're forced to surrender when using them.
    • SCANTRON #882 Will Never Die!


      What about the Scantron #882 multiple-guess exam form? The Scantron #882 will NEVER die!

      -Peter Wexler
  • Don't get why Office is so popular

    Word is a marginal at best Word Processor and easily falls flat on it's face with the most basic formatting changes. Back in the day there were superior apps (Ami Pro) that did what Word could only dream of and still can't today.

    Excel is probably the best thing in Office although it does have its quirks.

    Access is a POS and should be banished.

    Powerpoint - same thing - it's nice but has it's serious faults

    Outlook - Throw that POS out and Shoot it between the ears.
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      This is standard today... everyone uses those products.
    • Office is popular because it's the best office suite

      @ itguy08

      Back in the 90s, Stan Liebowitz, a professor of economics at the University of Texas, looked into why Microsoft Office had become and remained dominant. His basic result is that Microsoft's software lagged in popularity when it was of lower quality than competing products (as measured by professional and user reviews). When the quality of Microsoft software overtook the quality of rivals like Lotus 1-2-3 and WordPerfect, Microsoft's market share increased. Microsoft remained dominant because no alternative ever caught up in terms of quality (and this still seems to be the case).

      In short, Microsoft Office is popular because it's the best office software around, by a rather large margin. If better software comes along, there's no reason to expect it won't supplant MS Office. So far that simply hasn't happened, and with the vast resources Microsoft invest in developing Office, it's unlikely to happen either. The biggest recent risk was web applications, and the challenge from Google Docs. Microsoft appear to have seen it off by developing web-based versions of the Office apps that tend to be very highly rated, and to be improving at a rapid pace (but it isn't over yet).
      • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

        As we know from history, the best product is not always that one that achieves success. Take Beta v VHS, Firewire vs USB, perhaps even HD-DVD vs BlueRay (in the minds of some). History is littered with the sad tale of good products that were beaten by "inferior" products. WordPerfect vs Word is another such example.
      • Urban myths

        @ ptorning

        Most of the common examples of supposedly superior products failing in the market are actually urban myths that only survive because they make 'nice stories': everyone loves a good market-failure fable. VHS versus Betamax is a perfect example. A non-technical response to that particular urban myth can be found here:

        Stan Liebowitz's analysis of the spreadsheet and word processor markets in the 80s/90s equally gives the lie to the urban myth that WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3 were better than Word and Excel on Windows. Lotus and WordPerfect had better products for MS-Dos, and that's they they dominated in the pre-Windows era. On Windows, Microsoft benefited from years of prior development of Word and Excel on the Mac (where MS Office was already dominant), and offered better products from the start. Neither WordPerfect nor Lotus were able to catch up with Microsoft, and that's why they lost.

        Liebowitz and Margolis also exposed the Qwerty/Dvorak myth in a paper published in 1990, more than two decades ago. The myth nevertheless persists, because it's a 'nice story', and is passed on as folk wisdom from one generation to the next. The myth that Qwerty survived despite being inferior also runs into problems with, for example, the use of Qwertz in the German-speaking countries (or Azerty in the French-). An updated version of the Qwerty paper can be found here:
      • Conjecture

        As an aside, I'd conjecture that a lot of these 'market-failure fables' are so persistent because people don't like admitting they made the wrong choice. Keeping with the Betamax/VHS example, after VHS won the market, nobody who bought VHS had to defend their decision -- they had made the common choice and arguably the right one. People who chose Betamax, on the other hand, had made an uncommon choice, and had to defend it.

        Those who started with Betamax when it had a monopoly (i.e. before VHS was launched) had a reasonable justification for using it, if they had built up a library of Betamax tapes. On the other hand, those who adopted Betamax after VHS had already caught on had made a deliberate choice to be different. For these users, choosing Betamax was, by most measures, simply a mistake. Rather than admitting this (to themselves and others), however, some of them preferred to imagine that they were smarter than everyone else, and had made the correct choice: it was only the stupidity of the masses that had led them to use VHS.

        The most pompous and opinionated Betamax users would have been the ones most likely to have chosen it after VHS had already caught on. They're also the ones whose egos would have suffered the most damage from admitting that this had been a mistake. It's hardly surprising, then, that they put so much effort into creating and perpetuating an urban myth that it was the market that had failed, rather than their own decision processes.
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      itguy08 --<br><br>I'm by no means a Word expert, but if you can't use Word to make your document exactly how you want it to look, it's more likely due to your lack of Word skills than it is to Word's lack of features.<br><br>For more elaborate document layout, Microsoft and others offer desktop publishing solutions ... those and Word processors have some overlap, but they address different needs.
      • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years


        While I do think that there isn't really anything out there that could replace Office (why would anyone make the investment?), there are definitely some times when Word gets a little screwy.

        Usually involves multiple layers of formatting/bullets on some kind of templated doc but it's not unusual for me to have to randomly bang on it sometimes to get the formatting I'm looking for, and a lot of the time I've seen people give up before then and just deal with an oddity or two.
      • Word has had core problems for over a decade, BUT..

        ... it and office have become embedded into many companies' workflows.

        As a tech writer for the last 16 years, I am still coming across situations where Word will suddenly:
        - 'forget' the indents on styles
        - make TOCs show every page as 0, and
        a myriad other idiosynchrasies.

        Word is also one of the most hostile environments to program into, as users will suddenly break document structures, and there is practically nothing that can be done about it, nomatter how much into 'defensive programming' one might be. The problem is that, unlike early Framemaker, there is no sepaprate 'user' and 'design' modes. Basically, with Word, if you don't know about particular functionality being used, you will probably break it.

        For example, if in editing, you accidently type into the hidden bookmark of a heading that is being referenced elsewhere, an F9 refresh of the document will reveal strange new headings incorporated into the referencing text. Of course, this is all because of the basic structure of Word documents, but it is not something a user should need concern themselves with.
        Now, XML schema based document would prevent a lot of such problems, but few organisations have the expertise nor the information structure maturity to use them, as schemas require completely defining the possible permutations of each document.

        In fact, most design processes rely too heavily upon lots of standalone documents, that do not provide the traceabiltiy of corporate IP that such endeavours really require. MS Office docs have been shoehorned into this role because nothing else has really stepped up to the mark.

        However, I, along with many others, have built workflow 'solutions' using 'black boxes' of functionality made from various MS Office products in short time frames (and often under the radar), that would have been significant projects and cost many times more if built in traditional business project processes. Such programmability is not even mentioned in relation to most of the competition. Such facilities may not do much for most consumers who only use a few % of these programs' capabilities, but enterprises rely on these, and may well be the reason why alternatives will not wash with them. C, C++ and now C# may be the glamour languages, but I would be surprised if VBA isn't more widely used than these, especially given that every Office user has the full IDE.

        That is not to say that MS Office is unassailable from the outside, but it is most likely going to be upgraded to something from the MS stable first, as MS seems to be the only one that 'gets it' in relation to programmable office apps.

        I still want to see Office become one app where all the current separate functionalities can be used at will in one file format, without the clumsiness of OLE/whatever. All tables in Word could have Excel type functionality, but where formulae could refer to any named block anywhere in the document. Current powerpoint functionality could just be incorporated as a presentation view, and anything can access embedded or external data natively.

        The whole documents standards formats issue just cemented the MS Office separate apps paradigm and dug the competition further into a whole of their own making. Personally, I would use whatever to make documents, but interchange and archive them as STATIC images or whatever, as they are far easier to manage en masse. Basically, static formats scale and facilitate mass conversion to better formats, whereas standards-based, dynamic document management costs will only exponentially increase, due to lots of manual intervention, especially as new media structures are added, increasing the number of permutations to be handled. Therefore let intemediate formats be decided among the interested parties, but the draft and published static format is locked down.

        And speaking of PowerPoint, why does it not have a hierarchical structure, where one can navigate into different sections as required, without having to build inflexible multitudes of buttons and links? I just heard about MS's freebee, pptPlex, that is supposed to offer this functionality, but unless it is built into the standard product, it cannot be usefule for distributed documents. With its limited functionality, I have always thought that PowerPoint was grossly overpriced.
  • Java?

    Java will probably still be around in 20 years, but it's ultimately just another language in the C family. C itself is much more interesting. It was developed in the early 70s as essentially a high-level version of PDP-11 assembly, to make Unix portable, and still dominates operating systems development: Windows, Mac OS X and Linux all have kernels written in C. Microsoft may transition to C# (another language in the C family), by way of Midori, but even if that happens, C will undoubtedly live on in Linux and embedded systems.
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      @WilErz<br>With Java you can write once and run it anywhere without recompiling, whether you run your program in mainframes, PCs, phones, TV etc, as long as it is a JVM which is currently the de facto standard. Im sure your phone and PC supports and can run Java programs, as even my old 2003-built phone already supports java. JVM/java interpreter becomes like an emulator which can run applets on any processors and any OS without code modification and without recompiling.<br><br>With C, you need a minor re-write of the source and also recompile if you need to run it in different processors.<br>C is born in AT&T bell labs unix machines to build the other parts of unix OS (its recursive), while Java is born in the internet.<br><br>edit: spacing
  • Compact optical media

    Compact optical media will not be around. I NO longer even install cd or dvd drive in my computer... flash memory is the future! Look at the new macbook air, it comes with OSX on a flash drive..
  • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

    I don't agree with optical media. With devices becoming more portable (tablets, netbooks, smartphones, etc), access to high bandwidth universally available, increasing availability and size of cloud storage, and cheap flash storage that exceeds 4GB, the CD/DVD is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I can count the time on one hand I've required at CD or DVD in the past year. I use my flash drive or the internet downloads to install software. I stream TV and movies. I download all my music.

    Sure optical media is very inexpensive but it is so undesirable to have or use. I just don't see it being around in 10 years.
    • RE: Top 10 technologies that could live another 20 years

      sully0208 --

      Whether or not my "primary" copy is stored in the cloud, I will always demand the right to retain a local, portable, physical copy of my own. If I'm not allowed to retain a fair-use copy, free of connectivity requirements or DRM hooks, I simply won't buy those media products.