Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Purdue CIO Says No More PCs

In the TV show "Green Acres," Mr. Douglas moves from the big city to the small village of Hooterville. Everybody else there shares the crank telephone at Drucker's General Store but, being the cosmopolitan fellow, Mr. Douglas wants a personal phone at his home.

Unfortunately, the Hooterville phone company cannot run a wire into his house. To accommodate his demand, they install a phone at the top of a telephone pool. Mr. Douglas just has to climb up and down the pool to use the phone.

Mr. Douglas's phone situation reminds me of my days in corporate IT for a global manufacturer. Back in the early 1980s, when I needed to write programs for the mainframe computer, I walked to the "TSO Room" where shared dumb terminals were available.

Change first came when management created a second TSO Room for the smokers. But the IT staff was really shocked when so-called "personal computers" started showing up in people's offices and you no longer had to walk to the shared terminals.

I remember one guy wandered the hallways looking for anybody who would listen. "Someday," he would prophesize with the fervor of Jeremiah, "EVERYBODY will have a PC on his or her desk. NO, even people who do not have desks -- people out in the factory! WOE to you if you do not listen!" Crazy talk.

Today, we hear similar crazy talk from the CIO of Purdue University. ComputerWorld quotes Gerry McCartney in an April 2010 article that he sees in the near future that the university will not have any personal computers. Instead, he predicts mobile devices attached to a wireless network.

Due to financial constraints, Gerry needs to cut recurring IT costs by $15 million over the next three years -- a 15% budget cut.

Gerry has his eye on the 20,000 personal computers on campus. He says, "This idea that I have to go to a PC and sit down and use it is as quaint as having to go to a phone to use a phone."  (Especially if you have to climb a pole to get to it.)

If you are my age, you have lived through a period where telephones started as scarce shared resources (the payphone and the party line) and moved to abundant "in-every-pocket" devices.

We may also see the computer go through the same progression.

1 comment:

Anna Brown said...

Interesting blog post. I'm Anna Brown, a marketer of SAS, and certainly see this in the business context. With mobile applications of business technologies on the rise, we are able to make decisions using tools anytime, anywhere, from our smartphones! Amazing. What will be next?

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