years after: revisiting 1995
office technology innovations
Alan Zisman (c) 2005 First published in Business
30-September 5, 2005; issue 827, High Tech Office column
This past March, the 10th anniversary of my writing the High Tech
Office column for BIV quietly slipped by. Let's take a belated peek
back in our Wayback Machine to 1995, to see what mattered then, how far
we've come (or not), and where we might expect to be going.
Windows 95. We were waiting for this promised next
big thing from Microsoft, which appeared that August
While virtually no one runs Win 95 any longer, it was the next big
thing, with long file names, plug and play hardware support, built-in
networking and Internet support, and an interface we're still using a
decade later. In 2005 the pace of operating system change has slowed
down, which is probably a good thing, but we're again supposed to be
waiting for Microsoft's next big thing, in this case Windows Vista (the
operating system formerly known as Longhorn), due in 2006. Or 2007.
The Internet. Windows 95 didn't install Internet-style
networking by default because Microsoft hoped users would buy into the
company's proprietary Microsoft Network (MSN) service. Instead, the
wild, woolly, and very non-proprietary Internet took off, with 1995
being the year that the (then 20-year-old) Net became open to
non-profit organizations. In Issue 289
this column looked at some local pioneers online, including record
label Nettwerk, non-profit West Coast Environmental Law Society, and
Ozzie Jurock's NorthWest Homes OnLine. 1995 was also the year that the
Netscape Web browser and eBay debuted. In Issue 302, I tried to
convince business that "thar's gold in that thar Net." Now we pretty
much take the Web for granted, both for personal use and as a business
Digital cameras started to appear as consumer products in
Early models were black and white, low resolution by current standards,
expensive, and difficult to use. In 1995 London Drugs began offering to
burn photos onto CD discs. As is often the case, it actually took seven
or eight years for the seemingly overnight digital camera revolution.
Another 1995 innovation: MP3 compressed audio, now the software basis
for music players and file sharing.
Yet another 1995 innovation that took its time catching on:
Universal Serial Bus (USB). A decade ago, users could simply plug in a
wide range of gadgets to their computers, as long as they had a Mac
that had built-in support for a technology named SCSI, pronounced
"scuzzy." Easy as long as you remembered your system needed to be shut
down, each SCSI device needed a different ID number, and the whole
chain of devices needed a terminator at the end.
PC owners were worse off; most often, they needed to open their
computer's case and plug in a card after fiddling with near microscopic
jumpers and switches. Some devices started to appear that could plug
into the PC printer port
, but these were slow and clumsy
USB promised a universal way to attach devices, with no need to shut
down your computer or fuss with jumpers or ID numbers. But USB usage
only really caught on when Apple's 1998 iMac created a large market of
users with USB built in and no other way to connect to printers,
cameras and more.
looked at "hydras": all-in-one units combining printer, scanner and
fax. Now these multifunction devices are home and small business
noted that "portables are taking over from
desktop units." In 2005, notebooks are outselling desktop computers.
The moral: even seemingly rapid technological changes take their own
sweet time coming to pass. Don't jump on the latest bandwagon, at least
not without a solid business plan.
It's been a fun 10 years, and, publisher willing, it's not over yet.