The Internet community thrives on the continuing stream of dramatic improvements in hardware, software and communications technologies. In general, people expect to pay at least a little more for most products and services every year. The opposite generally has been the case in the computer and communications industries, especially with regard to the hardware costs of supporting these technologies. For many decades, and with no change expected in the foreseeable future, hardware costs have fallen rapidly. This is a phenomenon of technology. Moore’s Law states that the power of hardware doubles every two years, while the price remains essentially the same.3 Significant improvements also have occurred in the communications field, especially in recent years, with the enormous demand for communications bandwidth attracting tremendous competition, forcing communications bandwidth to increase and prices to decline. We know of no other fields in which technology moves so quickly and costs fall so rapidly.
When computer use exploded in the 1960s and 1970s, there was talk of the huge improvements in human productivity that computing and communications would bring about. However, these productivity improvements did not immediately materialize. Orga-nizations were spending vast sums on computers and distributing them to their work-forces, but without immediate productivity gains. On the hardware side, it was the invention of microprocessor chip technology and its wide deployment in the late 1970s and 1980s which laid the groundwork for significant productivity improvements in the 1990s. On the software side, productivity improvements are now coming from object technology, which we use throughout this book.
Recently, hardware has been moving toward mobile, wireless technology. Small hand-held devices are now more powerful than early 1970s supercomputers. Portability is now a major focus for the computer industry. Wireless data-transfer speeds have become so fast that many Internet users’ primary web access is through wireless networks. The next few years will see dramatic advances in wireless capabilities for personal users and businesses.
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