IT Jobs: Then and Now

by Modis on October 10, 2011

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IBM introduced the first personal computer (PC) in 1981, although machines and technology have played an important role in our society for far longer. The information technology industry may not have always been referred to as such, but it has an extensive history all the same.

As technology evolves and grows, the information technology industry and the professionals who work to make sure that our devices are always in good working order must keep pace.

Size Matters

When the technology industry first got going, computers and similar devices were relatively huge. Computers were absolutely massive in size and it actually took real man power to diagnose broken transistor tubes and bad circuits. The first personal computer featured an Intel 8088 microprocessor, which served as its brains. The first portable computer, developed in the same year (1981), weighed a whopping 24 pounds.

When the original LaserJet printer came on the market in 1984 it only printed eight pages a minute. The first personal computers were large and bulky and there was no reason to suspect that they would ever become as compact as they are today. Nobody could have guessed that technology would evolve in the positive way that it has since 1981 and these changes have affected IT jobs.

Evolution of a Geek

The image of IT workers as individuals has also changed through the years. Back in the day, people who worked on computers were simply professionals and terms like “geek” were not  thrown around as they are now. Over time it became common to regard people associated with computers as odd, and they were regularly called “geek” and “nerd” in a negative way.

Now, most people view these labels as much more positive. Today’s IT professionals typically welcome names such as “computer geek”, because they now mean a person with a passion or obsession for technology, and not just someone who works with it.

Moore’s Law

In the history of the computing industry, there has been a long-standing trend described by Moore’s Law. Moore’s Law states that every two years it becomes possible to replace transistors on an integrated circuit with twice as many as before. This trend has continued for more than half a century and  Moore’s Law will probably apply at least until 2015, or even 2020.

One of the most interesting phenomena when it comes to IT, and technology in general, is the inverse relationship between size and function. As the years go by, technology gets smaller and smaller and the functionality that these devices offer grows and grows.

Today’s laptops weigh between two to seven pounds, which is a serious improvement over the OsborneI which weighed 24 pounds. Technology will only continue to improve in this way, meaning that devices will get smaller, lighter and more intricate. These changes will require greater specialization among IT professionals.

Evolution of the IT Professional

As technology evolves, so does the IT industry. Information Technology was once all about computers. As the industry has developed in so many new areas such as the Internet, portable devices such as tablets and laptop computers, and more, many things have changed. Over time, the IT industry and those who work in it have made great advancements.

Today’s IT professionals must specialize, focusing their skills and expertise on specific areas of information technology and not try to continue as jacks-of-all-trades, as they once were. The biggest influence on the way the IT industry develops is how the technology is being applied at any given time. Computer applications have changed over the years and today personal computing is one of the most common ways to use computers.

It is common for the average household to have at least one personal computer, if not more. Students carry laptop computers with them everywhere. Business professionals use laptop computers to interface with their home office no matter where in the world they are at the time. As the ways we use computers evolve, so does the IT industry and its many related jobs.

Today’s IT Jobs

Today’s IT professionals are largely contract workers hired by staffing agencies to fill roles in a variety of companies.  Employers can pick the specialties and the specific people who will best meet their growing and changing IT needs. Hiring contractors means that as a company’s IT needs change, it can easily adapt its work force.

Because there is so much involved in the information technology industry and it is changing constantly, there is a great amount of competition among IT professionals as they fight to gain leverage for their specialized skills.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Cheryl @Techbent November 9, 2011 at 4:03 pm

As someone who works at a “staffing agency” in Alberta, Canada – I can tell you that your synopsis of today’s tech jobs is largely true! We deal with a lot of highly specialized people (ruby on rails programmers, .net programmers, etc.) who are dealt for contract work.

One thing we’ve also noticed, though, is that demand for tech jobs has never been higher, while qualified resumes seem to be dwindling. I think there’s a serious disconnect in the education system. Students just aren’t aware of the massive opportunities in this emerging field!

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