Computer Science; Network Design
Information technology (IT) is devoted to the creation and manipulation of information using computers and other types of devices. It also involves the installation and use of software, the sets of instructions computers follow in order to function. At one time, most computers were designed with a single purpose in mind, but over time, IT has transformed into a discipline that can be used in almost any context.
One way of studying the history of IT is to focus on the ways that information has been stored. IT's history can be divided into different eras based on what type of information storage was available. These eras include prehistoric, before information was written down, and early historical, when information started to be recorded on stone tablets. In the middle historical period, information was recorded on paper and stored in libraries and other archives. In the modern era, information has moved from physical storage to electronic storage. Over time, information storage has become less physical and more abstract. IT now usually refers to the configuration of computer hardware in business networks. These allow for the manipulation and transfer of electronically stored information.
IT gained prominence in the 1990s, as the Internet began to grow rapidly and become more user-friendly than it had been in the past. Many companies arose to try to take advantage of the new business models that it made possible. Computer programmers and network technology experts found themselves in high demand. Startup companies tried to build online services quickly and effectively. Investment in technology companies put hundreds of millions of dollars into IT research. Even established companies realized that they needed to invest in their IT infrastructure and personnel if they wanted to stay competitive. As the IT sector of the economy grew rapidly, financial experts began to worry that it was forming an economic bubble. An economic bubble occurs when a market grows rapidly and then that growth declines abruptly. The bubble eventually “pops,” and investors pull their money out. This did happen, and many Internet startups shut down.
While the dot-com bubble, as it came to be known, passed quickly, IT remained a central part of life. Simple tasks that used to be done without sophisticated technology, such as banking, shopping, and even reading a book, now involve computers, mobile phones, tablets, or e-readers. This means that the average person must be more familiar with IT in the twenty-first century than in any previous era. Because of this, IT has become a topic of general interest. For example, an average person needs to know a bit about network configuration in order to set up a home system.
With IT, new information is constantly being created. Once it was possible for a single person to master all of society's knowledge. In the modern world, more data is produced every year than a person could assimilate in lifetime. It is estimated that by 2020, there will be more than five thousand gigabytes (GB) of data for each and every person on earth.
The availability of IT is the factor most responsible for the explosion in data production. Most cell phone plans measure customer data in how many GB per month may be used, for example. This is because of the many photos, videos, and social media status updates people create and share on the Internet every day. It is estimated that every two days, human beings create as much information as existed worldwide before 2003. The pace of this data explosion increases as time goes on.
—Scott Zimmer, JD
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