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An unremarkable day

31 August 2017

Is the computer industry boring?

I have to say that I'm starting to think so, given the way it has switched into "evolutionary" rather than "revolutionary" mode.

Oddly enough, I've always been on the bleeding edge of trends and new things ever since I can remember.

I was an electronic nut from way back and I got into computers long before they were "a thing". Software was my bag when most people hadn't even heard of the word "byte" and some of my first online activities were conducted over (believe it or not) a party line!

You could also find me experimenting (with mixed results) with quadcopters and tricopters long before they bore the title "drones".

One of the advantages of being first to play in these exciting areas of technology is that you get to enjoy "the buzz" that goes along with new ideas and rapidly changing expectations and deliveries.

This is the stuff that keeps me (feeling) young.

It's kind of odd but I've always wondered "what will I do once this becomes boring?".

It started when electronics shifted from discrete components and relatively simple ICs to LSI and an increasing level of abstraction from the details of how a device achieved its function. I found my interest in the "nuts and bolts" of electronics was waning and was worried that I'd be left without an obsession.

Fortunately, microcomputers came along and now the internal workings of these LSI devices could be conceptualised at a software level. The challenge was enormous, as was the pace of change. It was fantastic fun in those early days and every day bought something new and different.

Then, in the early 1990s, that too became stale.

Sure, Intel was rolling out new processors with ever-increasing performance and capabilities but it was just "more of the same" on a day-to-day basis as far as computers and software went.

Enter "the Internet" -- and everything changed again.

Now there was another "next big thing" that was clearly in its infancy and, as had been the case with electronics and software before it, the Net was fair "buzzing" with change and innovation.

So I spent a long time trying out new ideas and learning lots of new stuff, it was great.

But now I find that the Net has also lost much of its excitement as a technology.

Everyone uses the Net now and it has matured so much that we're not seeing the kind of awe-inspiring breakthroughs that used to spin my wheels and which were responsible for this column's very existence.

Of course I have (once again) found an exciting new frontier to enjoy and that is drone technology. In a rather serendipitous way, my previous experience in electronics, microcomputers and software have left me well-prepared for this new field and I'm enjoying the challenges it represents.

I guess that the only real downside is that, unlike all my previous areas of interest, this one is hog-tied with red tape and regulation.

Nobody gave a tinker's curse what you did with electronics and you could build just about anything you liked without worrying about falling foul of some bureaucrat with a clip-board. Likewise with computers and software development -- it was a regulation-free zone. Even the internet was an area that allowed unfettered development of your ideas and visions.

Drones however... a totally different and incredibly frustrating story.

As regular readers well know, you cant do anything with a drone around this town without getting someone's permission and all to often, that permission is denied.

The sad thing is that this regulatory restriction has really taken the "buzz" out of what should be yet another wild frontier of innovation and change. Sure, the potential is there but spontaneity and the pace of development is anchored to a crawl by the heavy hand of regulators and bureaucrats.

What a tragedy for all concerned.

How sad it is that my own "sense and avoid" technology has now left the country and is being further developed and tested by a European company -- almost entirely because there was just no way I could go further under our highly restrictive regulatory framework. Although I expect to get a license fee for this technology, the jobs and export earnings that it could have produced for NZ are effectively lost.

So... here I am, wondering what the next green field of technology will attract my interest, excitement and involvement.

Nothing has popped up on the radar yet but I'm looking around on this, another unremarkable day in the industries I've enjoyed being a pioneer.

OMG... what if there isn't anything? That is a possibility simply too frightening to even contemplate!

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