From the Editor – September 2007 eBiz Insider magazine. Download the complete issue as a PDF by clicking here.
Recently someone asked me, “do you have any floppy disks I can borrow?” Caught off guard, I shook my head to make sure I heard the question correctly, then I fumbled with the answer. “Floppy disks, are you kidding?”
It reminded me just how much technology has changed in so few years.
My first computer was the Texas Instruments TI994A. You may have had a Commodore 64 or the ï¿½very fastï¿½ Commodore 128. My first “personal computer” purchase, a pretty expensive Tandy 1000 with an 8″ floppy drive, a cassette player to save data and a dot-matrix printer. I remember saving up several hundred dollars to buy a hard drive for that computer, a 20 MB hard drive!
Back in the late 80’s the closest thing we had to the “Internet” was a DOS version of America Online, which I remember well. Compuserve was around, but it was a little less intuitive than the AOL interface at the time. You’ll also remember the Sierra Network and the original Prodigy if you were a child of this decade.
It wasn’t until the 90’s that the Internet became a household word. I took a job with one of the country’s first Internet Service Providers (ISPs) back in 1994 after I became enthralled with this new technology. After only a few months I concluded “this thing is going to take off” and began experimenting with selling product online.
Back then the Internet was very rudimentary. The browsers of the day were primitive. Java was still coffee, Flash was still something a camera did in low-light, and identity theft required a pickpocket. I was browsing the net with something called Netmanage Chamelion over a 14.4 connection. Netscape 3.0 arrived and changed the way we browsed, and Microsoft introduced Internet Explorer 3.0. I still long for the simplicity of the Netscape 3.0 browser, although trying to navigate the web with it today will result in extreme heartache.
When my first online company launched, TheFerretStore.com had a shopping cart that was so primitive, everything had to be hard-coded and maintenance was a bear. Secure shopping? Not back then! Credit card numbers were passed in e-mail and unsecured forms. Today, credit card information is treated as securely as Dick Cheney in time of crisis.
Websites ten years ago had something called a “text-only” version for those not lucky enough to have a connection higher than 9600 baud. Today, “text-only” versions are written for PDAs and cell phones and optimized for mobile use. Speaking of cell phones, boy have they changed over the years!
If you want to see how the Internet existed “back then” take a trip to the Wayback Machine at https://www.archive.org. Punch in your favorite website then go back in time to see how the site has changed over the years. If you’re lucky enough to find one from the early- to mid-90’s like TheFerretStore.com, you will see how design and programming have evolved, but one thing you will notice, navigation pretty much remained the same.
Technology is rapidly changing and continually evolving. Twenty years ago the act of ordering groceries through a computer and having them delivered to your front door would have been as far-fetched as putting a man on Mars. Today it’s as common as mashed potatoes in a diner.
We are still in the very early stages of seeing the Internet’s true potential. The way we shop online today may be completely different in a few years. Faster browsers, faster connections and the next generation of portable electronics will force us to embrace technology which today remains just a dream.
We’re all challenged to keep up with the latest technology and trends. Our websites have to be multiple-browser compatible and we all want the latest and greatest features on our sites to enhance the customer experience. Each one of you is a pioneer in e-commerce, but if you sit on your laurels the latest advances will pass you by. You don’t want to be the Smith-Corona of the 2000’s.