The workplace and workforce impacts of these technological changes have been so pervasive, so dramatic in size and speed, as to be hard to describe. A brief look backward, however, is illustrative. Starting in the 1950s, an entirely new industry was established, led by the large “mainframe” computer companies such as IBM, RCA, Honeywell, and Univac. These companies opened a host of new jobs producing, maintaining, and servicing computer systems. Computer programmers, keypunch operators, computer service technicians, and computer sales personnel were soon in demand by the tens of thousands—good jobs to support a growing industry.
Yet in less than fifty years, only a relative handful of the jobs created in that initial wave of computerization still exist, held by workers servicing older systems still in operation. In their wake have come millions of still-newer jobs in an ever-widening variety of computer applications created to capitalize on the capacities of hardware and software systems. The life span of a personal computer provides one illustration of the diminishing time between introduction and “obsolescence” of new technologies. The average life of a personal computer, or PC, has decreased from 4 years in 1992 to just over 3 years in 1999, and is predicted to be only 2 years by 2007