In 1982 I acquired my first IBM PC. It was amazingly fast with the few applications available. Without a doubt, Visicalc was the most creative, useful product ever seen. I built simple spreadsheets replacing old 13-column green bar budget sheets. Changing one of the values caused a recalculation of the spreadsheet that could be witnessed as the numbers changed across the screen.
As I recall, this was a 32K monster, no hard drive with a 5-½ inch floppy disk that could hold 100K of data. However, the performance was excellent, the original DOS booted quickly, occupied little memory, and never, never crashed.
Everyone was happy with this strange new device. The stranglehold enjoyed by the geeky guys in the data processing department was broken. Now I could have whatever I wanted on my computer and create my own reports – I felt empowered.
To me, it seems a reasonable expectation that after 20 years the same characteristics could be attainable. We now have multi gigahertz supercomputers running operating systems composed of tens of millions of lines of code requiring multi-megabytes of memory. They have proven to be unreliable, costly and increasingly frustrating when they don’t work. Worst of all, the geeky guys in the Information Technology Group (formerly the data processing department) have regained control of my desktop.
Now that we have come full circle, is there light at the end of the tunnel? Happily the Internet has given us the answer to our dilemma. Initially conceived as a simple, standardized way to create and graphically view static data, the browser has developed into a sophisticated user interface. Standards for it continue to develop, providing ever-richer functionality.
More importantly, traditional banking vendors are beginning to adopt the browser as the user interface of choice for their products. At the current adoption rate, most of the traditional applications will be delivered with a browser interface by 2005.
So what? Does this change anything for me? You bet it does.
First of all, most browsers today operate on the traditional desktop operating system, usually some version of Windows. Browsers don’t require that environment. In fact, you can purchase terminals with embedded browsers and no operating system. The only restriction in their use is that all applications must be delivered via the network using a browser interface. But hey, they are dirt cheap, they don’t crash, and performance is only limited by bandwidth.
How can you help get to this “better land”?