Nobody builds bridges any more!

Once upon a time we had this thing we call the Industrial Revolution.  We did amazing things during this time.  We built steam engines, railways, bridges and canals.  These were massive projects that took years of blood, sweat and tears.  In the 20th century we had what some call the second industrial revolution.  The automotive industry appeared and began to thrive, information technology appeared and began to grow.

Watt Steam Engine

Watt Steam Engine

That was the revolution.  Since then there’s been some evolution of those existing ideas, but relatively few new genuinely ones.

No-one is building those fantastic railways and the amazing bridges that took them over seemingly impassable territory.

Why?

It could be funding, but where did the money come from in the old days?  Do we no longer have men like Brunel who will put everything on the line and strive to make these things happen?

Have we had the next revolution already?  If so what will the next iteration look like?  Will we even have one?  Are we instead going to maintain the current gentle evolution from one new idea to the next.  Assembly, C, C++, Java, .NET, JSP, ASP.NET, (N)Hibernate, ASP.NET MVC, jQuery and so on.   Building blocks built on building blocks.  Walls taken down, put up a different way.  An organic system where the latest trends flow and follow the current thinking the way a shoal of fish move together in the sea.

Computers as we know them appeared first with valves, then transistors, and progressed to microchips.  Then the microchips started getting smaller and faster.  But still microchips.  Now, I’m only 27, but I’m not convinced that computers have really fundamentally changed in the past 20 years or so.

In terms of software, the main operating systems as we know them today, and the companies that built them, were the last revolution.  We as software developers are really just building new trains to run on that old railway.  There’ll come a limit to what we can do, so while that’s a little way off, what’s the next “big leap” to take us onto greater things?  Let’s build a new railway that’ll cross new cravasses and take us new places.  Who’s the Brunel of our time?

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