My career spans three technology/market cycles. I’ve seen the excitement of new companies, new technology adaptations, new markets three times. All as user and marketing/sales and writer/influencer. 

I got involved thanks to a boss with the IT world in the late 70s. At the same time I started playing around with PCs—a Timex Sinclair that I wrote games and education aids for my wife’s 3rd grade class and a Radio Shack TRS-80 that I began setting my dad’s accounting business on. This was before 1980. The deep dive into automation for machinery came in the mid-80s. I’ve followed these passions ever since.

There were large and stimulating media around all three markets. Remember all the products in PC Magazine and its siblings in the 80s and 90s? When I switched to media in 1998 at Control Engineering, it also was packed with new products as many new companies sprang up with a new take on control platforms or software.

Then I experienced the consolidation and maturity of all three markets. IT magazines…gone. PC magazines…gone (maybe a couple on the web). Automation and control magazines are half the size of 15 years ago…and maybe even less. I saw it coming in 2013 when I left Automation World and struck out as an independent writer in the space. 

The MacBook Air M2 I’m writing this on is faster and has more memory than the MacBook Air I had a decade ago. But really, it’s still the MacBook Air. Excitement in the PC industry has not been PCs but mobile phones that are really computing devices. There exist a few thriving companies in the industrial market right now—mostly software companies.

There is still innovation in each of the spaces. Certainly all the excitement of playing around with the tech is gone.

What is the next big question for each of these technology markets? Or, what big question will generate an entirely new technology market? Remember, the real reason humanity has developed new technology has been to solve a problem to help humanity (well, aside from gaining an advantage in war).

One interesting thing remains—sustainability. We made so many products enabling production and manufacturing that fouled the soil and atmosphere. Now engineers are taking the technology and using it to clean up the mess. I’ve had interesting conversations with Honeywell and Rockwell Automation and ABB. And even Siemens on the topic. As we forge into a world looking for cleaner energy than fossil fuels, theses companies will supply the technology to help entrepreneurs develop and market solutions.

On that subject, check out this podcast from HPE’s Michael Bird on new energy sources. Perhaps here is a place to apply all that creativity.

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