The Cloud Computing Tidal Wave

The title above is a play on the famous Bill Gates memo, The Internet Tidal Wave, written in May, 1995. Gates, on one of his reading weeks, realized that the Internet was the future of IT and Microsoft, through Gates’s own miscalculation, was then barely part of that future. So he wrote the memo, turned the company around, built Internet Explorer, and changed the course of business history. That’s how people tend to read the memo, as a snapshot of technical brilliance and ambition. But the inspiration for the Gates memo was another document, The Final Days of Autodesk, written in 1991 by Autodesk CEO John Walker. Walker’s memo […]

Can Amazon’s Echo Dot Make a Good SIDS Alarm?

It was 15 years ago this week that my son Chase Cringely died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) at age 74 days. I wrote about it at the time and there was a great outpouring of support from readers. Back then, before the advent of social media, parents didn’t get a chance to grieve in print the way Mary Alyce and I did. We shed a light on SIDS and, for a couple years, even led to some progress in combating the condition, which still kills about 4,000 American babies each year.

When you lose a child, especially one who dies in your lap, as Chase did with me, […]

Bob’s Big Picture technology predictions for 2017

2016-17I couldn’t put it off any longer so here are my technology predictions for 2017. I’ve been reading over my predictions from past years and see a fundamental change in structure over that time, going from an emphasis on products to an emphasis on companies. This goes along, I’d say, with the greater business orientation of this column. That makes sense with a maturing market and mature industries and also with the fact that a fair number of readers are here mainly as investors, something that didn’t used to be so much the case.

Of course we begin with a look at my predictions from a year ago to see how I did. Almost nobody in […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part Three (the final and somewhat scary part)

BigDataIn part one we learned about data and how it can be used to find knowledge or meaning. Part two explained the term Big Data and showed how it became an industry mainly in response to economic forces. This is part three, where it all has to fit together and make sense — rueful, sometimes ironic, and occasionally frightening sense. You see our technological, business, and even social futures are being redefined right now by Big Data in ways we are only now coming to understand and may no longer be able to control.

Whether the analysis is done by a supercomputer or using a hand-written table compiled in 1665 […]

Thinking about Big Data — Part Two

BigDataIn Part One of this series of columns we learned about data and how computers can be used for finding meaning in large data sets. We even saw a hint of what we might call Big Data at Amazon.com in the mid-1990s, as that company stretched technology to observe and record in real time everything its tens of thousands of simultaneous users were doing. Pretty impressive, but not really Big Data, more like Bigish Data. The real Big Data of that era was already being gathered by outfits like the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) — spy operations that were recording digital communications […]