News You Can Use 8/17/00

Technology, Past and Future

     We've recently entered a new millennium and a new century. Where have we been and where are we going? There are a handful of major innovations that have changed the direction of mankind over the last 130 years. Go back 130 years and you'll find no electricity, the telegraph but no telephone, steam locomotives, but no airplanes and no automobiles. As the 20th century opened the Wright Brothers hadn't yet flown at Kitty Hawk, Henry Ford's experimental vehicles had a top speed of 20 mph, and Thomas Edison had just brought electricity and electric illumination to only small portions of a few large cities. Mass produced automobiles, commercial air travel, the transistor, radio, television, mainframe computers, and atomic energy have all played their part in our lifetime, but the personal computer and the Internet may be the innovation that most shapes our lives. As your neighbors sleep, you can trade U.S. stocks in Hong Kong right from your keyboard. If you hate malls you can do your holiday shopping on-line and wait for FedEx and UPS to ring your doorbell, never having set foot in a store. Missed dinner? Bring up a menu on-line and wait for the delivery guy. Hate the hassles of buying a new car? Go on-line, pick the make and model you want, find out what it cost the dealer, pit a number of dealers against each other in a bidding war, and some firms will even deliver your new car to your driveway. Hate to grocery shop? Go to Peapod or WebVan and order your groceries to be delivered in a couple hours. Hate being pitched by a stockbroker that also makes a market in a stock? You can receive research in your email, go on-line and place your own trade for $7, and get a confirmation as fast as you can click on an icon. Whole industries are springing up where they didn't exist yesterday. Thanks to companies like, Cheap Tickets, Expedia, and Travelocity, airlines can fill seats at the last minute that would have gone empty. Whole companies can have a significant worldwide market presence without having the overhead of a single retail outlet or a single retail employee. Sure, some of these companies are stubbing their toes and bloodying their noses along the way, but just as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers had many failures before they succeeded, the Internet WILL become a finely honed machine. We are confident that 100 years from now as the next century begins, they will look back and select the Internet as one of the most significant events of the 21st century.

QUOTE"Amateurs hope, professionals work." -- Garson Kanin

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