15 Years to Cross the Technology Chasm ?

Final Jeopardy Answer

Fat Pipe/Thin Client, E-mail, VoIP, Equalizing

And the Question is…

What are  some recent technologies that took a minimum 15 years to cross the chasm from initial viability to widespread commercial acceptance?

Being old allows me to recall, with some historical perspective, the  timeframe it takes for a technology to make it  from production prototype into the mainstream. It is usually much longer than I have patience for. Today, when I see a technology emerging that is obviously superior to what the world is using , I always expect the adoption to take a few weeks.  When in reality, 50 years is close to the historical norm, and 15 years is light-speed for a product to go from concept to societal norm.

For example, Refrigeration and Commercial Air Travel took  50+ years to cross the chasm.  And I am not talking about from the crude idea stage to reality, but rather from the time frame of a working prototype, to wide-spread acceptance.  It was about fifty years from that first, stable airplane, to regular commercial air travel of the late 1950’s.  I should be happy that many of  the world’s technologies are maturing in 15 years, right?

From my historical observations, and a bit of Wikipedia (http://www.wikipedia.org/), lazy man research, here are some  recently completed 15 year chasm crossings.

  • Before Cloud Computing we had, Fat Pipe/Thin Clients.

    This was all the rage of a key note speech by an Apple exec back in 1999 at a wireless conference in San Jose. I remember the speech well, as the exec spent the first 15 minutes making fun of Microsoft and their crotchety cumbersome desktop market. Now, 15 years later we can officially say that cloud computing has overtaken the bloated desktop computer, and small thin devices are the norm to connect with.

  • E-mail has always been around? 

    Well it did not take off until the late 90’s, more than 15 years after its wide use in the educational system. Yes, some early adopters had AOL dial-up accounts with e-mail,  but even as late as 1995 , voice mail was the dominant player for receiving non real-time messages.  I remember this because I worked for a company that was in the voice messaging Business (their logo looks like the Star War’s death star), and we were basically ignoring the e-mail market, and rolling out a major voice mail product release with huge expectations as late as 1995.  Yes, we were pushing other forms of communications – Lotus Notes was a big player then also, but E-mail hit that acceptance curve somewhere in the late 90’s to early 2000’s.

  • VoIP PBX

    Also at that same company, in the early 90’s we thought VoIP was the greatest thing since sliced bread. And we were making quality PBX’s that supported VoIP in the early 90’s.  In this case there was plenty of natural resistance to acceptance.

  1. The economic cash cow of embedded PBX’s pushed VoIP systems life-span out a few years.
  2. There was also just fear of using a new technology for something as important as an enterprise phone system. I would estimate that VoIP PBX’s started to outnumber the legacy installed base around 2005 or perhaps later.
  • NetEqualizer

    Equalizing technology for reigning in bandwidth abuse has always been superior to Layer 7 shaping, which incidentally rose up from 1995 to 2000 in just 5 years.  Equalizing has taken 15 years and is still on a linear acceptance curve.  There are several reasons for this:

1) The Equalizing concept crossed a chasm from traditional thinking of intuitive, hands-on control and moved to a heuristic approach which is not always obvious to the non-technical decision maker.

2) The graph below depicts how transit Bandwidth prices have dropped exponentially in the past 15 years. This has squeezed out the more expensive devices in the market , and slowed the need a bit at the NetEqualizer price point.

Year Internet Transit Prices (in Mbps, min commit) % Decline
per Mbps
per Mbps 33%
per Mbps 16%
per Mbps 40%
per Mbps 50%
per Mbps 40%
per Mbps 25%
per Mbps 17%
per Mbps 33%
per Mbps 50%
per Mbps 52%
per Mbps 25%
per Mbps 44%
per Mbps 35%
per Mbps 28%
per Mbps 33%
per Mbps 40%
per Mbps 33%
Source: DrPeering.net

3)  NetEqualizer has stayed with a direct sales channel for the most part. The land-grab mentality of investing in a worldwide sales channel and going fast looks impressive but, with dropping bandwidth prices in some markets, is not a sustainable model due to the channel costs.

 So what will come to maturity 15 years from now ?

In my opinion the following technologies will have crossed the chasm in 2029:

1) Automobiles with standard braking sensors to avoid collisions will be the norm in 15 years.

2) Drones everywhere for anything traveling quickly that is not a human.  But I think the widespread commercial use will be 20+ years out.

3) House automation. You won’t be flipping switches to turn anything on or off in 15 years in a new house.

What are your predictions for 15 years out?

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