Teching Order

The Future Is in Your Hands

We can talk about the future of technology until we're blue in the monitor, but actually doing something about it is even more important. "The best thing small businesses can do now is leverage the hosted technologies that they're starting to see," Ravagnani advises. "It gets them ready to take advantage of the global network we're going to have in the future because they'll already have their data centrally located."

You don't have to wait around for cutting-edge technology to develop. Hooking up with service providers and implementing wireless technologies are two things you can do today. Streamline your business and reduce your ownership costs while preparing for the next wave of innovation. We guarantee business technology 25 years from now will look as different as a Palm VII would have in 1977. But don't worry. As Kienast says, "We're all going to like it."

FLASHBACK: 1982

When Entrepreneur interviewed a 12-year-old computer whiz kid about the future of computers in 1982, one of the questions asked was what the ultimate computer would do. The kid replied, "Transfer information like the mail system, and the post office would become extinct. Just stay home and talk to the computers, and the teacher would be at home and give you all the problems from her house. Do your grocery shopping, keep your financing and pay your bills." Remember, this is pre-Bill Gates and pre-Web.

Now 20 years later, we caught up with our young whiz kid, now-32-year-old Mark Waldenstrom. With an information systems degree under his belt, he's working as a project manager for Libertyville, Illinois, Allscripts Healthcare Solutions, an application development company. We asked him how computers have changed since we last spoke. "They've been demystified. You look back 20 years ago, and they were these things that everyone sort of feared and never saw being intertwined in our lives as much as they are now."

He's not programming space games like he predicted when he was 12, but Waldenstrom does sometimes put 10 hours per day into Intel systems, servers and large databases. He foresees a healthy future for computers and software refining the way we work in business and industry. But with a 1-year-old son of his own, his perspective has also changed: "The important things are no longer plugged into the wall."

One statement the young Waldenstrom made still stands strong today: "A computer is only as good as the person who inputs."

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This article was originally published in the May 2002 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Teching Order.

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