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Teching Order

Somebody just told me there wasn't any Internet in 1977...and no productivity software suites...and no voice mail...e-mail...cell phones...bar codes--how did entrepreneurs compete with big business before technology leveled the playing field?

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This story appears in the May 2002 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

To understand where technology is today and find out where it's going in the future, we have to first listen to Barbra Streisand and look at "the way we were." Flash back to 1977: Fax machines and land-line phones were the cutting edge of business hardware. The Apple II computer was introduced the month before the launch of this magazine. With 64K of memory and a 1 MHz processor, it heralded the beginning of the PC era. Kay Kienast, Internet veteran and vice president of marketing with advanced networking start-up Solid Technologies, remembers it well: "People thought 'This will never last.'"

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The road from the Apple II to today's Internet-cruising, flat-screen 2 GHz business PC is paved with innovations and milestones. In 1981, with Apple and Tandy ruling the market, IBM released the 5150 PC, which sported a 4.77 MHz Intel processor. Mike Ravagnani, director of technology consulting firm Revolution Software in Worthington, Ohio, says, "The first IBM PC really made businesses sit up and listen. Before that, it was all kids' toys and research." Then came Microsoft, and the revolution was really moving.

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