Making old technologies new

"I'm worried about the up-and-coming generation of geeks," a leading Internet innovator told me at a recent tech gathering. "They try stuff, use it, and throw it away. But I don't see many of them inventing new foundation technologies." In other words: rip, mix, burn.

Is this a bad thing? Perhaps quite the opposite. There's no shortage of foundation technologies, and latent within many of them are unanticipated uses. Discovering new ways to use existing technologies is arguably as important as inventing new ones.


I don't want to overstate the case, because the architecture of the Web has plenty of limitations, but it's amazing how it continues to be a fertile source of these happy discoveries. In a December 2002 column titled "Nobody Expects the Spontaneous Integration (with apologies to Monty Python), I enumerated the key features of an environment conducive to innovation: Web services (broadly construed), REST, loose coupling, and scripting. It's even clearer to me today that these are the right ingredients.

But somebody has to see what's possible and then make it happen. Lots of key insights require no fundamental new invention, yet remain undiscovered. If it's true that "Generation Z" techies are hardwired to think this way, it would be great. And if they aren't, we ought to be teaching them how. [Full story at]

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