A Dream Too Outrageous?

“In the computers industry, it is difficult even to dream. When 1980
began, there were no personal computers, no low-cost PCs, no 3.5-inch floppies,
no supercomputers, and no high-tech industry in India. A mere nine years later,
the wheels turned. Can one really dream what the next ten years will bring to an
unsuspecting world?”

–Dataquest, in 1989

Dataquest did dream, right from Day One. In the very first issue in December
1982, Dataquest proclaimed that the Indian computer industry, though small by
Western standards, would be the fastest-growing industrial sector of all. Since
that first forecast, the industry has grown at nearly 50% each year to touch
today’s levels of Rs 70,000 crore-plus… That’s some march!

Along that road, a lot has changed–and a lot hasn’t. What editors back
then sought to place between the covers of Dataquest was “information about
new products, new technology and new developments”. Information about the
success of existing products and the experience of users was the next step. When
we see that this is broadly what readers look for even today, it is a wonderful
feeling–we got it right first time. And then in 1989, Dataquest spoke of
piracy as a growing problem, one that would refuse to go away for long. And even
though concerted efforts to check piracy have been made over the years, the
problem persists.

Dataquest’s first editorial in December 1982 said–”Astute
businessmen realize that the key to success is information.” In the latest
issue, even as the magazine reaches out to the CIOs of top enterprises in the
country, the companies that have emerged as the best in India are those that
have used IT for their benefit…

Lotus Development chief Mitchell Kapor had imagined that almost all PCs would
take the shape of hardcover books by the end of the decade. With handhelds
having penetrated the corporate segment in a big way and the Tablet PC in 2002,
that’s pretty close. “But that,” Dataquest had commented in 1989,
“is fine for America. But where would all this leave India? Datacom, ISDN,
packet switches and cheap computer hardware may offer the average Indian
urbanite a chance to be part of the global computer networks, to a degree never
had before.” We were pretty close as well.

In the same year, Dataquest predicted that computers stand a good change of
being as common in Indian homes as were video cassette recorders and color TVs
at that time, stating–”Computer prices have dropped faster and steeper
than that of VCRs and CTVs, and if computers can merge some entertainment value
with utility, the average Indian VCR/CTV buyer may just pick up a computer from
a downtown electronics shop.”

In November 1993, amidst skepticism from IT vendors and government
departments, Dataquest predicted that the IT industry was entering a bull phase.
The recession and subsequent expenditure cutbacks were too fresh in everybody’s
mind to see light at the end of the tunnel. It turned out we had been right.

Having said that, it needs to be stressed that we have been wrong too. But we
have never been scared to dream, and speak out loud. Like we do now–In the
next 15 years, India, as we know it, and computing, as we understand it, will
undergo tremendous changes. Even relatively new concepts, such as the Internet
and object databases, will yield place to far more exciting ways to do your job
better…The deadline for this dream is an entire decade away. But the strides
towards fulfilling this vision have been more purposeful and stronger than ever

And so, Dataquest is ready with more spirited dreams–and the more
far-fetched they sound today, the more respect they will command from the team
that rolls out Dataquest’s 40th anniversary issue in December 2022. The
frenetic pace of Indian IT will ensure that this happens.

Rajeev Narayan

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