It’s often said that “apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” – and my “apple” has fallen very close to me. This summer, my 18-year-old daughter earned the opportunity to work as an intern at Cisco. As a 20-year Cisco veteran, my daughter’s internship inspired me to reflect on my career experiences in the Internet era. While my daughter begins her professional journey, I can’t help but think about the many advancements and innovations that have reshaped the workplace I joined two decades ago.
When I started at Cisco, in December 1996, I was issued a Toshiba laptop with 166 MHz processor chip, 8 MB of RAM and possibly 1 GB of hard disk. I also had the privilege of receiving a company-paid dial-in modem and a pager – so that I could be available for any urgent communications related to my business responsibilities. To connect to the VPN remotely, I had a separate piece of visiting-card sized hardware that generated a token. I had an early-generation cell phone that could only make voice calls – more than 3 cm in thickness.
In terms of popular Internet applications, they were basically nonexistent. Almost every app I relied on was PC centric – the mystery of world wide web was still in very early years of being woven. There was no streaming media over the Internet– most of the apps were text driven and any rudimentary webpage animation represented an awe-striking contrast to the volumes of static content. Online gaming was limited to games downloaded to your PC. Voice was the main application over cell phones.
Television was delivered over analogue signal and rabbit ears. The number of global television households had just crossed the 1 billion mark in early 1996.
Netscape was the popular Internet browser. Internet service providers (ISPs) were moving from charging by the hour for Internet connectivity to flat monthly fees. Amazon.com had been launched as an online bookstore but e-books had still not appeared on the scene. Google had begun as a research project but the popular online video platform, You Tube, was almost a decade away. Apple was having to justify its very existence with a limited mac user base consisting primarily of academia.
We have come a long way since then in terms of technology evolution and our degree of connectivity. I begin with comparing “then” (1996) to the “now” (2016) of the generation entering the workforce. The devices are much sleeker – my daughter’s smartphone is less than a quarter in thickness of my first cell phone, with much higher computing and multi-media capability. The Mac laptop she was given on her first day of work has over 2 GHz quad-core processor with 256 GB hard drive. She often complains about the slowness of our home broadband connection (45 Mbps), while at work she enjoys the lickety-split speeds of more than 100 Mbps.
In summary, while her shoe size might be smaller, her digital footprint as measured in IP traffic is much bigger than what was mine at the start of my career at Cisco.