Top Lessons Learned From Yesterday’s Tech

Top Lessons Learned From Yesterday’s Tech
by Mindy Powers 

“Just slightly ahead of our time.”  

That was the tagline for a 1987 commercial for a Panasonic VCR that, when viewed through a 2013 perspective, is both humorous and telling.  

There’s no doubt that when it comes to technology, the past couple of decades have seen rapid advancement. And they will continue to evolve further and faster as we have discussed in our Business Technology 2020 ebook.

Looking back at commercials for technology products and services through the years helps to serve as a reminder for business and IT leaders of just how important it is to advance to stay relevant and successful.  

Let’s take a look at how far the technology we use for business has come.  

Online computing  

Our world today is one in which we can be online anywhere and everywhere, and at any time. Thanks to wireless connectivity, BYOD is a part of business life, and our devices — laptops, tablets, or smartphones — are speedier and more accessible than ever.  

But in the 1990s, BYOD as we know it today didn’t exist. Working online was an unfamiliar concept. That’s why a businessman in an IBM commercial says, “The Internet is the future of business. We have to be on the Internet.”  

And how did people get on the Web? “All you need is a computer and a regular phone line,” explained a 1995 America Online commercial. Email, a staple of business communication, was almost a novelty: “I can even send email on the Internet,” an actor in a commercial proudly proclaims. And many laptops — at least according to this early 1990s Apple commercial — were unfamiliar and complicated.  


It’s impossible to imagine getting through the business day without the support of a smartphone. Today’s devices — with their apps, cameras, and more — are much more than just a means to make phone calls.  

But in the 1990s, mobile phone calls themselves were pretty innovative: “Radio Shack keeps you in constant communication with its affordable, transportable cellular telephones,”a 1990 commercial asserts. And, despite their limited functionality — by today’s standards, of course — cell phones were so cutting edge, instructional videos were distributed. Contrast that with today’s advanced yet intuitive phones.  

All in all, twenty-six years later, Panasonic’s words still resonate. When it comes to technology, business and IT leaders would do well to keep innovating, striving to stay just “slightly ahead of their time.”   What else can business technology leaders take from the past to move forward in the future?  

Mindy Powers is vice president of business sales for the Western region and responsible for leading a sales organization that provides world-class communications solutions to global enterprises with CenturyLink.

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