COMPUTER – THE HARBINGER OF SILENT REVOLUTION
Necessity is the mother of invention. The saying holds true for computers also because computers were invented as a result of man’s search for a fast and accurate calculating device.
The earliest device that qualifies as a digital computer is the abacus also known as “soroban”. This device permits the users to represent numbers by the position of beads on the rack. Although abacus was invented around 600 BC, it is interesting to note that it is still used in the Far East and its users can calculate at an amazing speed. The first mechanical adding machine was invented by Blaise Pascal in 1642. Keyboard machine and concept of punched cards came up around 1880. Business machines and calculators made their appearance in Europe and America towards the end of the nineteenth century. Charles Babbage, a 19th century Professor at Cambridge University, is considered to be the father of modern digital computers. In 1842, he came out with the idea of Analytical Engine which was automatic and capable of performing the basic arithmetic function of any mathematical problem at an average speed of 60 additions per minute.
There was a rapid change in the field of computers in the 90’s.Slowly the advent of a new era came up with software industries, it is not just the phenomenal rate of growth or even the large foreign exchange earning potential, the uniqueness lies in the utter reliance on manpower. Software is nothing but ideas and solutions coded in computer understandable form by suitably qualified and experienced personnel. The never-ending thirst for perfection led to the development of the modern IT industry. Thus, leading the IT industry to an E-way into the dot.com world.
Now there is new trend coming up in all Government departments around the world. In the next few years it may well transform not only the way public services are delivered but also the relationship between government and citizens. After e-commerce and e-business, the next revolution may be e- government. The Economist recently reported that the municipality of Phoenix, Arizona allows its citizens to renew their car registrations, pay traffic fines, replace lost identity cards etc., online thus escaping the huge endless queues in a grubby municipal office. The municipality is happy because it saves five dollars a transaction versus the $6.60 across the counter. In Chile people routinely submit their income tax returns over the Internet which has increased transparency, reduced drastically the time taken and the number of errors and litigation with the tax department. Both tax payers and the revenue department are happier. As in many private companies, the purchasing and buying of Singapore’s government departments is now on the web and cost benefits come through more competitive bidding, hence easy access to global suppliers and time is saved by online processing of orders and lower stocks. Suppliers find tenders and purchase orders on site and they can post their catalogues bid for contracts, submit invoices and check their payment status over the net. In twenty villages in Kolhapur and Sangli districts in Maharashtra, Internet booths have come up and farmers can check daily the market rates of agricultural commodities along with data on agricultural schemes and technologies, when to spray and plant their crops, bus and railway time table, etc. They also find vocational guidance on jobs, application for ration cards, kerosene, gas burners and land records extracts with details of land ownership.
The formal sector is not confined to all these but it gave a new boom to numerous Engineering Colleges and polytechnics. Besides offering 4 years BE/B.Tech/B.Sc (Engg.) courses, many colleges have started offering application-oriented courses, modular courses, part-time courses, fast-track courses, etc. Universities are also taking to corporate training thereby educating people from different streams at par with degree holders in IT related area. Tamil Nadu Government along with Sam Petroda of World Tel, Reliance are jointly laying a 3000 km of fibre optic cable to create a Tamil network which will offer all types of forms like ration card, admission forms, land records, pension records, etc. If successful, World Tel will expand the network to Gujarat, Karnataka and West Bengal. In Kerala, all the villages are getting linked online to the district headquarters allowing citizens to compare the development priorities of their villages with other villages. In Andhra Pradesh, too, every district headquarter is linked to Hyderabad via Internet to enable the Chief Minister to contact district officials via Internet.
In these days of ‘global economy’ – which is not only a cliché but a fact-technology is considered as one of the important engines of economic growth. Trade barriers among nations are falling and computer revolution has directed at shrinking distance and time – spreading technological opportunities far and wide. The dot com world has reduced our needs to a dot, now everything is at our finger tips. If you want to talk to your old school friend or make a business contact, just send your message by E- mail, check out for new fashion trends, or latest movie gossips, you name it and you have them all in
the www.com world. You can even register your bio-data on web-sites where you can search for a job or find a suitable match – all through the Internet. Still there seems to be some lacunae in the cyber communication. So digital money has come up wherein you can do payments on line with smart cards. Internet industry, entrepreneurs and e-business operators can’t get by with a promising product alone. Which business model makes sense? Who can execute most effectively? There are the key factors, comprising the twin pillars of success in today’s new Internet economy. While climbing the ladder to success we do have to come across failures. While the growth of computers are going on there is a silent parasite growing along with it – the hacker. It is this community which has produced many memory resident-virus programmes which conveniently which has produced many memory resident- virus programmes which conveniently manipulate data, rob our account numbers, use our credit cards, steal our passwords, log in names and use our Internet hours free of cost. These Internet snoops are smart enough to keep a track of your life-style, personal preferences and habits through a single chip called spyware implanted into your keyboard without your knowledge. It even finds out which credit card you used to make each purchase online. There are companies that monitor your data like a close circuit
T.V. and infringe the individual’s privacy. Steve Gibson, an American software writer has developed a software called OptOut to detect and eliminate spyware that interrogates your PC. To counteract these nefarious tendencies IT people from different countries are coming up with rules, negotiations and punishment known as Cyber Laws.
Many are still sceptical of the real impact because so few Indians have Computers. This is because of active Cable T.V. and Internet kiosks. Although India has only 4 million computers and 22 million telephones, it has 34 million houses with cable T.V. and these are increasing tremendously. In the next 2 to 3 years most cable houses will have access to the Internet. This is why investment banks estimate that more than 30 million Indians will have Internet access by 2004. But then hopefully we will also be able to obtain ration cards and railway tickets from every PCO and so there will be a reason for the masses to visit the net. Thus, e-governance in India may not be a dream. Ironically the most digitally literate people in society today are either over 55 or under 18. So, people must be giving out laptop computers as retirement presents. The day is not far when these web-sites and network will rule the world.