Death Walks Behind You

When I was sixteen, which was 1969, I read a story about a bunch of mad scientists who had An Evil Plan and an even worse evil cackle.

Whilst babies slept, these madmen, most of whom were Americans from a Transylvanian lineage and knew how to deal with werewolves, were plotting.

And what, I hear you whisper in apprehension, was their deranged plan?

He could have ruled the world

Mad Scientist

Their plan, I can tell you, was to connect all the computers in the world so that they, the mad scientists, would RULE THE WORLD, the swine.

Eventually, despite the minor problem of getting Fortran to talk to Cobol, they succeeded. All the computers now acted as one, and only did the bidding of the maddest scientist of them all. He was the one on the right.

His first question of the superbeast was this: “Is there a God?”

Without hesitation, the machine spat out a punchcard. On it was the supercomputer’s answer:

“There is now.”

Well, for a while, it looked as if we’d all be paying our taxes to IBM. Then DEC* and some of the BUNCH** looked like potential usurpers, but software was clearly more important than hardware, so Microsoft started to get ahead, and then the world went digital, starting in 1996 or thereabouts. Weird companies like Nokia became important, as did Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Wang, Logica, Philips, BlackBerry, Sony, Packard Bell,  and a slew of others. Remember Motorola’s brick? It weighed a couple of kilos, and grew progressively hotter the longer your phone call lasted until you had to put the thing down on account of your hand being on fire. I had a Motorola brick, and became lopsided as a result.

Motorola's brick

Inventor Martin Cooper holds Motorola's brick

Well, BlackBerry and Nokia are potentially entering their death throes. Hewlett-Packard is clinging on to the ledge, and Philips seems to be on its knees again, having just abandoned making televisions, as has Sony.

And all the while, the Cloud is gently engulfing all existing alternatives, which includes hosting for websites, automatic backup, and company intranets.

So, if the mad scientists were still alive and working today, what would they be doing?

Their natural habitat would be the Cloud, especially Google’s Cloud which is widely reputed to comprise at least one million servers. They’d be busy at Apple, especially in social networking, and Google’s Android, too.

Atomic Rooster

Death Walks Behind You

But this would not keep me awake at night anymore. All digital leaders are vulnerable. Innovation, speed to market, customer enthusiasm, and so on, are essential to their success, but look at the speed with which BlackBerry is plummeting earthwards, like a Stuka in flames.

The only thing I kept when I hurled my BlackBerry Storm into a recycling bin was its sheath, which I kept for my new HTC phone. That, too, has turned out to be a turkey, but the sheath works fine. Its next occupant will be an iPhone. It’ll be interesting to see how long that lasts.

Atomic Rooster‘s song, Death Walks Behind You, seems an apt warning to internet technology companies, as does Soilwork’s Song Of The Damned.

And who might the damned be? BlackBerry, Nokia and H-P look like front-runners.

But, currently, Nokia looks most likely to go the way of the Motorola brick.

And another thing, I haven’t changed my view about Greece.

(DEC*: Digital Equipment Corporation. The BUNCH**: Burroughs, Univac, NCR, Control Data Corporation and Honeywell)