How many of these products did you use in your time? I’m betting that we have seen a lot of time spent by you and I in these along the way. I remember when an “web log” became a blog. Seeing early websites as .net because they thought that .com implied “commerce” was a thing.
This is a nifty look at the top 20 internet properties at 5-year intervals since 1998. It’s always neat to look back across the time you’ve been using any technology and see the evolution.
What names would you add to the list of things that you adopted early in technology? Drop a comment below and share your stuff. It’s great to hear where we all came from!
Sometimes it’s a beautiful combination of laugh-inducing and cringeworthy as we look back on the start of our careers in IT. University and College students starting this September will have grown up entirely post-Y2K. Having grown up in enterprise IT through the 90s, I bet that you can share these things that will make you smile a little.
Feel free to drop in comments with your own fun memories of technology in your career!
That’s right, folks. Ethernet wasn’t the first networking that was adopted in the enterprise. As a 90s administrator, you’ll remember the pre-switching days and the ever-enjoyable experience of chasing down beaconing devices on a network as the token made its way downstream. The physical click as a network card lit up the port on an MAU (or MSAU for the traditionalists of the Multi-Station Access Unit). Those nifty little tokens flew around the physical and virtual ring at 4 or 8 Mbps which felt like a jet car compared to the BNC serial networking before it. The late 90s brought switching and 16 Mbps with a protocol battleground laid out, to be won over by the Ethernet adoption at 10/100 Mbps and a much lower cost.
Enterprise computing needed enterprise computers. The price tag on an IBM PS/2 (aka Personal System 2) was steep, but the easy to replace parts and enterprise support agreements with many IBM-centric shops (aka Big Blue customers) were swimming in stacks of the IBM PS/2 systems. You also remember the Micro Channel architecture and that popping feeling as you pushed in the floppy drive ejector. Classic days!
Autoexec.bat and Config.sys files
Gamers will know this challenge especially well. Should we load into high memory? What drivers can I put before the OS and game? What can I strip out of the boot system to let things run faster? This was also the first appearance of MS-DOS getting a login screen as each nerdy sysadmin mastered the science of ASCII art to welcome their users to the freshly booted system.
Novell certifications were hugely valued
VMware wasn’t even on the radar (only to be launched in 1998), and Microsoft was still finding its feet in the certification space with NT4 only making a slow transition to Windows 2000. Novell dominated the file server and identify management (+1 for NDS, always) environment of many entrerprises. Even the small business servers were often running Novell NetWare and the badge of honour was the length of uptime you could have on a server. Administrators flocked to the CNA (Certified Novell Administrator) exam and then upped their game with the challenging and more rare CNE (Certified Network Engineer).
Brain dumps for certifications
Certifications were becoming a hot commodity, and so were brain dumps. These were online repositories of “hypothetical” questions (often word-for-word renditions) and multiple choice answers with the right one chosen for you. This led to the addition of some strongly-worded NDA statements as you sat for a technology certification, and also the familiar 8.5×11 whiteboard and box of kleenexes in every exam cubicle. Some say the kleenexes were for the tears of sysadmins who didn’t make the cut, rather than to wipe the dry-erase board.
As Microsoft Certified Professionals poured out of certification centres at an incredible rate, we also saw a large number of tech pros leaning forward to the full MCSE (Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer). The issue among the tech community was that certification schools and boot camps were popping up like wildfire and producing dozens to hundreds of MCSE recipients in a matter of days using tools like brain dumps and teaching 100% towards test materials. This led to the industry (mostly old CNE techies) labeling these as “paper” MCSEs which meant they only got the cert but lacked any real experience.
Deploying Windows 95
There were actual videos featuring the cast of Friends at the launch of Windows 95. This also led to pain an suffering among the joy of successful deployments company wide for sysadmins everywhere. The standardization of the corporate desktop became a new possibility thanks to ADM files, imaging processes and more. This was the dawn of a GUI-driven enterprise with no turning back.
This was actually an acronym as GHOST (General Hardware-Oriented Systems Transfer) which started as a PowerQuest tool, later bought by Norton, and eventually Symantec. Using a nifty tool to clone hard disks meant speeding the deployment of DOS systems and eventually Windows systems (thanks to the magic of SID regeneration in later versions). Sysadmins finally learned the value of automation and got away from the disk install or network installs of operation systems.
This is for the print shop admins who spent time in those Big Blue customers. You may have even administered a BARR print system at one time and learned of the oddities and challenges of converting print protocols. EBCDIC (Extended Binary Coded Decimal Interchange Code) was the peripheral code standard and eventually gave way to ASCII as distributed printing became cheaper and more popular. It also cut down on the number of print paper carts rolling through the offices all hours of a day and probably ended a few mail room jobs.
Replacing Coax with Cat5
BNC, yeah you know me! Coax and BNC was the early peer-to-peer networking wire of choice (or lack of choice) and was quickly giving way to the use of Cat5. We quickly bypassed Cat3 for the Cat5 UTP (Unshielded Twisted Pair). I bet you can still recite the wire colours and the order to create a crossover cable with your own punchdown kit.
Life comes at you fast in networking. At the same time, there was nothing more popular in the help desk and desktop support office as a lap link cable. For those who enjoyed the slow, reliable, parallel-to-parallel port goodness to transfer data between machines, Laplink software and associated crossover cables were your friend. By the 90s, these became rare, but I’m betting you held onto your cables a little longer than we all should have just because of nostalgia.
Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise
Not only was I a Certified Lotus Notes Administrator, and Certified Lotus Notes Developer, but I was one of a handful of GroupWise-Certified Novell admins around town.
We were in the heart of a war over the de facto email standard, and productivity software was the new panacea. Lotus Notes possessed integrated email, directory services, Internet email, and applications (known as databases…much to the chagrin of legit DBAs). If it wasn’t for wide proliferation of HTML applications and rapidly adopted internet standards, you’d probably still be logging into a Lotus Notes client today.
Java takes over the development world
Write Once; Run Anywhere. That was the tagline and mantra of the Java developer. Write once; run slowly, and probably on the wrong version, anywhere, was the tagline and mantra of sysadmins. Java was fighting the Microsoft suites for dominance in the enterprise application market. Little did we know that the often despised (by sysadmins at least) language which was rapidly evolving, would continue it’s growth AND still leave a wide door open to .NET and the Microsoft tools.
The only pizza boxes in a 90s data centre were the empty ones left by sysadmins after an overnight upgrade of Windows NT or a Novell Server. While the Unix folks logged into their Sun Microsystems servers remotely, the rest of the Wintel kids were piling up server towers by the dozens along two-tiered shelves in every server room. Rack servers became more prolific in the later 90s, and we bid good riddance to the mini-towers of every shape and size.
Installing Windows 3.1 from multiple 3.5” diskettes
Many operating systems were so large that they spanned multiple diskettes. Those pre-CD days were not fun. I’m guessing that you’ve held onto a stack of 3.5″ diskettes, carefully sequenced for an installation. This also led to the fun of having 40 of 41 diskettes and not being able to install. Disk 31 was like the proverbial sock eaten by a clothes dryer for a sysadmin.
Hey, it was pretty cool to her able to cram 100 MB on a single piece of physical media. As you inserted the almost Nintendo cartridge shaped cassettes into the Zip drive and it clicked and whirred, you smiled your nerdiest smile knowing you could fit 70 floppy diskettes on a single Zip drive. You felt like a storage king…until the CD-R and CD-RW became easily affordable, and much faster…which didn’t take long.
Laptop peripherals were as awful as you could imagine. Being expensive, difficult to carry, or just unavailable was the biggest challenge of the enterprise laptop user. How could you have a modem, an ethernet card, and a sound card in that Toshiba laptop?! Easy! Carry a stack of PCMCIA (or PC Cards) in your laptop bag to swap out as needed. Ahhh the smell of early standards.
The magical sound that indicated a 56k connection
Forget the pain of not having Google Fibre. How about crossing your fingers that you get the full rocket-like speed of 56k versus 33.6 which was triggered by that telltale sound in the midst of a modem handshake. The next generation of Internet users will only know the pain of 3G versus LTE and believe that Edge is abysmal (which is nearly 4 times the bandwidth of a 56k connection).
High speed networks in the data center began with T1, Fractional T1, and if we were lucky, upgraded to a T3. With a T1 being around 1500$ per month, it’s hard to imagine that a 1.544 Mbps line can even compare against today’s 49.99$ per month for 5 Mbps residential internet connections.
The mainframe is the heart of most of our financial, insurance, and retail businesses. As we moved to the next generation of distributed computing and Windows desktop operating systems, we needed to install emulators for the clunky (yet strangely reliable) 3270 and 5250 terminals. Long live the green screen!
The Internet was new
Compuserve and AOL were the leaders in delivering this magical new thing called the Internet. Curating your experience and filling your mail with physical CDs to win over as many clients in the pay-per-hour fight for subscriber dominance. Ironically, by the end of the 90s, AOL would buy Compuserve and most of us were far beyond the initial stages of Internet access. Google would launch in 1998 and change things greatly.
All Software being named 2000
We knew that the decade was closing out. It also caused a sudden and unnecessary urge for software makers to appear leading edge by naming everything 2000. Windows 2000 is probably the most memorable of these. As we look back on products that released late or didn’t last beyond that landmark year, the idea of attaching a release year to the product name is definitely a fairly bad idea. Somehow Microsoft is one of the only ones who holds onto this nomenclature to this day.
Celebrating NYE 12/31/1999 in a data center
Nobody had any idea how the landmark New Year’s Eve would be spent a decade earlier. Little did we know that the lustre and shine of a career in IT would also mean toasting your fellow sysadmin with a bottle of Baby Duck in plastic cups at the office during a short 15 minute break watching the countdown to midnight. This led to worldwide checks of patches and fixes which were the result of a decade of work after someone, somewhere doing what we all do in IT…going to production without gathering requirements first. Besides, who would have thought we would need more than two digit years, right?!
Customizing the Turbonomic HTML5 Login Screen Background
DISCLAIMER: This is currently unsupported as any changes made to your Turbonomic login page may be removed with subsequent Turbonomic application updates. This is meant to be a little bit of fun and can be easily repeated and reversed in the case of any updates or issues. Sometimes you want to spice up your web view for your application platforms.
This inspiration came from William Lam as a little fun add on when you have a chance to update your login screen imagery. With the new HTML5 UI in Turbonomic it is as easy as one simple line of code to add a nice background to your login screen. Here is the before:
Since I’m a bit of a space fanatic, I want to use a little star-inspired look:
To add your own custom flavor, you simply need to remotely attach to your TAP instance over SSH, browse to the
/srv/www/htdocs/com.vmturbo.UX/app directory, and then modify the BODY tag in the index.html file.
Scroll down to the very bottom of the file because it’s the last few lines you need to access. Here is the before view:
Here is the updated code to use in your BODY tag:
body style="background-image: url(BACKGROUNDIMAGEFILENAME);background-size: contain;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-color: #000000"
This is the code that I’ve used for a web-hosted image:
body style="background-image: url(https://static.pexels.com/photos/107958/pexels-photo-107958.jpeg);background-size: contain;background-repeat: no-repeat;background-color: #000000"
Note the background-color tag as well. That is for the overflow on the screen when your image doesn’t fill the full screen height and width. I’ve set the background to be black for the image I’ve chosen. You can also upload your own custom image to your Turbonomic instance into the same folder, but as warned above, you may find that this update has to happen manually as you do future application updates to the Turbonomic environment.
For custom local images, the code would be using a local directory reference. For ease of use, upload the image file right to the same folder and you can simply use the filename in the CSS code. The real fun is when you get to share your result.
I’d love to see your own version of the custom login screen. Drop in a commend below with your example and show how you liven up your Turbonomic instance with a little personalized view.
Putting the Fun in Sales Funnel: the power of a technology agnostic approach
We see it happening every every day in the world of technology marketing. It’s the moment that a conversation about a particular product or process moves from conversational to adversarial.
As a blogger, customer, and architect, I have multiple ways that I have to look at technology depending on how I’m going to consume and share information.
I haven’t done traditional sales roles in any of the industries that I have worked in, but I am acutely aware of my surroundings and the people who are in that role. My focus in sharing technology information is on harnessing the passion about something and exciting others to look at that as either a potential solution, or to show how it may not be the appropriate fit.
What’s the Sales Funnel?
A Sales Funnel comes in many forms, but the end result is the tracking of the path from potential prospect down to a closed sale. It ultimately involves the analytics of moving a lead to an opportunity, and ultimately a customer, and shows how the number gets stripped back at each stage.
It’s a little depressing sometimes to look at it this way, but there are statistics behind it all, and that is truly how things generally work in the traditional prospecting model. However, with an adapting customer base who are becoming more involved and educated on product selection, the process should be adapting along with it.
Don’t sell me. Excite me.
Occasionally I refer to myself as technology evangelist. It is just what it sounds like really, and in some way I am contributing to taking someone along the first part of their journey from discovery to adoption. As a technology evangelist, I talk up the product that I am excited about myself which leads to excitement by those who may be listening at the time.
I also have a fairly high bar when it comes to being “sold” on a product. Because I have done extensive product research, I have an expectation to consume more information about your product, and I also need to take away that info to percolate for a little while. If you just hammer me with a sales call and then jump right to “so, when can we cut a P.O. for this?” it will go a little something like this:
Yelling it doesn’t make it true
There are some simple things we have to observe as ways to successfully open eyes and ears about products:
Talk up your product and don’t talk down your competitor
Read the room
No, seriously, read the room
If you see that you may be losing the attention of the people you are talking to, it may be best to alter your approach. If you find that they are becoming irritated or may not agree with some of what is being said, this too requires you to change your approach, or back off of the situation.
I find it happening too often where a sales person becomes combative or adversarial in their speech when the person they are pitching to isn’t receptive or offers some information that is contrary to what is being sold. Yelling it out, or repeating it exhaustively won’t make the situation change for you in this case. In fact, it will take the situation into a really bad direction usually.
Make being a prospect fun
We have these passionate communities for a variety of technologies. In my opinion, I find that the passion of a community is more likely to make me look more at a product.
It’s kind of like crowd sourcing your prospects because potential customers are likely to speak openly to peers and community members to see their experiences and thoughts on products and processes.
Even one-on-one situations can be affected this way. Try asking the person an engaging question like:
What do you think about this type of technology?
Have you read much about this before?
What do you normally use for research, and have you read anything from <person>?
We as customers want to find solutions. We like fun and interesting technology, but we have a core requirement underneath all of the sexiness of new technology which is to find a relevant solution to a business problem.
Stop telling us that “Everybody I talk to is moving towards this solution”
Every time I hear a pitch start with “Everyone…” it leads to this feeling:
There is a massive middle market which is between the small side of SMB, and the large scale enterprise customers. This consumer base (including me) may land later on the adoption curve, but these folks also can’t be written off.
Note the tagline on my logo: People, Process, Technology. It’s in that order for a reason. Talk to me about how my people will benefit from what you have to offer. Let’s look at real processes that are optimized, and how they are. And remember, when you feel that sale slipping away, it may not be the right time, but it very certainly can’t immediately be chalked up to “bad customer”.
Plus, remember that the person who just sat through an adversarial pitch, or read a series of FUD-filled tweets, may just be a blogger who might spread your message further than you had hoped it to go.
Let’s just make this fun, and you may be surprised by how well that sales funnel fills up 😉