Looking Back On Yesterday's Tech Advancements

At this time of great disruption in the media industry, I find it interesting to look back and realize that disruption in media was always a constant. The systems we used to measure content continually changed, improved and even disrupted our ways of doing business. I recall that when I was an intern at NBC years ago, I was impressed that my computer did not require punch cards. Am I dating myself? Probably.

As we embark on 2018, I asked others in the industry to answer the question: “When you first started in the industry, what was the most amazing device/application/program/at the time?”

One person noted that in the 1990s when she was at Discovery “it was PCs and the internet. That technology changed everything.” For others, there was a range of other advancements:

Arlene Manos, president emeritus, AMC Networks:“When I started at A&E, we did a lot by spreadsheet. Someone I hired as an intern recently mentioned in an article that he shared a computer with me since they were scarce. The first system we were on was Columbine, followed by a Nesbitt system for planning and posting. Don’t remember any more than that.”



Mitch Oscar, advanced TV strategist, USIM:  “In 1999, it was the introduction of TiVo. The inventor came to my office to talk to me about advertising and TiVo’s functionality. At about the same time, the head of IPG called me and said, 'So advertising is dead?' TiVo was momentous because everyone was worried about the impact of two functionalities: the recording of programming and the ability of fast-forwarding to skip commercials. We wondered if the speed  would be fast or slow enough to see the brand messaging.”

Caroline Horner, co-founder, Spicy Tequila: “Well, this will show my age: a desktop PC with a spreadsheet and database application, and for data, LNA, MRI, Scanner data (IRI, I think.) and IMS (I started in a healthcare agency.) Then it was online services (pre-AOL) and then anything internet —and a laptop, cellphone and modem. Then there was the introduction of Java and JavaScript and dynamic webpage generation with ad serving, SAS enterprise miner, set-top-box data, mobile video, growth of marketing database companies, programmatic, addressable TV!"

Kathy Newberger, advanced advertising consultant: "I was working in local ad sales at the time and we said it was going to be digital ad insertion. We were going from six networks that were inserted using tape decks to 16 networks using digital equipment. We thought that was going to be amazing — and it was. Now it’s amplified by 500 times more. Every network is insert-able. And on top of that is OTT."

Brad Adgate, independent media researcher: "I think the most important introduction early in my career was spreadsheets. Long-gone products like Lotus 1-2-3 and afterwards Quattro Pro were being used. Before that, workers used those large green accounting pads and calculators to fill in the data, took a lot longer and were more error-prone."

Dave Morgan, CEO and founder, Simulmedia: "In early 1993, I was working in 'new media' helping newspaper companies develop ad and content strategies for early online services and partnerships with telcos and cable companies, and I had a chance to play with the Mosaic browser. It was pretty clear, even then, that a user-managed rendering engine like the browser would change the media industry, particularly for print companies with text and still photos, which rendered well even without high-speed internet. It certainly did."

Jane Clarke, CEO, managing director, CIMM: “Back in 1982, we were analyzing clickstream data from set-top boxes in a pilot test for Time Teletext, which was a text and graphic service similar to the early AOL, but delivered via the vertical blanking interval of a channel on Time Warner’s cable system!  I never thought it would take this long to get to nationally representative samples of return path data."

Sheryl Feldinger, media consultant: "I often comment to my 16-year-old that the biggest difference between growing up today versus the 1970s is the pace of life. Everything happens so much faster today. The pace of communication, especially, flies at warp speed. Confession: early in my career, fax machines were a game-changer. They revolutionized the work place. No longer could you tell the client, "We will messenger it to your office first thing tomorrow." The new retort was, 'Why wait? You can fax it tonight!' It didn't matter that the edges of the thermal paper curled. All of a sudden, deadlines got pushed up and we all had to work faster."

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