I learnt to see that utility was the test and measure of all virtues.
—Jeremy Bentham, 1776
Many observers have called the slow growth of the American economy in 2002 and 2003 a “jobless recovery.” In other words, as the economy began expanding again, it did so without adding new jobs. Indeed, companies kept laying off people, or simply did not feel a need to hire in order to handle increased volumes of business. The single most frequently cited reason by reporters, economists, and government officials for why new jobs were not added was due to the investments made by companies in computing in the 1990s. These investments in automation reduced the amount of labor content of work, thereby increasing the capacity of existing people, factories, and firms to handle more business. Those remarking on the “jobless recovery” got it all wrong, however. Recovery was due not to investments made in computers in the 1990s but to investments made in computing and telecommunications over a much longer period of time—in fact, over more than a half century. This pattern of investment shows no end in sight, and thus remains one of the most important issues that we need to understand if we are to appreciate how both the U.S. and world economies are transforming, on the one hand and, on the other hand, how businesses and industries are doing so as well. This book begins to tell the story of how computing so profoundly influenced the economy of the United States.
Computers profoundly influenced the structure, activities, success, and failures of most industries. The historical record of the past half century illustrates clearly that this technology affected how industries emerged, operated, and changed. Case studies of the effects of computing on individual processes and companies have long offered dramatic evidence of the profound influence of this technology. But the same can be said of industries and also of the economies in which they resided. The purpose of this book is to describe how that influence occurred over time and still affects industries today. I will do so primarily by documenting how industries came to use computer technology over time.
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Book title: The Digital Hand:How Computers Changed the Work of American Manufacturing, Transportation, and Retail Industries. Contributors: James W. Cortada - Author. Publisher: Oxford University Press. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2004. Page number: vii.
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