The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment Industries

The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment Industries

The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment Industries

The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Financial, Telecommunications, Media, and Entertainment Industries

Synopsis

The Digital Hand, Volume 2, is a historical survey of how computers and telecommunications have been deployed in over a dozen industries in the financial, telecommunications, media and entertainment sectors over the past half century. It is past of a sweeping three-volume description of how management in some forty industries embraced the computer and changed the American economy. Computers have fundamentally changed the nature of work in America. However it is difficult to grasp the full extent of these changes and their implications for the future of business. To begin the long process of understanding the effects of computing in American business, we need to know the history of how computers were first used, by whom and why. In this, the second volume of The Digital Hand, James W. Cortada combines detailed analysis with narrative history to provide a broad overview of computing's and telecomunications' role in over a dozen industries, ranging from Old Economy sectors like finance and publishing to New Economy sectors like digital photography and video games. He also devotes considerable attention to the rapidly changing media and entertainment industries which are now some of the most technologically advanced in the American economy. Beginning in 1950, when commercial applications of digital technology began to appear, Cortada examines the ways different industries adopted new technologies, as well as the ways their innovative applications influenced other industries and the US economy as a whole. He builds on the surveys presented in the first volume of the series, which examined sixteen manufacturing, process, transportation, wholesale and retail industries. In addition to this account, of computers' impact on industries, Cortada also demonstrates how industries themselves influenced the nature of digital technology. Managers, historians and others interested in the history of modern business will appreciate this historical analysis of digital technology's many roles and future possibilities in an wide array of industries. The Digital Hand provides a detailed picture of what the infrastructure of the Information Age really looks like and how we got there.

Excerpt

It is always of the utmost importance for us to be thoroughly masters of the
economic history of the time, the country or the industry, sometimes even of
the individual firm in question, before we draw any inference at all from the
behavior of time series.

—Joseph A. Schumpeter, 1939

The great economist quoted above points the way for the search in understanding how modern economies work. He did more than most economists to call attention to the growing influence of technology on business and economic circumstances. This book takes one primary collection of technologies (computing) and a secondary set (telecommunications) and explores the path Schumpeter urged us to take because use of these methods changed profoundly how people did their daily work across the American economy in the second half of the twentieth century. Computers, in particular, influenced enormously how companies, and the industries in which they resided, functioned. Conversely, industries played a much greater role in the deployment of computers in the economy than was thought even just a few years ago. The implications of these findings are important both for scholars of the modern American economy and for managers working within it. This book describes how computers were used in a variety of industries, how they influenced companies and industries over time, and what, ultimately, were the technological “sweet spots.”

This book is part of a larger project to document the role and effects of computing across the American economy over the latter part of the twentieth century. In the first volume, The Digital Hand: How Computers Changed the Work of American Manufacturing, Transportation, and Retail Industries (2004), I argue that information technology (IT) profoundly influenced the daily activities of a large collection of industries. I focus on the physical economy—that is to say, on the manufacture, movement, and sale of goods. In the course of looking at 16 industries, I describe how digital technologies so profoundly changed the nature of work . . .

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