The IT Time Travel Machine: 1992: Page 3

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Network Hardware:

First Place: Hayes Smartmodem Optima 9600

Second Place: Intel SatisFAXtion Modem/400

Third Place: SAS System for Information Delivery 6.07

The notion that a 9600-baud modem is “network hardware” might be quaint, but it makes sense. The modem can rightfully be called the lynchpin of modern enterprise IT, in that it allowed communication between computers across telephone lines. The office in Omaha could send data to the office in Chicago, allowing national companies to have truly national data flow.

Oddly, the 9600-baud Hayes modem won the 1992 reader’s poll even though it wasn’t the fastest modem available. The 14.4 kbps modem had been introduced in 1991 (Hayes even made one) but apparently Datamation readers hadn’t rushed out to buy them – IT budgets were tight even then.

Minor note: The name “SatisFAXtion” might be one of the worst product monikers ever.

Network Software:

First Place: Artisoft’s LANtastic 4.1

Second Place: Sybase SQL Server 4.8

Third Place: Digital’s DECmcc Management Station for ULTRIX

Artisoft’s moment in the sun was brief, but in 1992 it was a company to watch. Long before Napster gave peer-to-peer networking a bad name, Artisoft’s LANtastic was a must-have P2P app for enterprise IT departments. It allowed companies to easily set up a P2P LAN operating system for DOS, Windows and OS/2.

“Before LANTastic, you had to set up a dedicated server to run your network from,” says David Strom, a technology consultant who worked with Artisoft products. “Their innovation was enabling you to use anyone’s workstation as a file and print server, so you could create a network on the fly very quickly.”

Plenty of companies built extensive networks using LANtastic. In the early ‘90s, the software was so hot that Artisoft released French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese versions.

Then came the bad news. Microsoft upgraded its core operating system to include networking capability – a major blow for LANtastic. The P2P software is still available (Artisoft was acquired by SpartaCom in 2000) but it’s not likely to win anymore top honors.

Moral of the story: if you’re a small fry in a market niche that big sharks want to get into, you need a new market.

Midrange/Mainframe:

First Place: IBM AS/400 E Series

Second Place: IBM ES/9000 Model 900

Third Place: NCR System 3000 model 3550

The only surprise here is that IBM didn’t win all three places. And if the vote for top mainframe were held in 2006, Big Blue would be just as dominant.

But winning the vote for best mainframe has lost much of its relevance. “If you took a poll today, the question would change,” notes Gartner’s Feinberg. As every IT manager knows, today’s datacenters are run by servers. IBM remains a top player in a field crowded by HP, Sun, and Dell.

While the mainframes of yesterday were bulky dinosaurs, today a box with far more processing power looks puny by comparison. Says Feinberg, with a laugh: “The $100,000 server has probably got a footprint on the floor that’s two feet by two feet, and it’s probably four feet high.”

For the next installment of “IT Time Travel”: market skepticism prior the release of Windows NT, and the breathless hype that launched the first Pentium chip.


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