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MicroScope at 40: The collapse of civilisation, time travel, and things that did not happen

Long time MicroScope contributor Nick Booth looks back over the history of the magazine and ponders on which expectations failed to be realised

Who’d have thought, all those paradigm shifts ago, that one day we’d be sitting here on Mars, checking tech stocks on our virtual headsets as a time machine idles outside.

One famous tech futurist, that’s who. Not that long ago, he predicted all the eventualities mentioned above – yes, even time travel, which he said would arrive by 2022, even though it was evident that time travellers didn’t exist. If they did, surely they’d have visited us by now.

In 40 years of reporting, MicroScope has had its moments of soothsaying. No good will come of that Bill Gates, it was said. Whatever happened to the boss of Microsoft, does anybody know?

There have been many instances where predictions have been made for technology’s effects and the outcome has been quite the opposite, such as the use of social media and the “levelling of the playing field”, which can be placed into the Museum of Things That Never Happened.

The mobile phone is arguably the only real invention that has tangible liberating and empowering effects – it has assisted in lowering the spread of disease, gives credit (and employability) to the unbaked, and has raised people above the poverty line all over the developing nations, according to the World Bank and GSMA.

MicroScope has tried to separate the truth from the humble-brag schmaltz for its entire existence. In doing so, it has exposed the unreported link between technologies that never took off, the brutality meted out to value-added resellers (VARs) and the collapse of Western civilisation.

MicroScope’s sister publication Network Reseller has foretold the future several times, pointing out the anomaly of hearing visions of the future from people who hadn’t seen the year 2000 coming – Stephen Fry used that gag once on TV; he must have be a MicroScope reader. We used to say in editorials: This is not the information age, it’s the disinformation age. And this was before online publishing took off. 

When MicroScope brought vendors together with distributors and partners, the subject of conversation was always about value. Value was added in many forms: by consulting with people, getting to know them and helping to tease out their true feelings about what they want to achieve. Down that road lies content and possibly happiness, which are great for business continuity. The only people who like disruption are those who prefer machines to people. As even John Chambers, once said: “Nobody likes change.” As CEO of Cisco, he ushered in more change and created more wealth than anyone in the internet boom, but he took people with him.

Maybe that’s the difference between the direct-selling cynics and the humanity of the channel. The former represent a culture where everyone’s in it for themselves; the channel ends in tiers of joy as everyone works together in a civilised society. Anyone who sells direct expects you to work around the vagaries of the computer; meanwhile, a VAR would shape the system to work around you. And anyone who takes their cue from a computer is eternally damned to be unfeeling and miserable. Once you forget how to think rationally for yourself, that is the real end of civilisation.

Well, that’s my theory. I’ve got to go now – there’s a time machine waiting for me and, no, it’s not an Uber. Never go anywhere unless your driver has The Knowledge.

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