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Computer economy emerges

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Saturday, March 1, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The former CEO of Apple, John Sculley, said he believes “the true computer age has only just begun.” Sculley, who was the youngest CEO of Pepsi and is a highly regarded entrepreneur, talked about the future aspects of technology and provided pointers at a recent speaking engagement in Palm Beach, Fla.

The extraordinary increases in the storage and management of data, computer power and the areas of activity these achievements are unlocking was a key focus of Sculley's presentation. He predicted the crushing of mid-level jobs unless government allowed the freedom necessary to enable small businesses to make products and employment opportunities.

Sculley gave mind boggling statistics about data storage. He explained that the transition from “structured” data storage to the “unstructured” storage of data on “clouds” — enabled by parallel processors — has reduced costs markedly while offering vast increases in capacity and the ability to manipulate that data.

Many are aware that a “bit” is a binary, zero or positive, decision and that 8 bits, or words, make up a “byte.” Most have heard of kilobytes, or a thousand bytes; megabytes, or a million bytes; gigabytes for a billion bytes; and maybe even terabytes, or a trillion bytes.

Today, Sculley explained, data storage is measured in exabytes — a million, trillion bytes. Scientists talk of yotta, xeeno, shilentno and domegemegrottebytes, or 10 to the power of 33.

“Previously, computers have been viewed as number-crunching machines,” Sculley said. “But today, a massive database, combined with the growth of computer machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, allow for greatly increased reliability in predictive analysis. With sophisticated sensors, the real-time monitoring of complex activities, like those of the human body, will be available soon.

“How about having a constant, predictive analysis of 78 of your vital signs on your I-watch?” Sculley asked.

Amazon, he noted, is talking of developing super stores with smart robots and 3D printing that will offer same-day delivery of products almost worldwide.

However, Sculley warned of a trend toward highly-paid top executives and predictive analysts, smart robots and low-paid manual workers with increasing shortages of middle-range jobs. He was adamant that government should encourage small businesses by reducing regulations and taxation, as the foreseeable way to deal with a potential nightmare of haves and have-nots.

On the positive side, Sculley said, the growth of computer power has enlarged opportunities to work from home. Large tracts of office space are empty, as office workers and professionals, such as lawyers, work from home.

Sculley, a believer in mentoring, offered guideposts for the young: “First, remain curious and try to maintain wide interests. Second, search always for your passion. This will give you the inner energy to excel and make your own luck. Third, think constantly in any spare time of ‘noble causes' or how to better the world. Such ‘dreaming' results often in game-changing ideas and the creation of great wealth.”

Computers offer opportunities and challenges. We must hope that governments recognize changes that are needed because of technological advances.

John Browne, a former member of Britain's Parliament, is a financial and economics columnist for Trib Total Media. Contact him at

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