Become a Technological Historian

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I’m a huge fan of history. I think I like it most because there is romance to it. The stories, all true, can be as amazing and wonderful as any fiction (minus light sabers, talking lions, and space battles). However, reading history also exposes you to facts, lots of horrifying facts about the choices made by our ancestors, evil and good those choices may be.

As a technologist, history also matters. It’s very easy to look at a given situation, spot the poor technology choices that were made to arrive at that situation, and announce the general stupidity of your technological forebears. However, like so much of the world outside our computers, just because we can easily spot the bad decisions made by those who came before and can easily announce what should have been done under our, more enlightened and benevolent rule, making changes to the existing situation is actually quite difficult.

A more thorough understanding of exactly why those who came before us made the choices they did actually can help to make the necessary changes to improve things. Ignoring the history of how we got to where we are, why the choices were made, what lead to the decisions that arrived at our current position, can actually make it harder to improve the situation, let alone sell others on the idea that we need to improve the situation.

So, be a technological historian. Understand why the compromises were made on the technological debt you’re currently dealing with. Yes, the old decisions may have been stupid or ill-informed, but there may also have been very good reasons why those decisions were made at the time. A good understanding of why things were done will help you to better improve them. Also, for what it’s worth, documenting why you’re making the choices you make could help some future historian understand why you made, what may be in the future, a really stupid choice.

Let’s be fair, you’re just as likely to make a bad choice as those who came before you based on the knowledge and understanding you have today, that will prove to be wrong or inadequate in the future.

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