When old is as good as new

Having the best technologies isn’t a guaranteed path to success. I’ve found that it’s the most appropriate technologies for the task at hand that make the biggest difference.

In 1961 Scotland, Professor Ian A. Richmond of Oxford University happened on a trove that no Briton was meant to discover. It had been hidden by, arguably, the most powerful and technologically innovative empire the world has ever seen. Forced into retreat by the Celts, a Roman legion had hidden this incalculably valuable technology. They’d gone to great lengths, picking it out of the remains of their destroyed fort, and burying it deep underground, where no one could ever find it. That is, until one archaeology professor, searching for knowledge, uncovered a weapon so powerful it might have changed the face of the Earth.

This invaluable trove was a bag of nails, but what set them apart was the fact that they were made from steel, which was — at the time — a near mythical alloy with almost magical qualities:

Scandinavian smiths discovered that the bones of the dead could grant them an edge.

Incorporating bones into the smithing process did in fact make Scandinavian swords stronger, but it wasn’t magic — it was technology. What ancient smiths could not have realized is that they were in fact mixing their bog iron with carbon to make a rudimentary form of steel.

Still, though, some do obsess on the newest thing — ChatGPT from OpenAI is one obvious example, but let’s not forget the metaverse, blockchain, Web3, and last but not least cryptocurrencies (cue the collective audible sigh of exasperation) — convinced that it’ll somehow give them an edge, like the steel swords of old. Problem is, when that new thing becomes that one big thing, from a distance, what I see is someone running around with a hammer hoping everything they find is going to be a nail.

What if those ancient Celts had found that bag of nails? Chances are, they wouldn’t have had a clue what they were made from or how to replicate them if they did.

I could replicate everything I do written in some variant of C or Python, which is having its moment at the moment, but that would involve an enormous amount of learning, and we could argue that it wouldn’t be the most effective use of such powerful programming languages.

Laboured analogies aside, the point I’m making here is that we, the software developers, database experts, and network specialists, DevOps engineers, and the countless technorati I’ve neglected to think of his Saturday morning, should focus instead on what is the best fit, not for the client (goodness no, not the client), but the task at hand.

I’m Wayne from Octane, and the most important thing I do is make people more effective at what they do. I build cloud applications for SMEs.

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