Information technology has significantly advanced the way businesses do business and the way people do their jobs all over the world. Data, information and research are available at the speed of light, and workers everywhere have access to it. Be it on the Internet, on a company intranet or on a mobile phone or some other type of electronic device, the technology is farther along now from than ever before, with new advances progressing daily.
Before Information Technology
Before current technology came to the forefront, we had about seven basic modes of communication: telephone, telegraph wire, television, radio, mail, fax machines, eventually the pager (or beeper) and the grapevine—over the fence. Many of those technologies were barely old enough to be fully retired when telephonic mobility, the Internet and intranets came into play. Radio signals and wires, plus telephonic cabling, gave us the ability to transport and transfer tons of information faster than the Pony Express, the wiretaps or even physical travel could take it; now those tons of information have been broken into bytes of information that move even faster.
The Information Age
The advent of the mobility, people being attached to their information sources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is still a relatively recent occurrence. With the progress that is being made, there is no telling what is in store in the future, but we are already more than several light years away from where we were just 20 years ago. On the job, workers are able to access the information they need within 2 seconds instead of 2 to 7 days. These technologies have all but obliterated the need for post offices or even the expense of overnight mail due to highly sensitive documents that can be encrypted (electronically scrambled) and digitally signed. Also, due to increased security measures, it is virtually impossible for outsiders to access sensitive or private company information. Hacking and computer viruses seem to be on a huge downward spiral.
At-Work Technologies: Software
From agriculture to zoos, thousands of different types of technology are at work and in place to help workers get their jobs done faster and easier and without having to haul down heavy boxes for what used to amount to hours of visual inspection looking for documents or files. Software technologies have also made it possible for people to work from home or to work remotely just about anywhere and also to do their work in a much more efficient and independent manner. For instance, in the garment industry, preproduction (or CAD, computer-assisted design) software packages are used to make digitized dress and clothing patterns. The patterns are then marked up with computerized fabrics that cut the time and wasted materials for physical sampling by about 30 percent.
At-Work Technologies: Hardware and Peripherals
In all environments, no matter what the industry, software technology would be nothing without the tools that make it all possible. These tools include computers and monitors, printers, scanners, digital cameras, web cameras, video cams, handhelds (personal digital assistants or PDAs), printers, digitized faxes, mobile phones and hard line phones, copy machines, duplicators, intrusion alarms and monitoring equipment and microphones.
Specifics on Available Technologies
Information technology on the job is available for many different types of uses and applications, web based or off line. Some of these technologies include e-Commerce (the ability to shop, keep inventory, keep track of returns and deal with customer service issues); e-Learning (the ability to go to school and earn a certificate or degree without having to leave home); day trading (the ability to self-purchase stock and stock options without having to physically call a broker); voice-over-Internet protocol (VoIP--the ability to plan meetings and see, talk, hear and speak with people thousands of miles away and all over the world by using inexpensive hardware and software); and also by the use of wireless communications such as cell phones and PDAs.