Information Technology (IT): The Backbone of the Modern World

Image by freepik

IT’ commonly refers to computers and network systems within business settings, encompassing tasks such as data generation, manipulation, storage, retrieval, transmission, security, and more in electronic formats. IT (information technology) serves as an overarching term encompassing television, telecommunications, software, e-commerce, and the Internet.

Given the increasing complexity of cyber threats, IT support plays a vital role in both personal and professional contexts. The Government’s 2022 assessment of cybercrime revealed that 39% of UK businesses had detected a cyber-attack, highlighting the need for a robust IT Support system.  

IT support ensures the security of personal and business data while navigating the internet or handling emails, as well as addressing technical issues and keeping software up to date for efficient task completion. 

What is information technology?

Information technology (IT) is the use of computers, storage, networking and other physical devices, infrastructure and processes to create, process, store, secure and exchange all forms of electronic data. Typically, IT is used in the context of business operations, as opposed to the technology used for personal or entertainment purposes. The commercial use of IT encompasses both computer technology and telecommunications.

Harvard Business Review coined the term information technology in 1958 to distinguish between purpose-built machines designed to perform a limited scope of functions and general-purpose computing machines that could be programmed for various tasks. As the IT industry evolved from the mid-20th century, computing capability increased, while device cost and energy consumption decreased, a cycle that continues today when new technologies emerge.

History of IT

The history of information management dates back to ancient Mesopotamia, around 3000 BC, with the beginning of the written word. However, the term ‘IT’ only emerged in the mid-20th century, coinciding with the advent of early office technology. It was formally introduced in the 1958 Harvard Business Review by Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas C. Whisler, who remarked, “the new technology does not yet have a single established name. We shall call it Information Technology.”

The historical journey of computing technology can stretch as far back as 2400 BC with the invention of the first known calculating device. The main IT developments have been in more recent centuries.  

One of the pivotal moments in IT evolution occurred in the early 19th century when the English mechanical engineer, Charles Babbage, conceptualized the world’s first mechanical computer device. This remarkable invention, known as the ‘Difference Engine’, was initially created to aid in navigational calculations. Often hailed as the ‘Father of the Computer,’ Babbage expanded his ambitions further in 1833 with the creation of the ‘Analytical Engine,’ designed for broader applications beyond navigation. 

Funding limitations meant that Babbage passed away without witnessing the completion of his ambitious machine. However, his legacy lived on through his son, Henry, who managed to construct a simplified version of the engine in 1888. This device was successfully demonstrated to the public in 1906.

The mid-1900s witnessed the development of early computers. A compact analog electromechanical computer, that used trigonometry, was installed on a submarine to solve a problem with firing torpedoes at moving targets.

The Z2, introduced in 1939 by Engineer Konrad Zuse, marked a pivotal milestone as the world’s first electromechanical digital computer. It relied on electric switches to drove and relays to perform calculations. Devices like the Z2, despite their groundbreaking significance, operated at slow speeds and were eventually succeeded by faster, all-electric machines. An example is the fully automatic Z3, created by Zuse in 1941.

In the history of computing history, the Colossus series, developed between 1943 and 1945, holds a prominent position as the world’s first programmable electronic digital computers. These machines gained renown for their crucial role during World War II, particularly in intercepting and decrypting encrypted German communications transmitted by the Enigma machine. 

Alan Turing, an English computer scientist, mathematician, and theoretical biologist, laid the conceptual groundwork for modern computers with his seminal 1936 paper ‘On Computable Numbers,’ which introduced the concept of storing programmable instructions in a machine’s memory.

Another milestone emerged with the advent of the Manchester Mark 1; a pioneering early programmable computer created by the Victoria University of Manchester. The collaborative efforts of Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill initiated this project in August 1948, and the first operational version became available for use in 1949. However, the moniker “electronic brain” led to an intriguing debate with the Manchester University Neurosurgery department, questioning whether an electronic computer could ever truly exhibit creativity.

The commercialization of general-purpose computing began in 1951 when the electrical engineering firm Ferranti International plc unveiled the Ferranti Mark 1, also known as the Manchester Electronic Computer. The Victoria University of Manchester was the first to harness its computational ability.

The first computer used in processing commercial business applications was developed by the Lyons Tea Corporation to increase business output in 1951 – Leo I. This marked a significant stride in the integration of computing technology into the corporate landscape. 

A timeline of important IT developments

1835 – Samuel Morse invented Morse Code  

1838 – Charles Wheatstone and Samuel Morse invented the Electric Telegraph

1843 – Charles Thurber invented the Typewriter  

1877 – Emile Berliner invented the Microphone  

1888 – Radio waves first produced by Hertz  

1893 – Nikola Tesla invented wireless communication  

1895 – Guglielmo Marconi invented radio signals  

1898 – Nikola Tesla invented remote control  

1907 – Lee DeForest invented the radio amplifier  

1912 – Sharp Founded

1919 – James Smathers develops the first electric typewriter

1923 – Philo Farnsworth invented the electronic television  

1933 – Edwin H. Armstrong first patented FM radio  

1937 – The computing machine is first conceptualised by Alan Turing  

1948 – Frederic C. Williams, Tom Kilburn, and Geoff Tootill design one of the first programmable computers, the Manchester Mark 1

1951 – The first computer that allows users to input commands with a keyboard arrives, the MIT’s Whirlwind

1956 – Basil Hirschowitz, C. Wilbur Peters, and Lawrence E. Curtis invented optical fibre

1956 – IBM invented the hard disk drive  

1958 – Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce produced the first integrated chip, the Silicon Chip  

1959 – The Xerox machine becomes the first photocopier to enter the consumer market

1961 – David Paul Gregg invented the optical disk

1963 – Douglas Engelbart invented the Computer mouse  

1963 – Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider invented Cloud computing  

1967 – Andries Van Dam and Ted Nelson invented hypertext software

1971 – Ray Tomlinson invented E-mail  

1971 – James Fergason invented Liquid Crystal Display (LCD)  

1971 – David Noble invented the Floppy Disk  

1971 – The intel 4004 is invented, the first commercially available microprocessor

1972 – Magnavox Odyssey is invented and is the first video game console designed for use on TV’s

1973 – Bob Metcalfe and David Boggs invented the Ethernet  

1973 – Xerox invented the personal computer  

1976 – Hewlett-Packard invented the inkjet digital printer  

1982 – One of the earliest domain search engines, WHOIS, is released

1984 – The first laptop computer enters the commercial market

1989 – Sir Tim-Berners Lee invented the World Wide Web

1990 – Archie, the first search engine, is developed by a student at McGill University in Montreal

1992 – Complete I.T. Founded

1993 – Benny Landau invented the E-Print 1000, one of the world’s first digital colour printing press

1993 – The first successful commercial plain paper copier Xerox 914 is released

1996 – The first internet enabled mobile device, The Nokia 9000 Communicator is released in Finland  

1998 – Google established

1998 – PayPal is launched, enabling large scale payment via the internet

2000 – The first tablet computer is developed by Microsoft  

2001 – Digital Satellite Radio invented

2001 – Apple releases the iPod

2003 – Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg launch WordPress, an open-source website content management system  

2003 – LinkedIn is established

2004 – Web 2.0 emerged. People moved away from just consumers of internet to active participation

2004 – Mark Zuckerberg invented Facebook  

2005 – Floppy disk replaced by USB Flash drives  

2005 – Google Analytics established

2005 – YouTube is launched  

2006 – Twitter is launched  

2007 – Apple Inc. debuts the iPhone

2007 – Kindle released by Amazon releases the Kindle

2009 – Unknown programmers under the name of Satoshi Nakamoto develop Bitcoin  

2010 – Apple debuts the iPad

2010 – The inception of adaptable website design techniques. The beginning of responsive website design

2011 – Mass production commences for computer chips at the 22-nanometer scale

2012 – Quad-core smartphones and tablets are released

2012 – A robot successfully landed on Mars

2014 – Computer chips measuring 14 nanometres are made available

2014 – The smart watches market reaches 5 million

2014 – Amazon Alexa launched  

2015 – Apple Watch launched  

2016 – Supercomputing capabilities achieve a milestone of reaching 100 petaflops

2016 – Wireless devices surpass wired devices as the predominant means of accessing the internet

2017 – 10 nanometre chips are released

2018 – AI first publicly emerged  

2018 – The initiation of an ocean cleanup project driven by technology

2019 – Google released Quantum Supremacy, a machine running on quantum mechanics that can answer questions that would confuse even the world’s top supercomputer  

2020 – 5G was launched  

Components of IT


Hardware is the tangible part of IT – the computers, servers, routers, and other physical devices. These components form the foundation upon which software and networks operate. Advances in hardware technology have led to more powerful, efficient, and smaller devices, enabling the proliferation of IT in every aspect of life.


Software includes the operating systems, applications, and programs that run on hardware. From Microsoft Windows to mobile apps, software is what makes our devices functional and useful. Software development has evolved from simple coding to sophisticated algorithms that can perform complex tasks, from managing finances to facilitating global communication.


Networking involves the interconnection of computers and devices, allowing them to communicate and share resources. The internet, a global network of networks, is the epitome of this component. Networking technologies like Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and fiber optics have revolutionized connectivity, making information and services accessible anytime, anywhere.

Data Management

Data management is all about storing, retrieving, and managing data efficiently. With the explosion of big data, effective data management has become a cornerstone of IT. Techniques and tools for data storage, like databases and cloud services, enable businesses to handle vast amounts of information securely and efficiently.

Key Areas of IT

Information Systems

Information systems integrate hardware, software, and data to support business operations and decision-making. These systems streamline processes and enhance productivity by providing accurate, timely information to users, facilitating better strategic planning and operational efficiency.


With the increasing reliance on digital systems, cybersecurity has become paramount. It involves protecting systems, networks, and data from cyber threats and attacks. Cybersecurity measures, such as firewalls, encryption, and intrusion detection systems, are critical in safeguarding sensitive information against unauthorized access and cybercrime.

Cloud Computing

Cloud computing allows businesses and individuals to store and access data and applications over the internet instead of on local hardware. This has revolutionized how we store, manage, and process information. Services like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud provide scalable resources, reducing the need for physical infrastructure and enabling remote work and collaboration.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

AI and machine learning are at the forefront of technological innovation. These technologies enable systems to learn from data, making decisions and predictions without human intervention. Applications range from voice-activated assistants like Siri and Alexa to complex data analytics and autonomous vehicles, transforming industries and everyday life.

Importance of IT in Business

Enhancing Productivity

IT tools and systems automate repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on more strategic activities. This boosts overall productivity and efficiency, enabling businesses to achieve more with fewer resources. Automation tools, like robotic process automation (RPA) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, streamline operations and reduce errors.

Improving Communication

Email, instant messaging, video conferencing – IT has transformed how businesses communicate, both internally and externally. This has made global collaboration easier than ever. Tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Zoom have become essential, supporting real-time communication and teamwork across distances.

Data Management and Analysis

Businesses generate vast amounts of data. IT systems help manage and analyze this data, providing valuable insights that drive decision-making and strategy. Business intelligence (BI) tools and data analytics platforms allow companies to uncover trends, measure performance, and make informed decisions.

Customer Relationship Management

CRM systems help businesses manage interactions with current and potential customers, improving relationships and customer satisfaction. Solutions like Salesforce and HubSpot enable companies to track customer interactions, personalize communications, and enhance sales and marketing efforts.

IT in Daily Life

Smart Devices and Homes

From smartphones to smart refrigerators, IT has infiltrated our daily lives. Smart home devices connect to the internet, offering convenience and efficiency. Technologies like home automation systems, smart speakers, and IoT devices provide enhanced control over home environments, making daily tasks easier and more efficient.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT refers to the network of physical objects embedded with sensors and software, enabling them to collect and exchange data. This technology is revolutionizing industries and daily life. Smart cities, wearable health devices, and connected vehicles are just a few examples of how IoT is transforming the way we live and interact with our environment.

Online Services and Applications

Streaming services, online banking, e-commerce – these are all powered by IT. They provide convenience and accessibility like never before. Platforms like Netflix, PayPal, and Amazon have become integral to modern living, offering services that can be accessed anytime, anywhere.

Emerging Trends in IT

5G Technology

5G promises faster internet speeds and more reliable connections, paving the way for new applications and innovations. Enhanced connectivity will support more sophisticated IoT devices, augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and other advanced technologies.


Originally developed for cryptocurrencies, blockchain technology offers secure and transparent ways to record transactions and manage data. Its applications extend beyond finance to areas like supply chain management, healthcare, and voting systems, providing a secure and tamper-proof method of recording information.

Quantum Computing

Quantum computers use quantum bits or qubits, allowing them to process information at unprecedented speeds. This could revolutionize fields like cryptography and complex modeling. Quantum computing holds the potential to solve problems that are currently intractable for classical computers, leading to breakthroughs in science and industry.

Edge Computing

Edge computing brings data processing closer to the data source, reducing latency and bandwidth use. This is crucial for applications like autonomous vehicles and real-time analytics. By processing data locally rather than in a centralized cloud, edge computing enhances speed and efficiency, enabling faster decision-making.

Careers in IT

Software Developer

Software developers design and create software applications, ranging from mobile apps to enterprise systems. They are responsible for writing code, testing applications, and ensuring software functionality and performance.

Network Administrator

Network administrators manage and maintain computer networks, ensuring smooth and secure communication between devices. They handle tasks like network configuration, troubleshooting, and monitoring to keep networks operational and secure.

IT Support Specialist

IT support specialists provide technical support and troubleshooting for computer systems and networks. They assist users with hardware and software issues, ensuring that IT systems run smoothly and efficiently.

Data Scientist

Data scientists analyze complex data sets to uncover trends and insights, helping businesses make data-driven decisions. They use statistical methods, machine learning, and data visualization techniques to interpret data and provide actionable insights.

Educational Pathways for IT

Degrees and Certifications

Degrees in computer science, information systems, and related fields provide a solid foundation. Certifications like CompTIA, Cisco, and AWS are also valuable. These credentials validate expertise and knowledge in specific areas of IT, enhancing career prospects.

Online Courses and Resources

Platforms like Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy offer a wealth of online courses in IT, allowing for flexible learning. These resources make it possible to gain new skills and knowledge at one’s own pace, often for a fraction of the cost of traditional education.

Importance of Continuous Learning

The IT field is constantly evolving. Continuous learning is essential to stay updated with the latest technologies and trends. Engaging in professional development, attending conferences, and participating in online forums help IT professionals keep their skills current and relevant.

Challenges in IT

Cyber Threats

Cyber threats are a significant challenge, with hackers constantly devising new ways to breach systems. Organizations must invest in robust security measures and educate employees about safe practices to mitigate risks.

Keeping Up with Rapid Technological Changes

Technology evolves rapidly, making it challenging for IT professionals to stay current with the latest advancements. Continuous learning and adaptability are crucial for maintaining expertise and relevance in the field.

Data Privacy and Protection

With increasing data breaches, protecting personal and business data has become a critical concern. Regulations like GDPR and CCPA have been enacted to enforce data privacy, but organizations must also implement strong security practices to protect sensitive information.

Future of IT

Predicted Advancements

We can expect advancements in AI, quantum computing, and other cutting-edge technologies to continue transforming IT. These innovations will drive new applications and capabilities, reshaping industries and society.

Potential Societal Impacts

The future of IT will likely bring significant changes to how we live and work, offering new opportunities and challenges. Automation, AI, and other technologies could lead to increased efficiency and new job roles, but also raise concerns about job displacement and ethical considerations.

Ethical Considerations

As IT evolves, ethical considerations around data privacy, AI decision-making, and other issues will become increasingly important. Addressing these concerns will be critical to ensuring that technological advancements benefit society as a whole.


Information Technology is an integral part of our lives, driving innovation and efficiency across various sectors. Its history is rich, its components diverse, and its future full of potential. As we navigate the digital age, understanding and embracing IT will be crucial for personal and professional growth. The journey of IT, from its humble beginnings to its current state, highlights its transformative power and the endless possibilities it holds for the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *