The term “information technology” was coined in 1958, when authors Harold J. Leavitt and Thomas L. Whisler commented on an article published in the Harvard Business Review stating that a new technology had emerged that did not have an established name. They decided to call it Information Technology, or IT for short, to differentiate computing machines that could perform a variety of tasks from purpose-built machines that were more limited in their scope.
Leavitt and Whisler outlined three categories that they believed made up the field of IT:
- Techniques for processing
- The application of statistical and mathematical methods for decision-making
- The simulation of higher-order thinking through computer programs
While the term was first used in its modern sense in 1958, history tells us that there have been four distinct phases of IT development to date:
- Pre-Mechanical (3000 BC to 1450 AD) – Writing utensils and paper/tablets
- Mechanical (1450 to 1840) – Manual calculators known as abacuses or sliding rulers
- Electromechanical (1840 to 1940) – Early telecommunication technology such as the telegraph, the first telephones, radios and the first digital computer
- Electronic (1940 to present) – High-speed digital computers, commercial computers and today’s modern communications technology
While today’s world of information technology is as complex as it is diverse, it is a field as old as human history and one that carries increasing importance as we move toward a more digitized culture.