40 things I learned in 40 years about technology

Matthew Arnold Stern
6 min readDec 2, 2023
Me with my Commodore 128 in 1985

Forty years ago this month, I started my first job in the computer industry. I got an internship with EnTech, a small Commodore 64 software company in the San Fernando Valley. I’ve been working in the computer industry ever since. (A couple of my novels, Offline and Amiga. are set in that industry.) Like other milestone anniversaries, I put together a list of what I’ve learned from working in technology.

  1. Good technology is useful technology. If it’s easy to use, enables you to accomplish tasks more efficiently, and makes your life better, it doesn’t matter how cutting edge it is.
  2. Technology has destroyed entire fields of work and created new ones. We no longer need clerk typists or bookkeepers who maintain paper ledgers, which were jobs my wife and I did when we were younger. We have whole new careers like IT, data security, and web design. It has created opportunities as old professions have faded.
  3. If it weren’t for video conferencing, we wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic.
  4. Technology has democratized journalism. Think about critical news events that have taken place over the past decade. The public wouldn’t have even known about them if people didn’t have smartphones on the scene to record and broadcast instantaneously events as they happen.
  5. Technology has also increased the creation and dissemination of disinformation. Photoshopped images, deep fakes, and conspiracy theories can easily spread and be accepted as fact before anyone has a chance to refute them.
  6. No industry leader stays on top forever. Commodore, Compaq, Yahoo, MySpace, and Twitter are just a few examples of companies that dominated the market and then fell off because of their own missteps or a better technology came along.
  7. Privacy is important, but people would rather have convenience and personalization.
  8. Programming boils down to a few basic principles: input, output, variables, operations, declarations, data types, if-then-else, do-while loops, functions, subroutines, and global/local scope. When you learn these fundamentals, you can pick up any programming language.
  9. Debugging software is one of the most valuable skills I’ve learned. It requires patience…

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Matthew Arnold Stern

A novelist and award-winning public speaker and technical writer. My novels Amiga and The Remainders are available now.