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"Back To The Future": IT Systems That Have Traveled Through Time

Logo for ESP IT, the best IT staffing firm in Minnesota.
Logo for ESP IT, the best IT staffing firm in Minnesota.

In 1989, the second installment of the popular “Back to the Future” movie franchise sent Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) into the future – where he arrived on October 21, 2015. In honor of the film series, we’d like to celebrate five IT systems that have traversed time and remain essential to the industry.


In the first film of the franchise (from 1985), Marty McFly travels back to 1955 to change his parents’ future. That same year, engineers were busy developing a computer model that would change the future of IT. By the late 1950s, developments in hardware and software led manufacturing companies toward building bigger models. Though IT thinkers predicted that such “big iron” mainframe technologies would be retired by 1996, the unforeseen February 2008 release of the z10 by IBM gave this technology an avenue that has kept mainframe use relevant to a wide range of users and networks.


In 1969, Bell Labs (which later became AT&T) took the advice of Marty McFly’s nemesis, Biff: “making like a tree” and getting out of their failing development plans for an operating system, turning instead toward development for a new file system, which was soon to be known as “C.” Improving and building on the “B” language that had been popular from 1969-1970, C had a universal knowledge of data-types and utilized structures. C has since inspired later languages, such as C++, but knowledge of the original is still imperative for IT Pros, as in some cases, C is still the better option.


Long before we heard Dr. Emmett Brown utter the phrase “Great Scott,” the founding fathers of the Oracle Database began their work. Conceived in 1977, it would be the Oracle release of 1985 which would introduce the first version of the PL/SQL language, launching this software into the future. Since then, Oracle has maintained its edge – becoming the first database to support Java, HTML, and OLTP in 1997, and achieving major recognition with its latest release in 2012 (Oracle 12c) that incorporated use of the cloud.

SQL Server

In 1988, Microsoft, Sybase, and Ashton-Tate collaborated to produce the first version of SQL. After this initial release, Microsoft continued to develop the server for NT, and released several improved and rewritten versions over the next ten years. The Microsoft SQL Server 2000 release at the start of the new millennium marked (arguably) the most significant release of the server, but SQL has continued its pattern of releasing and enhancing every year since.


Though at first Java wasn’t what Marty McFly would classify as “heavy,” the language developed from its muted beginnings in 1991 into a massive, public, popular platform by 1995, and was named one of Time Magazine’s Ten Best Products of 1995. Since its initial release, the language has improved upon its use of C and C++ syntax, to create a much faster technology. Today, the language continues to be ranked as one of the most popular programming languages of all time.