Documenting India’s Information Technology Heritage

Against All Adversity: India’s IT Story. Chris Gopalakrishnan, N Dayasindu, Krishnan Narayanan. penguin business. 2022. page 322. 799 rupees.

Six years ago, Infosys co-founder ‘Kris’ Gopalakrishnan led a non-profit organization called “Itihaasa” to research and document advances in technology and business sectors in India.

Its core project was to document the oral history of information technology (IT) in India through the words of pioneers and leading practitioners.

The archive has grown to over 600 videos and interviews, approximately 40 hours of video recordings, and hundreds of images and articles.

Together with Gopalakrishnan, the project was led by two former Infosys experts: N Dayasindhu, CEO of Itihaasa Research and Digital, and Krishnan Narayanan, President of Itihaasa.

The three have now edited many recordings of Itihaasa together and added bridging material to create a useful and somewhat unusual history of IT’s growth and development in India over 60 years.

In a helpful introduction, Gurcharan Das, former CEO of Procter and Gamble (India), later reinvents himself as a business chronology, presenting major milestones on India’s information technology roadmap (Information Technology stands for Information Technology).

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He went to the Indian Statistical Institute in 1955 to process the data used by Professor PC Mahalanobis at the Indian Statistical Institute to form India’s Second Five-Year Plan, the first British computer in the UK. I start by landing my HEC-2M. .

These computers cost 2 million rupees, and they all had 1 kilobyte (1024 bytes) of memory.

Das points to the irony that the Mahalanobis (and the Nehruvian government at the time) belonged to the classic school of socialism, rooted in public sector enterprises and the controlled private sector, and was rarely used to proliferate computing devices outside of government. .

This delayed technological advances for nearly a decade, until the pioneers of both institutions changed the situation.

– Prof. PVS Rao and Prof. R Narasimhan of Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai, with the encouragement of Dr. Homi Bhabha, built the first Indian computer called TIFRAC around 1962. A cathode ray tube as a visual display.

– A year later, in 1963, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Kanpur, acquired the IBM 1620, an imported mainframe computer. Teachers such as HN Mahabala (died 27 June this year, aged 87) and V Rajaraman have taken advantage of it. He created the machine and organized India’s first hardware and programming course around it, giving birth to the first generation of Indian computer engineers.

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so-called permit sovereignty It continued to curb all IT-driven development in the country while imposing more than 140% tariffs on imported computers. In 1978 there were only 1000 computers in all of India.

However, individual entrepreneurs overcame systemic hurdles and created companies such as HCL (formerly Hindustan Computers Limited) and Tata Consultancy Services (TCS).

Led by the charismatic general manager, the late FC Kohli, TCS has shifted its role from simple consulting to active computerization.

Rajiv Gandhi and his then-taunted “computer cowboys” have appeared on the political scene to unshackle Indian industry, a movement led by bureaucrats such as N Seshagiri and N Vittal.

In the 1980s, the early Indian software industry self-organized, and its poster boy, the gorgeous Dewang Mehta, led the National Association of Software and Service Companies (NASSCOM) in the year it was founded.

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In 1991, with the Manmohan Singh budget, India’s Software Technology Park (STPI) was established until finally the era of liberalization.

Empowered to redesign a dying telecommunication infrastructure, Sam Pitroda leads the Telematics Development Center (C-DOT) and helps create indigenous telephone exchanges suitable for rural hinterland, ushering in the “STD Booth” era. National local telephone line.

In retrospect, it is just as important a turning point as Aadhaar, a universal identification system skillfully led by Nandan Nilekani, turned into a decade later.

Before that, India was suddenly called the back office of the world thanks to “Y2K” or the windfall of updating everyone’s business software in 2000.

In recent years, the Covid-19 challenge has been overcome to create an opportunity for many graduating Co-WIN apps with 176 million users to create an opportunity for a truly national software platform called Arogya Setu.


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