The Observation Deck

Boom/bust cycles

December 5, 2007

Growing up, I was sensitive to the boom/bust cycles endemic in particular industries: my grandfather was a petroleum engineer, and he saw the largest project of his career cancelled during the oil bust in the mid-1980s.[1] And growing up in Colorado, I saw not only the destruction wrought by the oil bust (1987 was very bleak in Denver), but also the long boom/bust history in the mining industries — unavoidable in towns like Leadville. (Indeed, it was only after going to the East Coast for university that I came to appreciate that school children in the rest of the country don’t learn about the Silver Panic of 1893 in such graphic detail.)

So when, in the early 1990s, I realized that my life’s calling was in software, I felt a sense of relief: here was an industry that was at last not shackled to the fickle Earth — an industry that was surely “bust-proof” at some level. Ha! As I learned (painfully, like most everyone else) in the Dot-Com boom and subsequent bust, booms and busts are — if anything — even more endemic in our industry. Companies grow from nothing to spectacular heights in virtually no time at all — and can crash back into nothingness just as quickly.

I bring up all of this, because if you haven’t seen it, this video is absolutely brilliant, capturing these endemic cycles perfectly (and hilariously), and imparting a surprising amount of wisdom besides.

I’ll still take our boom and bust cycles over those in other industries: there are, after all, still not quite yet software “ghost towns” — however close the old Excite@Home building on the 101 was getting before it was finally leased!


[1]
If anyone is looking for an unspeakably large quantity of technical documentation on the (cancelled) ARAMCO al-Qasim refinery project, I have it waiting for your perusal!

2 Responses

  1. Whoa… not to many people know about "Saudi" ARAMCO refinery as I worked just a few gates outside of the plant… small world… by the way..loved the video!

  2. Because ARAMCO featured so prominently in my mother’s life (she grew up in Ras Tanura and went to ARAMCO schools) — and because ARAMCO and my grandfather were inextricably intertwined — I have always been interested in it, if only for the selfish reason of better understanding my own history…

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