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. 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!
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!