My school (the University of Illinois at Chicago) didn't have petroleum engineering either when I was there. But as long as I can remember, it's been around at other schools, particularly at schools in Texas, such as Rice University, I believe.
Given the high starting rates for engineers, it's surprising we're not graduating more in this profession. I've seen stats that indicate Mexico is now graduating as many engineers as the U.S., and China is graduating ten times as many each year.
You're right, Rich, that the cell phone has really changed things, but I would even go further and say the iPhone really made a massive impact, leading to the development of new smartphones and changing the way we do things. It was the first phone to really put the Internet at people's fingertips and also has caused people to start using the iPhone camera instead of other digital point-and-shoots, and also carry their music on their phone instead of a separate device. Speaking of music, the iPod really changed the game for music, and even led to the near-demise of the record industry and record stores by making music digital. While these inventions didn't have the massive effect of the Internet, they still were pretty important and continue to have an effect today.
Nice post, Rich. It's hard to believe the Internet has only been around for 20 years. It seems like forever. I can't think of any technology that has distrupted more industries than the Internet in the last 100 years.
As for the Al Gore reference. He did make an important move early on. As a senator, he co-sponsored the bill that took the military's online system and made kit available to the public, thus "creating" the Internet that first appeared 20 years ago.
Even before the Internet, there was a healthy, budding online world that was used primarily by special librarians. I used tlo cover it in publications such as Online Review and Information Today in the mid-1980s. Even back then, the move to online storage of data had publishers worried.
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