I remember feeling relief and slight euphoria at getting the ISDN line working in my home office.
After living through the days of dial-up Internet/office connections, I felt I had stepped into the world of cutting-edge comms technology and could finally do anything I needed at a blazing 128 thousand-bit-per-second (kbps).
Sadly, the euphoria did not last.
The fact that it took over six visits from the local telco engineers to wade through byzantine settings on the modem and my PC just to get the service up and running should have been a clue that we were only entering the gate of ISDN hell.
I became great friends with the online tech support staff at BellSouth and learned how most field engineers liked their coffee as they made visit after visit to my house to try and deliver on the promise of a high-speed working line and the journey through the next eight circles of hell. (If Dante had suffered this, I feel it would have definitely influenced his work on Inferno)
If the techy term ISDN means nothing to you, I’ll let you look it up online. But the joke in the industry quickly became that it stood for “I Still Don’t Know” how it works, why it was birthed, and how we can ever make money on it.
ISDN did not survive.
Perhaps because it was surpassed by even better tech, but powers that be likely said enough to all the consumer complaints and costs of providing a reliable service.
It was Dr. Arno Penzias, Noble Prize-Winning Scientist, Chief Engineer at Bell Labs, and one of my board members who uttered the words “Dial Tone is from God” in a board meeting I was in.
I laughed, but it drove home the point.
Technology is great, but it just must work – simply and reliably.
My journey over the years has been punctuated with being on the bleeding edge more than once, which usually means leading edge with many outages and pain.
And through this, I’ve learned that technology deployed purely because it is “cool new tech” is doomed to be yet another ISDN – full of promise, but failing to deliver.
Great technology solutions focus on the whole solution – not just cool new tech. And when the whole is fulfilled, with a focus on the customer experience and customer journey from purchase to installation to use, as well as ensuring uptime and reliability, great companies are formed and grown.