An innovation is a development that changes the behaviour of many people or even whole societies permanently. Technical advancements and inventions often enable these changes. Innovations don’t happen spontaneously. They are preceeded by a long history of technical development and experiments that don’t have a decisive impact upon society. But at one point, these improvements might change a technical system in such a way that it makes life radically cheaper, easier or more comfortable. I call this point in the development of a system the _innovation threshold_. In this article, I show several examples of innovations, how they crossed this threshold and what inventors and companies can learn from them.
Computer networks and telecommunication systems are often described by a conceptual model called layers. Every layer uses the services of the lower layers to fulfil its own services. This abstraction allows to discuss each layer separately, evolving and changing them without breaking the functionality of the upper layers. It also allows to create heterogenous networks, where each node might be connected using different physical connections. The same conceptual model can be used to describe the transportation system. It also forms a heterogenous network of many nodes all over the world. Instead of information, it transports humans and physical goods. This article introduces the use of the layering analogy to the transportation system, analyzes its structure and identifies the different roles that comprise this network.
The architecture of a computer system is defined by its components and their interactions. There are interfaces, definitions and roles. This article has a look on another system. It is more than 200 years old. It has interfaces, services and roles, just like a computer system. And it is still evolving. It is the Railway System. We will examine the parallels between both worlds. We will see which components make up Railway System has and how the interfaces between them look like. Then we have a look at the evolution of this system, from which we can take some lessons for the evolution of computer systems.