With the aggressive pace of technological change and the onslaught of news regarding data breaches, cyber-attacks, and technological threats to privacy and security, it is easy to assume these are fundamentally new threats. The pace of technological change is slower than it feels, and many seemingly new categories of threats have been with us longer than we remember. Nervous System is a monthly series that approaches issues of data privacy and cyber security from the context of history—to look to the past for clues about how to interpret the present and prepare for the future.
In the aftermath of the Second World War, the makers of computer systems had to pivot from selling them to the government as a critical component of wartime national defense to selling them commercially to business owners to help advance profits. It may come as a surprise that the first business to purchase and install computers for civilian use was a bakery. J. Lyons & Co., however, was keen to install the “Lyons Electronic Office” to take advantage of the new information age.