While technological change is an ongoing process, there are periods during which technological progress is especially rapid, resulting in new products and falling prices of existing products that have widespread uses in the rest of the economy. Such periods are generally identified with all-purpose technological revolutions. Earlier examples include textiles production and steam power in the industrial revolution, railroads in the nineteenth century, and electricity in the early twentieth century (the automobile could also be included, but its development was relatively gradual). The effects of such revolutions have generally occurred in three (often overlapping) main stages. First, technological change raises productivity growth in the innovating sector; second, falling prices encourage capital deepening; and, finally, there can be significant reorganization of production around the capital goods that embody the new technology.
The growth of the information technology sector (IT) in the 1980s was an important development for the economy, but it spurred relatively little policy or media interest. True, IT was recognized as a driver of comparative advantage for the US and there were a few initiatives involving industrial policy and military preparedness, IT was of interest primarily to specialists. In the 1990's, however, things changed dramatically when the Internet became a topic of intense public discussion. Suddenly computers were not only a way to manipulate information, but also a way to communicate information. This led to a dramatic rise in the public and political awareness of the importance of information policy issues such as intellectual property, privacy, and security.
A unique confluence of forces certainly came together in the 1990s: rapid technological advances in the information technology sector; widespread recognition that computers could be used to communicate information as well as process it; the rapid spread of a simple, inexpensive, and powerful wide-area computer network based on non-proprietary standards; and financial institutions ready to fund investment in advanced technology. These forces led to very rapid growth of the Internet. As firms and consumers flocked to the Internet in large numbers, it became evident that information policy issues, including importantly intellectual property, security, and privacy, required serious attention.
From 1993 to 2000 the number of workers in IT industries in the U.S. increased by close to 50 percent, almost two and a half times as fast as employment in non-IT producing industries. By 2000 there were some 5.4 million IT workers in the U.S., representing 4.9 percent of private sector employment.
Number of Technology Firms Created
The major companies that commenced operations during the boom period are listed
The United States has the oldest and most developed venture capital industry in the OECD. Several successful high-technology companies in computers and communications, as well as in health-related sectors and services, were venture backed. Young high-growth firms also benefit from a continuum of complementary finance from business angels,