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The working dead: IT jobs bound for extinction

Rapid shifts in technologies—and evolving business needs—make career reinvention a matter of survival in the IT industry.

Remember CD-ROMs?

Rob Terry does. For a few years in the mid-1990s, he helped develop interactive discs for several companies, including InfoWorld's sister publication PC World. Terry's job was to create electronic versions of the magazine that connected with this new thing everyone was talking about called the internet.

It didn't last long.

"CD-ROMs were promised as this magical optical drive that would solve all our storage problems," he says. "Back then, authoring expensive glass masters was a mysterious black art. For web/hybrid CDs we had to tag all the hyperlinks by hand inside Word, then ship the documents off to a company in Seattle that would parse them to display inside a browser."

Then the web took off as the publishing medium of choice, instantly turning interactive discs into shiny plastic coasters. Terry moved from electronic publishing to e-commerce, then bio-informatics, designing user interfaces for a wide range of clients. Now he's CTO and founder of Smart Catch, which helps commercial fisheries intelligently manage the fish that end up in their trawl nets.

The IT industry has seen many such waves where the "next big thing" turned out to be smaller and shorter-lived than anyone expected, thanks to rapid shifts in technology. Back then, the internet was the big game changer. Today, automation, artificial intelligence, and _____ as a service are causing some jobs to disappear and others to radically change form.

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