back to article If you're looking for a textbook example of an IT hype cycle, let spin be your guide

The four horsemen of disaster in IT decision-making are fear, uncertainty, doubt – and hype. FUD famously first pranced forth when IBM ran the world and its salespeople ladled them out over any upstart which had a chance of taking market share. But hype – ah, hype. The salesman-on-uppers to FUD's downer street preacher, it wants …

  1. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    working in a good basic commercial research organisation

    introduced me to the joys of mresistors, atomic resolution storage and MEMS amongst other things - 15+ years on only the latter is something we deploy - but hey, where there is hope there frequently funding and new toy opportunities.

  2. Cronus

    I get the impression that the hype is somewhat needed to get the basic research needed funded. Sure it's never going to deliver on the scale or time-frame that's being claimed but it seems without the hype it may never get delivered at all.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      That is the problem with technology and our society.

      Our society is built of maximum profits in the next quarter, before the pyramid collapses.

      Technology, especially new technology, needs time. You need to set the expectations going in, "we need 10 years/20 years/50 years to mature this technology."

      The problem is, the people living precariously in the first reject the second out of hand. Just look at Magic Leap, they are still in development, but need to push out "something" now, in order to continue funding. The "sensible" thing would be to say that there won't be any products for the next 5 / 10 years, until the development is finished. Then you get something wonderful. But modern-day capitalism insists that something has to be released now(!) and that will be disappointing.

      Some companies will take the longer term view (5 years, 10 years), although I don't know of any company with long term views on their development (50 years+). and they have the luxury of being able to develop the new. But most companies are forced into the deliver now, even if it doesn't work or stop what you are doing and do something that does work.

      1. batfink Silver badge

        Unless, of course, your society isn't run on good capitalist principles.

        1. HildyJ Silver badge

          The problem is funding

          Capitalism and socialism are scare words with little meaning in developed countries which are all a combination of both. Armies used to be capitalist, privately owned and paid for. Governments eventually instituted socialist policies to make them national forces.

          Basic science needs funds. A lot of funds. Consistent funds. Unfortunately in the current political environment basic research funds are declining and subject to political whims (which is where hype comes in). We need a good dose of government socialism to increase the funds and guarantee them over many years,

          1. batfink Silver badge

            Re: The problem is funding

            Agreed Hildy

            I was just trying to say that BigD's point about short-termism (which I agree with) is less acute in those societies which are able to either mandate some longer-term thinking, or where must-have-it-right-now capitalism is less pronounced.

            I'm not trying to infer superiority of one system over another. I'm basically with the (alleged) Swedish politician who commented that socialism is the best policy, providing you have plenty of capitalists to pay for it.

      2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

        Then you get something wonderful

        I wouldn't expect "something wonderful" out of Magic Leap if they were given a century to work on it. I suppose our definitions of "wonderful", or even "containing a significant amount of wonder", are different.

    2. Schultz Silver badge

      "the hype is somewhat needed to get the basic research [...] funded"

      Hype is quite poisonous for science ... but excellent for scientific careers: Hype attracts serious money and that's what will propel a scientific career and, collectively, the careers of everyone in the field. As long as we have smart scientists and less-smart politicians funding them, the hype-driven science will prevail. But it surely won't maximize the scientific output. What do you expect from the 1001st scientist working on the same hyped question? Do you think the extra million (sometimes billion) will warp space-time to create some revolutionary break-through? It's the small (= badly funded) research teams that create disruptive break-through science: They work on something nobody sees coming.

      The problem with hype-based science is that it eats all the funds and other fields run dry. Politicians (and their audience of voters) want to irrigate selectively to maximize the harvest from the scientific endeavor -- hence they are so attracted by hype. But, arguably, science has already finished if you can predict how something will work and it's only engineering to iterate through all the errors until you have a working product. So scientists are caught between publicly funded engineering jobs (predictable and productive, but the industry will take it from here, thank you very much), hyped BS projects (unpredictable, but funded), and the poorhouse.

      I would argue that publicly funded science should remain a wild garden with resources being spread around. The strong ideas will grow, eventually. Some grow faster and some grow slower but you won't know what comes out of the seed unless you irrigate it. Politicians pretend that tax money can buy you the 4th industrial revolution (and the impossible battery, and the magic CO2 removal, ...). But it can't. So next time you read a big announcement about funding the Next Big Idea, cry a tear for all those interesting projects that got terminated to make room.

  3. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge


    Having spent the last 40 years oscillating between academic research and industrial product development, my only complaint about spintronics and similar stuff isn't it sucking up resources or any of that, but that when these things get hyped, they often are really old phenomenon repackaged. Spintronics, when the name got coined, was just repackaged work on half metallic ferromagnetic materials as they were called at the time. Optical metamaterials are just rescaled RF antenna theory (Maxwell's Equations are scale invariant, after all)...Yes, I have worked in both fields.

    We all build on those who went before us.

    1. Paul Kinsler

      Re: Optical metamaterials are just rescaled RF antenna theory

      Superficially you may have a point; but no-one in RF antenna theory ever bothered to use such ideas to implement specific concepts and applications as the metamaterials research community has.

      Dolin, in 1961, proposed a scheme to implement a radial invisibility cloak; but somehow all the RF antenna theorists in the world never proposed a scheme to implement it. Veselago, in 1968, noted some weird properties for materials with simultaneous negative permittivity and permeability, but somehow the RF antenna community failed to explore the implications. And looking at the scale of the early split-ring resonator metamaterial elements from the 2000's, it is more than plausible that they could have, had they wanted to.

      Instead, it took John Pendry and co-workers' rediscovery to get the ball rolling and actually start trying to get interesting things done, and devices (from the exotic to the less so) implemented using what we now call "metamaterial" ideas.

      You might also, for example, note that all the "entanglement" language that quantum theory guys use is just a new badge pasted over the old "superposition" label. But the change of name came along with a mindset change where the effect was now considered an exploitable resource, rather than a passive property. That change in mindset, which is on the face of it even more ephemeral than the case for RF-to-metamaterials, is an absolutely key feature of modern thought in quantum mechanics.

      Sometimes it's not the building on past work that counts, it's the complete reimagining of the potential for use that does. And sometimes it is the reimagining that counts, not the past work that is (now) easily replicated.

      1. W.S.Gosset Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: Optical metamaterials are just rescaled RF antenna theory

        I agree with both of you, but Paul you take a quantum step upwards in scope and perspicacity with your final point re mindset change & reimagining of potential for use. An excellent observation, an outstanding one.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    2012 is the corpus of words

    1) You're using a corpus of words for that Ngram of "English 2012" so of course the words dies out in 2012, they don't have data after 2012 after that date.

    Try "chocolate" and you'll similarly see the decay down to 2012.

    2) Spintronics circa 2000 is a play on "graphene as magic material". It's death mirrors the failure of graphene to light up the world.

    2a) The original spintronics, NMR machines, etc. is actually useful.

    3) Quantum is the toxic word there. It's the point at which physics stops describing the observed systems and starts describing the equation of that system instead. e.g. "the photon probability function goes through both slits but the photon only goes through one slit".... or terms in a equation as new dimensions because they violate causal relationships of actual space and time in the real dimensions.

    1. mj.jam

      Re: 2012 is the corpus of words

      Worse than that, they don't seem to have data for a few years before 2012 either.

      The real problem here is that this is coupled with smoothing over 3 years. Everything shows the decay at the end.

      With smoothing turned off there is the raw data at least.

      Still shows is dropping down, but not as dramatically.

    2. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

      Re: 2012 is the corpus of words

      >Try "chocolate" and you'll similarly see the decay down to 2012.

      Or try "google". (I did worry it might break the internet - but it seems okay.) Apparently Google peaked in 2005 and dropped off so that by 2012 we weren't talking about then at all. I wonder who they got bought out by?

  5. pwibble


    ...except that the Google archive in question stops all data at that cutoff point. Try searching on Microsoft for example. This is also detailed in the Wikipedia entry for Google Ngram.

    Not saying there wasn’t Spontronics hype during that period. But don’t believe the hype about he hype here.

    1. MiguelC Silver badge

      Re: Erm.....

      Exactly. I found the results a bit odd so retried it searching for "qubit" and the curve was very similar, even too similar.

    2. TheRealRon

      Re: Erm.....

      Yes, I think someone has misunderstood what that tool and graph is showing, back to the drawing board for this article I suspect. ElReg is normally spot on, but in this case, Houston, I think we have a problem...

      Search for "Vulture" in the same dataset: graph falls to zero over exactly the same period

      Search for "Register" in the same dataset: graph falls to zero over exactly the same period

      Search for "Google" in the same dataset: guess what ...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Try the same Ngram trick with graphene

    Results as expected!

  7. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "good old-fashioned CMOS"

    Stop it! I remember CMOS being the latest thing. It was all going to be ECL until then. Now you're reminding me I'm in the coronovirus cross-hairs age group.

  8. Daniel von Asmuth

    Good story

    You just need to add a little more spin to make it a hype.

  9. mmonroe

    Base 3

    When I was started my computer science degree in 1976, we were assured binary was on the way out and ternary computers would take over by 1990. I've got two more years until I hang up my coding forms and flowchart stencil, and still no sign of them. Nearly everything is hype. There was a CDC Cyber 173 when I was at uni, which occupied an entire room. We used to joke that one day computers would be small enough to fit in your pocket, and you might accidently step on it as it was so small. Indeed this happened, not that I have one.

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