In the 1960s and 1970s, the term information technology (IT) was a little known phrase that was used by those who worked in places like banks and hospitals to describe the processes they used to store information. With the paradigm shift to computing technology and "paperless" workplaces, information technology has come to be a household phrase. It defines an industry that uses computers, networking, software programming, and other equipment and processes to store, process, retrieve, transmit, and protect information.
In the early days of computer development, there was no such thing as a college degree in IT. Software development and computer programming were best left to the computer scientists and mathematical engineers, due to their complicated nature. As time passed and technology advanced, such as with the advent of the personal computer in the 1980s and its everyday use in the home and the workplace, the world moved into the information age.
By the early 21st century, nearly every child in the Western world, and many in other parts of the world, knew how to use a personal computer. Businesses' information technology departments have gone from using storage tapes created by a single computer operator to interconnected networks of employee workstations that store information in a server farm, often somewhere away from the main business site. Communication has advanced, from physical postal mail, to telephone fax transmissions, to nearly instantaneous digital communication through electronic mail (email).
Great technological advances have been made since the days when computers were huge pieces of equipment that were stored in big, air conditioned rooms, getting their information from punch cards. The information technology industry has turned out to be a huge employer of people worldwide, as the focus shifts in some nations from manufacturing to service industries. It is a field where the barrier to entry is generally much lower than that of manufacturing, for example. In the current business environment, being proficient in computers is often a necessity for those who want to compete in the workplace.
Jobs in information technology are widely varied, although many do require some level of higher education. Positions as diverse as software designer, network engineer, and database administrator are all usually considered IT jobs. Nearly any position that involves the intersection of computers and information may be considered part of this field.