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Development and Structure of the International Software Industry (1950-1995)

Today's software industry is estimated to have global revenues of about $150 billion. Despite its economic importance, there is no commonly accepted model of the industry's structure, and there is very little contemporary or historical academic literature to inform policy analysis.

This project sets out to develop a four-sector model of the software industry based on historical principles. The first sector, custom programming, was established in the 1950s for the writing of one-of-a-kind computer programs to a client's specification. The packaged software sector was established in the 1960s to create generic software solutions that could be used with little or no modification by a wide variety of corporate users. The shrink-wrapped software sector developed in the 1970s and early 1980s to supply software for the booming personal-computer market. Finally, the recreational software sector developed in the 1970s, independently of the mainstream software industry, to supply computer games and multimedia entertainment. This project will be the first analysis to incorporate recreational software into a software industry model.

The research is based on an analysis of the economic and policy literature, trade association archives, and individual case studies of firms. The primary output from the project is a single volume history of the international software industry.

Funding: ESRC, £70k, completed 2001.

Staff involved: Martin Campbell-Kelly, Mary Croarken (Research Fellow), Ross Hamilton (Research Fellow)