The advent of personal computing tools in the early 1980s began to slowly awaken millions of business users to the advantages of working in digital data.

Mainframes and server rooms as well as word processors came first, but for the longest time most of the construction world was still mired in paper and lots of it–slips of paper, backs of envelopes, half-finished lists, unreadable scribbles, heavy notebooks and files.

The turn toward digital applications was accelerated by the introduction of personal computers, which helped ordinary people see the potential of technology to help them get organized and accurately automate mundane, repetitive routines.

Everything related to a subject could suddenly be dropped into one place. Numbers magically fell into columns and were automatically added up correctly. If paper documents were lost or ruined they no longer had to be re-typed, just printed out again.

It was a new, potentially much more efficient world, and users struggled to adapt and learn how to use it.

The first PCs were barely capable of doing much more than word processing and simple filing and spreadsheet functions, but the vocabulary of the technology was being learned. The recognition of computing’s usefulness was no longer only for scientists and specialists to appreciate and understand; it was being conveyed to everyone.

The chip technology used for creation of the PC, which started with a drive at Texas Instruments to build a prototype for a portable electronic calculator, lies at the root of much of the technological advance that has since developed. "If we had not developed the incredible level of miniaturization and built the underpinning technology that all of these devices rely upon, we wouldn’t even be talking about this," says Kansas City-based Black & Veatch’s chief knowledge officer, John Voeller.

10 Electronic Technologies That Changed Construction
1. The Internet
Collaboration Is Evolving From Sharing to Managing
2. Computer Aided Design
CAD Pioneers Gave Desktop PCs A Full Range of Electronic Drafting
3. Lasers
Lasers Have Become Common Element in Industry’s Toolbox
4. Analysis Software
Speed and Power of Computation Opens Doors to New Possibilities
5. Personal Computers
Personal Computers Empowered Users and Launched a New Age
6. The Fax
Speeding the Pace of Business and Shrinking the Globe
7. Critical Path Method
Network Logic Was Aided By Mainframe Power
8. Calculators
Calculators Built on Microchips Doomed Slide Rules
9. Mobile Communications
Contractors Were Early Adopters of Mobile Comms
10. Global Positioning Systems
Location-Based Technologies Track Construction Operations
What's Next?
Innovations Are Ready for Trial and Adoption, But Great Gains Will Take Major Change