It's virtually taken for granted that we work in a fast moving industry and the facts would appear to back up this theory. Just look at the new programming tools coming out of Microsoft (I'm just going to talk about them since I don't really even try and keep up with technology coming out of other companies). In no particular order, some of them are: WPF, WCF, WF, Silverlight, Linq, CardSpace, Virtual Earth, ASP.NET AJAX, Vista...
But hang on a second, who is using this stuff and how much of it will be relevant in five years time? Myself, the only new technology I'm looking at is Windows Workflow, since it may well be useful in my job. The rest may become relevant at some point and if and when it does I'll start looking at it then. And I'm a geek who likes to fiddle around with new technology. What about the normal people out there who aren't obsessed with software?
Well, it doesn't look so good there either. Take IE7, which has been out for almost a year. Usage stats on the sites I maintain suggest just over 30% of IE users have upgraded to version 7. This is a free bit of software, but still almost 70% of users haven't upgraded. Admittedly some of these will be corporate users who have probably decided not to roll it out yet, but why not? Probably because IE6 is good enough, thank you very much.
And what about Vista? Well I'm seeing just short of 5% of Windows users are on Vista, which makes it somewhat more popular than Server 2003 (and who browses the internet from Server 2003 anyway?) but still less popular than Windows 2000 which, as the name suggests, is about 7 years old.
Here's something else to illustrate my point. I was up the loft the other day and found the notes for a C++ course I went on about 10 years ago. Flicking through them I realised I should probably keep hold of them, since they were still relevant today. Not only were they useful to C++ programming, but also to C#. The basic ideas behind object-oriented programming still apply. And you know what, if I still had the notes for my university C++ course from 17 years ago, they would probably still be relevant as well*
So yes, it's certainly possible to think we work in a fast-moving industry and it's certainly possible to work as if everything is in a constant state of flux. But it's also possible to move into a slower lane and just watch the shenanigans going on from a distance, wait for the dust to settle and learn the stuff that actually becomes important.
*You may be wondering why I needed to go on a C++ course when I was working if I'd already been taught it at university. Well I never paid much attention at uni, I was more interested in getting drunk and trying to pull young ladies...