In 1981, a technical report was published with the somewhat enigmatic title 'Coping with complexity.' Its purpose was to discuss how computers could be used to assist process plant operators in coping with complex situations during plant disturbances. Today, coping with complexity is a problem not only for process plant operators but for everyone. And while computers in 1981 were looked upon as the solution, they are now seen as the source of the problem. This paper discusses why and how the meaning of 'coping with complexity' has changed over the years and speculate on what may lie ahead.