eWEEK’s Top 25 Technologies Of The Decade

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From virtualisation to Linux to the Apple iPhone, eWEEK names the products, applications and technologies of the last decade that have changed the way we work, play and live

By most measures, the last 10 years were not the best of times. Terrorism, natural disasters and the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression have left many people happy to see the decade go away. In fact, given the many bad things that did happen, those who use the moniker “the Uh Ohs” to define the decade probably have it about right.

But when it comes to technology, the last 10 years were actually a very good time for innovation and progress. During the last 10 years we’ve seen very significant advances, especially in the areas of mobile devices and the ability to use the web as a computing platform.

For example, if you compare a modern smartphone with a late-’90s mobile phone, it seems as if a lot more than 10 or so years separate the two devices. Look at the static and uninteractive web of 10 years ago, and then look at a modern AJAX- and social network-enabled website. It’s amazing we were able to do anything on the old web. And across the tech spectrum, as devices have become more powerful and more useful, they’ve also become less expensive and more accessible.

In this special report, eWEEK has put together a list of the 25 most significant technologies and products of the last decade – those that changed the way we work, play and live. Some of these products and technologies set the stage for the cutting-edge tech we use today, while others are the cutting-edge tech we use today.

Following are our picks for the top 25, in alphabetical order.

1. 3G broadband

Sure, it’s not as good as it could be. And the competing mix of standards – as in UMTS/EvDO (Universal Mobile Telecommunications System/Evolution Data Optimised) – creates compatibility problems. But it wasn’t that long ago that one could get Internet access only by finding a Wi-Fi hot spot or plugging in an Ethernet cable. With 3G broadband, smartphones, netbooks, laptops and even mobile offices can get pretty good Internet access pretty much anywhere.

2. 802.11g

The first generation of wireless networking technologies were cool. And if you were just accessing Internet content, they seemed pretty fast. But you could forget about sending large files to other systems on the same wireless network. 802.11g made wireless usable for most networking tasks and helped boost the spread of Wi-Fi to offices, homes, parks and hotels around the world.

3. AJAX

It seemed simple at first – just a set of scripts and standards technologies that were already around for building web applications. But the mix of technologies that make up AJAX launched a web revolution, making it possible to build attractive and interactive web-based GUIs that didn’t require extra plug-ins or extensions and that worked well in most modern web browsers.

4. Amazon EC2

Probably the first real iteration of a cloud-computing platform, Amazon.com’s Elastic Compute Cloud is still one of the most popular. Making it simple for anyone to throw a virtual server machine onto Amazon.com’s powerful server platform, EC2 changed what it meant to own a server or even run a business: A large number of new businesses don’t even own server hardware – their entire operations run on EC2.

5. AMD64

At the beginning of the decade, general-purpose 64-bit computing wasn’t looking promising. Intel’s Itanium architecture was proving difficult to implement and was generally seen as a disappointment. Instead of taking Intel’s rewrite approach, Advanced Micro Devices built its 64-bit platform on existing processor technology, and pushed 64-bit processors into the mainstream.

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