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10 key technologies you couldn't live without

The keys to a digital age in an analogue world

Unicode, XML, and digital signal processing, you couldn't get through your day without them. Here are the 10 most important technologies that you use but almost never think about.

High-speed net access

WiMax provides a greater range of broadband access than does the more common Wi-Fi. Where would we be without fast internet access? It's easy to forget that just 10 years ago, most of us were still using ordinary modems.

The broadband revolution ushered in streaming video, MP3 downloads, internet phone calls, and multiplayer online gaming. And we owe it all to TV.

In the 1980s, cable companies were promising 500 channels of round-the-clock programming. Cable was poised to become the most important wire into the house; but the telephone companies had an ace up their sleeve. A new technology could push high-frequency signals over ordinary phone lines, which previously had been good only for low-bandwidth voice calls.

The telephone companies saw this as an opportunity to offer video on demand and to compete with the cable companies at their own game.

Or so they thought. The plans of the telcommunications companies for video on demand dried up by the mid-1990s, but the technology remained. Now called DSL, it had morphed into a high-speed household on-ramp to the internet. The cable companies followed suit with a comparable technology, and the broadband speed race, for both DSL and cable began in earnest.

Both cable and DSL still use traditional frequency signaling over copper wires, but new breakthroughs are poised to go mainstream. Fibre to the premises (FTTP) promises lightning-fast network speeds, and WiMax will push broadband into territories that wires can't reach today. As for what applications this next broadband revolution will bring - well, we have only begun to imagine.

  1. The keys to today's digital age
  2. Unicode
  3. Digital signal processing
  4. Managed code
  5. Transistors
  6. Why you couldn't live without XML
  7. Nonvolatile RAM
  8. Lithium ion batteries
  9. Voice over IP (VoIP) calls
  10. Graphics acceleration
  11. High-speed net access

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