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10 key technologies you couldn't live without

The keys to a digital age in an analogue world

You may not spend much time considering Unicode, XML, and digital signal processing, but you couldn't get through your day without them. We've uncovered the 10 most important technologies you use but never think about.

Digital signal processing

Digital signal processing (DSP) helps make modern mobile phones possible. Digital music, digital photos, digital videos... it's easy to forget that we live in a fundamentally analogue world.

Computers can cope with all that we see and hear only through the application of highly complex mathematics, a field known as digital signal processing.

Wherever you find digital media, DSP is at work, facilitated by a whole subcategory of specialised chips and circuits. DSP algorithms correct for errors while your optical drive reads the music off a CD. They're at work again as you compress the audio into an MP3 file, and again when you play it back through your surround-sound speakers.

DSP is to digital media as gears and springs are to a pocket watch. It works its magic below the surface: invisible, yet totally essential. It's safe to say that without it, virtually none of the digital technologies that we take for granted today - from DVDs to mobile phones, inkjet printers to DSL broadband - would be possible.

NEXT PAGE: the importance of managed code

  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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