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10 key technologies you couldn't live without

The keys to a digital age in an analogue world

In your average day you probably don't spend much time considering Unicode, XML, and digital signal processing. But you should. Here are the 10 most important technologies that you use but never think about.


You've probably heard of XML, but what is it? Where is it?

Although you may never have encountered it directly, XML is everywhere. Now in its tenth year, it has become virtually the common language of data exchange.

XMLstands for extensible markup language. Extensible because developers can add to it to suit the needs of particular applications.

But what makes it really valuable is the fact that it's a language, much like HTML. Unlike some data formats, XML files aren't just streams of incomprehensible numbers. XML is designed to be read by humans as well as machines. A developer who 'speaks' XML can look at a document written in an unfamiliar XML dialect and still understand what it's trying to say.

This powerful combination of features makes XML incredibly useful for all kinds of applications. But perhaps its biggest coup was Microsoft's decision to switch to XML-based file formats for Office 2007.

As it turns out, you actually may have XML documents sitting on your desktop right now, without realising it.

NEXT PAGE: nonvolatile RAM

  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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