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10 key technologies you couldn't live without

The keys to a digital age in an analogue world

You couldn't get through your day without unicode, XML, and digital signal processing. Don't believe us? We've looked at the 10 most important technologies that you use but never think about.

Lithium ion batteries

When we were kids, our toys came 'batteries not included'. With our grown-up, high-tech toys, on the other hand, the battery is often one of the most important features. As essential as mobility has become to how we use technology, it simply wouldn't be possible if our choices were still limited to D, C, and AA.

The invention of lithium ion batteries was the key. The earliest rechargeables were made with lead - hardly a prescription for portability. But because lithium is the lightest metal, lithium-based batteries can store more energy at a given weight than any other variety.

Lighter batteries mean smaller, lighter devices; beginning in the 1990s, you could actually put a phone in your pocket.

Running time remains an ongoing challenge, but researchers have no shortage of solutions. In addition to improved lithium ion batteries that use nanotechnology, a number of battery alternatives are slowly coming to market, including ultracapacitors and fuel cells.

In fact, pardon me for saying that battery technology is poised for its next big explosion, and personal technology is sure to advance because of it.

NEXT PAGE: voice over IP (VoIP) calls

  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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