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12 technologies that changed the world

From a TV remote to broadband

New technology appears daily, but only the rare breakthroughs really change our lives. Here are a dozen advances that transformed our world.

6. IBM ThinkPad 700C (1992)

Though the first portable PCs appeared in the early 1980s, laptops didn't really become corporate status symbols until IBM came out with its ThinkPad line in 1992.

Pretty soon you couldn't show up in the executive lounge unless there was a bright red TrackPoint sprouting from the middle of your keyboard.

"In the large financial services organisation I worked for, we had huge demand from the executives for the new IBM laptops," recalls Brenda Kerton, principal consultant for Capability Insights Consulting.

"To be seen as anyone in the business exec world, you just had to have one. They may not have had a clue how to manage email or office software before the laptop, but they learned. And it snowballed from there. Laptops changed the conversations between IT and business executives."

With the ThinkPad, technology suddenly went from being strictly for low-level geeks to something that was simply cool. And the business world has never been the same.

7. Broadband (1995)

The internet, the World Wide Web, Amazon, Google, YouTube - all of them were game changers in their own way. But their impact wasn't really felt until the bits flowed fast enough to let us access these things without losing our friggin' minds.

It wasn't until 1995, when Canada's Rogers Communications launched the first cable internet service in North America, that consumers could enjoy the web at speeds greater than 56 kbps (on a good day).

That was followed by the introduction of DSL in 1999. Now 3G and 4G wireless broadband promise to change the game again.

8. The Slammer Worm (2003)

Though it's hard to isolate a single culprit for the rise of malware, the Slammer/Sapphire Worm is an excellent candidate. In January 2003, this worm on steroids took down everything from network servers to bank ATMs to US emergency services response centres, causing more than $1bn worth of damage in roughly 10 minutes. It marked the beginning of a new era in cyber security; after Slammer, the number and sophistication of malware attacks spiked.

In 2005, for example, German antivirus software test lab AV-Test received an average of 360 unique samples of malware each day, according to security researchers Maik Morgenstern and Hendrik Pilz. In 2010, that number had grown to 50,000 a day - or nearly 20 million new viruses each year.

"I think the increasing number of new malware samples is one of the biggest 'game changers'," notes AV-Test cofounder Andreas Marx.

"The malware is optimised for non-detection by certain AV products, and as soon as a signature is in place the malware will be replaced again."

The other big change since Slammer: Malware is now the preferred tool of professional cyber criminals, not just random net vandals.

NEXT PAGE: Apple iTunes

  1. From a TV remote to broadband
  2. Atari Pong
  3. The IBM ThinkPad 700C
  4. Apple iTunes
  5. Capacitive touchscreens


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