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The 10 best technology combinations

The technologies that work best together to change our lives

For this look at the most life-changing high-tech events of the past quarter century, we divided developments into pairs that have formed an effective one-two punch. On the following pages are our picks for the 10 technology duos with the biggest impact.

If there's one thing the digital revolution has taught us, it's that we shouldn't get too attached to anything. Technology has a way of seizing long-held ideas and entrenched industries and turning them upside-down.

Disruption is rarely the result of a single gadget or innovation, however. It's typically when two or more technologies converge that the real changes start to happen.

Here then, are the top 10 combos that changed our digital world.

10. DVRs + entertainment on demand

Remember programming your VCR to record TV shows? Of course you don't, because nobody did it - the task was too difficult and time-consuming.

Fast-forward to the noughties and the introduction of the Sky+ and personal video recorders (PVRs). Time-shifting programs and fast-forwarding through commercials became as easy as pressing a couple of buttons. Suddenly people were no longer shackled to the arbitrary schedules of TV programmers and the obnoxious pandering of advertisers. Cable and satellite providers rushed out their own PVRs, and millions of folks began "Sky plusing".

Like the best disruptive tech, PVRs returned control to users and made consumers hungry for even more control over what they watched, when, and where. In 2005 the Slingbox introduced place-shifting, making it possible to watch your TV (or your Sky+ content) over any broadband connection. Later that year the video-enabled iPod sealed the deal, and broadcast content was permanently untethered from the tube.

Though iTunes' video library was far from comprehensive, it proved that if people get an easy alternative to file sharing, they will pay for what they want. Today, video-on-demand services- including ad-supported ones like Hulu.com and those that are owned and operated by broadcasters (such as the BBC iPlayer

Disruption: The whatever/wherever/whenever model of media consumption is turning both Hollywood and the consumer electronics industry on their heads, and forcing advertisers to rethink ways to capture our attention.

NEXT PAGE: How cheap digital cameras and camcorders helped YouTube explode

  1. Entertainment on demand
  2. The YouTube revolution
  3. Open source and web tools
  4. How Napster helped MP3s
  5. Blogs and Google ads
  6. Cheap storage and portable memory
  7. Cloud computing, always on
  8. Broadband and wireless networks
  9. Graphical browsers and the web
  10. Mobile phones, wireless internet and what we love to hate


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