The decade's pre-eminent technologies may have started life in the previous century but really took off in a way that changed the way we live and work in the past ten years.
The Technology Of The Decade
PC Advisor's Technology Of The Decade is Broadband. Without ubiquitous high-speed Internet access there'd be no real web to speak of, no online shopping, no digital download services such as iTunes, no online video on sites such as YouTube or BBC iPlayer, no social networking sites like Facebook, no cloud computing, no Wikipedia - and not much point even to Google.
It's inconceivable to imagine leading the connected lives we live today on even a 56Kbps dialup modem, and today's really rather rubbish rates will look ridiculous in a couple of years time - unless you live on a farm, in which case you're stuffed.
Broadband is all very well when you're sat at your desk at work or home, with an Ethernet cable jammed into the back of your PC - but it's pretty useless when you're out and about, even a couple of metres away from the network socket. Step up Wi-Fi, the snappily named wireless networking technology that has revolutionised not just where we can access the Internet but how we interact with it. It also makes finding a seat in the local Starbucks almost impossible as laptop-toting layabouts take two hours to sip through their expresso while Twittering and ordering their groceries via Ocado.
Drink up, you swine! I have nowhere to rest my croissant!
It really must have been the decade not just of mobile but of networking, too. Alongside desktop broadband a technology that is rapidly changing the way we use our mobile phones and rely on them for traditional PC tasks is 3G. 3G smartphones, such as Apple's iPhone and various BlackBerrys, would be shadows of their functionality if fast data access wasn't available. Weirdly, the first European pre-commercial 3G network was in the Isle of Man by Manx Telecom.
Another Technology Of The Decade that has shaped not just several industries but the way we capture, store and share our memories, the speed of news event distribution and easy manipulation of such, is Digital Photography. Can you imagine trying to fit a roll of film into your camera and running the risks of dual exposure, exposing the film to sunlight or losing it in the post on the way to BonusPrint? No
One drawback is how often we actually look at old photos. We're so busy posting images to the web, removing red eye, Photoshopping out wrinkles and ex partners, and taking thousands more photos that we don't step back to digest images older than a few days. We're not advocating the return of film and sticking pictures in photo albums, we're just hinting that maybe we should take a few less photos and pay them proper attention once in a while.
Digital photography wouldn't be as pervasive if we could store , say, 24 or 36 pictures on our cameras before having to rush to a computer to download them. Little flash memory cards - CompactFlash, Memory Stick, MMC, SD, xD, etc - have increased in capacity at about the same rate their prices have declined, making storing even medium-length HD movies a snap on most cameras and even phones. Flash memory has gone on to revolutionise many other technology sectors, such as mobile phones, games consoles, laptops and satnavs. Unfortunately they're small enough to be swallowed by children.
While plasma and LCD screens changed the way televisions looked, it was High-Definition Television that transformed the actual content we were watching - and made us all go out and buy yet another telly after being told likewise about first plasma and then LCD screens. Many broadcast technologies are pioneered by the porn industry - there were more dirty movies on VHS than Betamax, the Internet really wouldn't have evolved as fast as a broadcast medium if it weren't for the billions of dollars waiting out there in naughty boys' bedrooms and studies - but HDTV it seems was one step too far. Those "models" really don't look so good close up. A bit of blur really can be a relief not just to the star but the viewer as well.
Lightweight Liquid Crystal Displays have forever altered the look of not just television but also personal computing, as bulky old Cathode Ray Tube monitors were rapidly consigned to the great tech dustbin - or more likely skip round the corner while its owner isn't looking. How on Earth did we fit those great big screens on our desks or in our lounges?
"In three miles turn right. At the junction, take the second turn off for one mile...". We used to have maps to show us the way to Auntie Mabel's house but now we have a machine stuck to the dashboard coldly telling us each direction to take and how far to go. Satellite navigation has replaced the dog-eared Collins Road Atlas with autonomous geo-spatial positioning, and rendered many of us into geographically challenged idiots who can't walk out the front door without needing directions to the gate, pavement, car, etc.
Not so long ago touching your computer or phone screen left just fingerprints. Now many of us are completely thrown when we try to finger navigate or function non-touchscreen devices. Touchscreen displays are today found in airplanes, cars, game consoles, machine control systems, appliances and handheld display devices of every kind. With the influence of Apple's multi-touch-enabled iPhone and the Nintendo DS, the touchscreen market for mobile devices is projected to produce US$5 billion in 2009. Our ability to accurately point onscreen itself will massively change the way we live, work and play when the expected computer tablet revolution begins next year. Or so the rumour goes...
The Global Language Monitor recently declared "Web 2.0" to be the one-millionth English word - but what the heck does it mean? The way that we use the web and Internet in general has changed not just in access and function but also in terms of control. Nowadays millions of us use the web not just to search for information from trusted sources but to actually be the source ourselves.
Web 2.0 means a lot of things and essentially nothing but it's as good a term as any to describe the way that we don't just consume information on the web any more. We create content and share it with either anyone (via a blog, YouTube, or information source such as Wikipedia), friends (MySpace, Facebook) or followers (Twitter). Many won't participate but so many of use now do that the web and our traditionally trusted information brands will never be the same again.
And the web is increasingly filled with absolute rubbish.
The PC Advisor Awards 2010 are sponsored by HP, AMD and PC Tools