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Another Top 10

Yesterday I blogged about a Herald news item about the 10 biggest debates in New Zealand over the last 10 years and today the same source had a similar article listing what they thought were the 10 biggest life changing technologies over that same period of time. Of course, I thought these were also worth commenting on…

Here are the 10 technologies: wifi, the iPod, Google, digital cameras, flat screen HDTVs, PlayStation 3, the BlackBerry, Facebook, Wikipedia, and local loop unbundling. I think these are a bit uneven. They mention a specific social web service and a specific game console but then list the whole category of digital cameras. Also, I agree that many of these are real life changers but I don’t agree with them all. OK, so I’ll now comment on each one…

Wifi. I don’t know whether I would rate this that highly in the greater context of 10 years of technology. Sure, I find wireless networks useful, but I could live without them. its not that difficult to plug a network cable in when required. I do use wireless for most of my communications on my laptop and iPhone but I could manage OK without it.

The iPod. I think this one is genuine. Of course, it could be extended to digital media players in general but the iPod has such a huge proportion of the market that the others are almost irrelevant. Its certainly made a huge difference to how I listen to music, watch movies and gather news. I now get the vast majority of news and information from podcasts but this isn’t necessarily typical of most iPod users who tend to stick to music.

Google. I can’t remember the last time I used a different search engine so that must say something about the success of Google in that area. I also use Google Maps, especially on the iPhone and Google Earth and other services occasionally. We could use the generic category of Internet search instead but, like the iPod, Google is so dominant that it can stand on its own.

Digital cameras. I totally agree with this one. Since the digital revolution my expensive film camera has sat idle in a cupboard. I also take 10 to 100 times as many photos as I used to because they cost nothing. And the results are so much better, at least using my digital SLR. I admit that many compact and phone cameras don’t produce great results though.

Flat screen HDTVs. I wouldn’t rate this as life changing. I agree that big, flat, high definition TVs and digital broadcasts are very nice but they really just represent an incremental change rather than a revolution. So I definitely wouldn’t include this amongst the top 10, especially now that people are turning to the Internet, computers, and mobile devices as video sources.

The PlayStation 3. Sure the PS3 is an extremely powerful piece of hardware but it hasn’t really been the revolution many expected. The other two platforms: the Xbox and Wii have done well also so the PS3 is perhaps not quite important enough to be on the list.

The BlackBerry. At one time it might have been worthy of the list but it now seems to be a technology which is on the way out, mainly because of the iPhone and Android phones. I really don’t think the Blackberry belongs here. Maybe the generic category of smart phones does instead, that way the other popular options would also be included.

Facebook. Again, I don’t think so. Maybe social networking in general might have been a better choice. That way other similar sites, plus those aimed at other groups such as Bebo, plus new variations on the theme, like Twitter, would be included and make the technology strong enough to be worthy of inclusion

Wikipedia. I totally agree. This is the first place I go for information. I know that its necessary to be careful about bias, but only a tiny minority of articles are in that category, and those are usually easily detected. Wikipedia is great. I might even be tempted to say it is in the top three important technologies.

Local loop unbundling. Yawn. So we had an antiquated system run by a corrupt company. Now we have a slightly better one but its really not that big a deal to most people. This is too local and too bureaucratic rather than technical so I wouldn’t include this one either.

So I agree that iPods, digital cameras, Google, and Wikipedia belong on the list. If the Blackberry was made more general and called smart phones I would agree. I don’t agree so much with Wifi, Facebook, flat screen TVs, and the PS3. And I don’t agree at all with the local loop. But what technologies are missing?

Both Mac OS X and Windows XP were released in the last 10 years so I would nominate modern computer operating systems. Its only because of the modern OS with their advanced media features, Internet abilities, speed, and reliability (yes, compared with earlier efforts even XP is fairly stable) that many of the other technologies are possible.

And what about digital media? Statistics indicate more and more people source video from Internet sites like YouTube and many people use podcasts as a major source of information instead of conventional radio. Then there’s streaming audio and video which is starting to move ahead too. Maybe this is one more for the near future than the present though.

There is one thing I just noticed about the list. All of the technologies are digital. The article was about “some of the technology innovations that have changed our lives since 1998.” That means technology in general, not just digital technology, but all of those listed are either computer based, digital media or Internet based. That is perhaps the most significant factor of all.

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  1. February 5, 2009 at 10:35 am

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