25 years: A technology timeline
This timeline excludes a few technologies that might seem obvious choices, but they appeared before 1982. The Internet, for instance, was designed in 1974, though it did not open up until the 1980s. Personal digital assistants first appeared in 1975. TCP/IP goes back to the 1970s. Even in a time of accelerated technology advancements, innovations take time to gestate ' wikis, which have caught fire in recent years, date to 1995.
IBM PC: Computers as a low-cost assemblage of electronic Lego parts made every neighborhood electronics geek a computer technician and every small office and home work room a data center.
RELATIONAL DATABASES: The second generation of RDBMS systems began to take hold.
GPS/GIS: The Global Positioning System was opened for use by civilian aircraft in 1983, beginning a trend that ' combined with great advances in geographic information systems and mapping tools ' led to agency data visualized in layered maps and cars telling their drivers where to turn.
CD-ROM for computers: Flattened two entire industries, data storage and music dissemination.
Its successor, the DVD (1996), killed off the video tape.
FLASH MEMORY: Invented in 1984 at Toshiba, it found its place in small devices.
Smart phones, digital cameras, other devices (and, soon, laptops) all rely on Flash.
NETWORK FILE SYSTEM: The file system that brought us to the age of network storage. No longer would your data be hostage to the computer in which it was created ' or to backup tape.
POWERPOINT: The one you love to hate. All the knowledge in the world boiled down to easy, succinct, bullet-pointed meaninglessness.
PERL: God's own duct tape, at least when working in Unix-based systems.
WORLD WIDE WEB: Invented by Tim Berners-Lee, it would soon change the way governments, business and people operate.
SLIP/PPP (Serial Line Internet Protocol and Point-to-Point Protocol): We've forgotten about this now, but SLIP/PPP ' mostly PPP ' is what got everyone on the Internet via dial-up modems back when broadband was an obscure industry term.
LINUX: A Unix knockoff that is the world's largest hobby project for coders. A select few are among the world's best.
HYPERTEXT MARKUP LANGUAGE: You send the instructions to the remote computer and let it figure out how to render the layout, dummy! PCI SLOTS: Rumors are unconfirmed that the national boost in technology productivity came from the thousands of admins who no longer had to fiddle with the IRQ settings each time they installed a new peripheral.
GRAPHICS COPROCESSORS: They made the fancy stuff possible by pulling graphics data away from the CPU and eventually gave rise to separate graphics cards.
THE BROWSER: It made the Web work for the rest of us.
E-MAIL: Electronic mail goes back to the 1960s, but it really started taking off with Web use. By 1997, the volume of business e-mail surpassed that of regular mail.
ADOBE PDF: Lawyers and other control freaks love it! Also, it was perhaps the first truly effective document- sharing technology.
JPEG: Lit up the Web with images.
BEOWULF (LINUX) CLUSTERS: Changed the supercomputing industry with cheap hardware and an open-source operating system.
WINDOWS 95: 32-bit pre-emptive multitasking made possible everything that has come along for the desktop since ' including the graphical Internet and Mac OS X.
LIGHTWEIGHT DIRECTORY ACCESS PROTOCOL: The universal administrative assistant (mostly in the form of Microsoft Outlook/Exchange) for the cubicled middle rank ' and a nursemaid for their bosses.
WIKIS: They may have taken a while to catch on, but wikis are becoming a dominant collaboration tool.
JAVA: Write once, run all over the Web.
IPV6: The newest set of protocols makes tomorrow's online dreams possible.
APACHE WEB SERVER: The reliable workhorse of the Web.
UNIVERSAL SERIAL BUS: Got all the device manufacturers to settle on one device bus. Cats, meet herder.
MP3 AUDIO FORMAT: A file format that pretty much leveled an entire industry ' and movies are next.
FLASH: Scripting your Web page like a movie, or anything else, with almost zero-client footprint.
BROADBAND: Cable and Digital Subscriber Lines start to make an appearance in homes, and telecommuting becomes a real option.
GOOGLE: We'd call it the portal to the Web, except portals aren't this easy to use. The search bar is rapidly becoming the sippy cup of culture ' with more than partial thanks to Wikipedia, Google's query shortstop.
EXTENSIBLE MARKUP LANGUAGE: Data that tells us what our data is. But this data is in brackets, so we know what it means, more or less.
WI-FI: The network computer Libre! BLACKBERRY: Life support for your government executive, with its push technology making the difference.
VIRTUALIZATION FOR X86 ARCHITECTURES: Making the most of what you have.
OPEN SSH: Telneting securely, saving untold fortunes in KVM switches.
MICROSOFT.NET FRAMEWORK: A virtual machine independent of programming language. The future of Microsoft development.
SERVICEORIENTED ARCHITECTURE: SOA and Web services pave the way for a new generation of online government services.
WEB ONTOLOGY LANGUAGE: The beginning of the Semantic Web.
ADOBE FLEX: Flash development, open-sourced in 2007, for Rich Internet Applications.
MULTICORE PROCESSORS: More performance, less energy use; a wave of the future.
FACEBOOK API/GOOGLE OPEN SOCIAL API: Social network programming goes mainstream.
SPECIAL JUDGE'S AWARD: Evolving technologies for programmer nutrition: foods that can be eaten with one hand, such as Doritos with salsa; plus remote teleworking at Starbucks with a double-shot latte and raspberry muffin.