The Top 100 PC Tech Innovations of All Time

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Kalak

From PLANET SINCLAIR:

"The ZX80 established the distinctive Sinclair look (unkindly compared to a block of cheese); it was the first implementation of Sinclair's legendary touch-sensitive keyboards; it also had the first implementation of Sinclair BASIC. By modern standards (or even those of the later Sinclair computers), it was a very primitive beast. An scathing Personal Computer World restrospective six years later highlighted the machine's "unusable keyboard and a quirky BASIC" which it claimed had "discouraged millions of people from ever buying another computer" (PCW, October 1985). This was surely far too harsh a verdict - before production ceased in August 1981, the ZX80 sold over 100,000 units, over 60% of them for export, making it a substantial commercial success for the company.

The real significance of the ZX80 lay not in its relatively modest sales but in its innovative design and marketing. At the time, it was one of the smallest and cheapest home computers in the world. It was also one of the first aimed at the home user, as opposed to the hobbyist or professional. In 1979, computing was either very complex or very expensive or both. A 20Mb Winchester hard disk drive could cost over £2000, while memory cost £16 per kilobyte. With such high costs, serious computing was largely confined to business. Home users could tinker around the margins with caseless circuit boards that they had to assemble themselves, but the resulting computer was so basic that its everyday usefulness was slight. Sinclair's own MK14 fell into the latter category.

The ZX80 turned the market on its head. Its design, like all of the Sinclair computers, was driven by price and simplicity. Its sub-£100 price point was unheard of at the time, as was the fact that one could simply buy it from a shop, plug it in and use it. Of course, low cost and simplicity meant that severe limitations were imposed on the designers (for instance, using a cheap touch-sensitive keyboard rather than an expensive full-travel keyboard). But there was nothing quite like the ZX80 on the market and its modest success demonstrated the massive potential for a cheap consumer-friendly home computer. It was a formula which Sinclair repeated with great success for all of his later computers."

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Dersimli

That is only the start of the revolution. It was the first multimedia computer. In 1985 there was a multimedia computer. 4 channels of sound (Mac and PC could not do anything close to that). Image/animation/video resolutions up to 640x512. Images in 4096 colours. Animation and video in 32 colours, that may sound small, but unlike Macs and PCs, the Amiga could swap the palette every frame, so in a ten second video file, the Amiga could display all 4096 colours (try that on a VGA card nine years later and your 256 colours that could not change looked pretty bad as the video cut to a different tone range). Speech synthesis (at least as good as the Macs). Two button mouse (up to five buttons). Optional pen on screen mousing inputs. To top this off, the Amiga had full multitasking as well... in 1985!

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Dersimli

That is only the start of the revolution. It was the first multimedia computer. In 1985 there was a multimedia computer. 4 channels of sound (Mac and PC could not do anything close to that). Image/animation/video resolutions up to 640x512. Images in 4096 colours. Animation and video in 32 colours, that may sound small, but unlike Macs and PCs, the Amiga  could swap the palette every frame, so in a ten second video file, the Amiga could display all 4096 colours (try that on a VGA card nine years later and your 256 colours that could not change looked pretty bad as the video cut to a different tone range). Speech synthesis (at least as good as the Macs). Two button mouse (up to five buttons). Optional pen on screen mousing inputs. To top this off, the Amiga had full multitasking as well... in 1985!

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pooryorick

In my opinion, the Logitech Marble Mouse (http://www.logitech.com/index.cfm/mice_pointers/trackballs/devices/156&cl=us,en) was far more innovative than the Microsoft Intellimase Explorer. Although it was never really "discovered", and took a day for the fingers to get used to, it took operational comfort into a completely new realm. Truly innovative.

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DaveMaurice

Lotus 1-2-3 may have been good but it was VisiCalc that started and gave life to the PC revolution. Surely this is an item to be mentioned in the top 100 items of PC technologies! VisiCalc sold over 700,000 copies after it came out in 1979. . Years before the 1983 release of Lotus

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Marcus_Soperus

Not only did VisiCalc sell a cool 700K in 1979, but it enabled Apple IIs to become useful business PCs years before the first IBM PC rolled off the lines in Boca Raton, FL. And, for that matter, VisiCalc also helped Atari 800 users take a break from Space Invaders and Star Raiders to get some work done, as VisiCalc was also available in an Atari-compatible version!

VisiCalc was the first "killer app" for PCs, and lingered awhile into the age of the IBM PC until Lotus 1-2-3 knocked it off for good. Take a look at the end of this HP TV commercial and you'll see a VisiCalc box, with a 1-2-3 box on top of it - a foreshadowing of what would eventually happen in the marketplace: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKpU4oVb8Iw

Want to try VisiCalc on your PC? Visit the VisiCalc Information page from VisiCalc's creators, Dan Bricklin and Bob Frankston, and you can download and run an MS-DOS version, and learn lots more about the first "killer app": http://www.bricklin.com/visicalc.htm

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It's amazing how illogical a business built on binary logic can be.

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revelationnow

Not exactly what I would have chosen as the most important techs.

Amiga definately deserves a mention. It used dedicated processors for graphics and audio, three processors all up including its general purpose. This was more or less a precusor to graphics cards like 3DFX.

The AT specification itself. You mentioned ATX, AT effectively allowed IBM to quickly assemble an answer to Apple's first personal computers using off the shelf equipment which followed the AT specification. Technically, Apple computers follow the AT specification as well, so I would argue that the AT specification was the start of the Personal computer as we have come to know it.

Oh, and you mentioned Ubuntu for some reason. Hasn't OS X done more than Ubuntu in that Apple were able to deliver the first truely accepted (by the general public) distrubution of Unix called Darwin (or OS X). On top of that, it works a lot more seemlessly than poorly assembled Linux distributions like Ubuntu. Oh yeah, and they also made linux one of the most anticipated operating system currently available going by the buzz that Leopard has generated.

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Marcus_Soperus

Sorry, guys, but if any word processor deserves to be in the top-100 list, it's WordPerfect. Its clear menu system, use of function keys (and a mouse in later versions) and reveal codes features rescued word processing from the confusing clutches of WordStar, and its printer support was always first rate: I used its PTR program to create a working printer driver for a brand-new printer model in just a couple of days, instead of waiting for the vendor to ship one. WP also introduced users to scalable laser printer fonts with its bundled Bitstream Fontware font generator and outlines... and that's just a few of the highlights from the MS-DOS days.

How about now? If you need to work up a complex page layout, WordPerfect beats MSWord every time, with typesetting features, absolute cursor positioning, and better text wrapping around inline images and text boxes. And, if you need to grab a column of text from anywhere on the page, you can do it with WordPerfect, regardless of how the text is formatted.

To dig even deeper into feature comparisons, see the useful WordPerfect vs Word website at http://www.wpvsword.com.

Yes, I also use MSWord, but blowing off WordPerfect's innovations and powerful features is a huge feat of historic ignorance.

(Full disclosure: I wrote a number of articles for WordPerfect Magazine and an article for The WordPerfectionist)
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It's amazing how illogical a business built on binary logic can be.

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Pierr3

was actually developed in 1998 by 3DFX and used with the voodoo 2 graphics cards and of course as we all know 3DFX were bought out by Nvidia thus acquiring the technology behind SLI and then reintroducing it in 2004

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willsmith

Actually, Nvidia's and 3dfx's SLIs work in completely different ways. The only thing shared between the two is the name. The acronyms don't even stand for the same thing.

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NotSure

Americans do this all too often. The rest of the wold purchased them in their millions, but Americans seemed too interested in name brand computers.

Amigas were probably the most revolutionary single computer of all time. For a fraction of the cost of an IBM PC or a Mac, you could buy a computer that had more RAM that the PC, and could be expanded to more than the Mac. It had the same CPU as the Mac.

That is only the start of the revolution. It was the first multimedia computer. In 1985 there was a multimedia computer. 4 channels of sound (Mac and PC could not do anything close to that). Image/animation/video resolutions up to 640x512. Images in 4096 colours. Animation and video in 32 colours, that may sound small, but unlike Macs and PCs, the Amiga could swap the palette every frame, so in a ten second video file, the Amiga could display all 4096 colours (try that on a VGA card nine years later and your 256 colours that could not change looked pretty bad as the video cut to a different tone range). Speech synthesis (at least as good as the Macs). Two button mouse (up to five buttons). Optional pen on screen mousing inputs. To top this off, the Amiga had full multitasking as well... in 1985!

At the same time, IBM PCs could give you beep sounds through the internal speaker, and 16 basic colours on a black screen in a low resolution, but no mouse. Macs could give you 96dpi on the smallest physical screen money could buy, and black and white (NOTE black and white does not include ANY greyscales... you have a black pixel or a white pixel), limited sound handling (you could add a MIDI port, but you could add a MIDI port for a fraction of the cost to the Amiga), and a one button mouse.

Of course Apple and IBM charged more, so they had more for advertising in USA. The Amiga outsold the Mac in most international markets, and outsold the IBM PC (and clones) in at least one country.

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dinwitty

I was running win95 when I was PC upgrading and couldnt run a higher speed because there was a bug in Win95 which had a timing loop, the higher speed meant the looping went faster I guess, and this sent the system crashing unusable. I bought Win98 the day it was released to fix this bugger. Win98 will still run on today's fastest systems.

USB port..its still a serial, but a high speed port using the same serial protocols as its old serial port. Why certain USB mice will work in the PS2 port which is still your standard serial data.

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