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Sure, we love iPods, TiVo, and fancy-schmancy digital cameras, just like everyone else. But let’s talk about advances that make a difference where it really counts: in the PC.
While myriad best-of lists have ranked the greatest gadgets, software products, and videogames ever made, here we turn our attention to advances that have impacted the development, enjoyment, and raw power of the personal computer. Our staff-generated list looks at not just critical machines to come down the pike (#55), but also essential CPUs (#51), operating systems (#15), components (#18), and peripherals (#94), as well as the occasional piece of software (#74) and videogame (#9) that pushed PCs into new territory.
The result is an exhaustive look at the PC from its birth (#7)—and even its conception (#73)—to today (#71), piece by piece. Naturally, the list is skewed toward performance and gaming-oriented technologies. We respect WordStar as much as any high-tech historian, but you try typing a corporate memo when you’ve got a freakin’ Shub-Niggurath (#6) bearing down on your ass.
So join us on a stroll through PC history and tip your hat to the technologies large and small that have either endured for decades or changed the game completely. As always, we anxiously await your complaints over what we forgot.
Edit (12/03): We inadvertantly left the "PC" out of this story's headline when we first posted it.
Laugh, but Microsoft’s own website has more than 1,400 pages devoted to the ubiquitous Windows game (introduced in Windows 3.0). You know you play it.
That beeping? It’s the sound of you happily continuing your game of Wizardry while your neighbor reads by candlelight.
Would people really shell out more than $200 for a box that merely stores their PC’s innards? Cooler Master proved that cases need not be boring and started the trend in fashionable enclosures with this aluminum beaut.
We resort to the three-finger salute so often that the print is wearing off of these three keys on our keyboard. Serenity now!
VoIP existed long before this app came around, but Skype made Internet telephony easy enough for the average user. Free phone calls to Indonesia—yeah!
A big attaboy to the guy who thought of putting USB and headphone jacks on the front of the PC instead of only on the back. Flashlight use is down 30 percent since their introduction.
Many users found the split MS Natural keyboard awkward for typing, but a generation of carpal tunnel sufferers discovered that the ergonomic design was just what the doctor ordered.
While the webcam has been used for some dubious purposes (Editor in Chief Will Smith uses one to watch his dog), the idea behind it—to stream pictures and video to the Internet with cheap hardware—is a decent one. We think.
It’s the open-source browser you know and love. Firefox regularly implements new features ahead of Internet Explorer, while also eating away at the latter’s market share.
Pac-Man? Mario? Newbs. Versions of this classic simulator date back to 1977 (Microsoft got it in ’82), making it arguably the longest continuously developed game series of all time.