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With no real onboard audio system in most PC clones, gamers needed an add-in card to make sweet, sweet sound come from their machines. Creative’s Sound Blaster was an instant hit.
Finally replacing low-power, environmentally hazardous nickel-based battery packs, lithium-ion made portable computing a possibility for more than an hour at a time, with the added excitement of an occasional “exploder.”
While IBM invented the first true gigabyte hard drive years earlier, it weighed 550 pounds and cost $40,000. WD broke the 1GB barrier for home users in June 1994.
Bumping old twisted-pair Ethernet from 10Mb/s to 100Mb/s, Fast Ethernet became the industry standard for wired networking, finally killing off competitors like Token Ring and 10Base2.
Though architecturally a mess, the GeForce 2 was the first pixel-shading GPU, bringing 3D graphics into the mainstream with its advanced lighting techniques and filtering features.
So simplistic it was originally called QDOS (Quick and Dirty Operating System), MS-DOS was critical for introducing computing to the mainstream without the vast complexity of UNIX and mainframe OSes.
The addition of an on-chip cache, FPU, and, most importantly, instruction pipelining ushered in a chip architecture that would endure until the multicore era. This chip was produced all the way until September 2007.
The industry had toyed with wireless technologies during the late ’90s, but the advent of 802.11b finally provided a cable-free networking system with enough bandwidth and range to begin the inexorable shift away from Ethernet.
Stanford’s Douglas Engelbart developed the original mouse during the 1960s, finally patenting it in 1970. Xerox added a ball in 1972, then Apple stole it and the rest is history.
This lossy compressed audio format got the digital media revolution started. Despite numerous competitors, it’s still the only universally supported music format.