Best Tech Products Numbers 46 to 50
46. Adaptec Easy CD Creator (1996)
Optical disc burning is something we take for granted now (just drag files to the DVD-R and go), but in the early days of writeable CDs, burning a disc meant using third-party software and a lot of trial and error. Easy CD Creator took a lot of the guesswork out of CD burning, and was pretty much the standard for CD writing until Windows XP came along. Its direct descendant, Roxio Easy Media Creator 9, does much more than CD burning, of course, but many of us still look fondly on the original.
47. PC-Talk (1982)
PC-Talk was a terminal program that let you dial into bulletin board systems and early online services such as CompuServe. But the program was better known for a different reason: It's widely credited for helping to create the shareware model of software distribution. When its author, who just so happened to be Andrew Fluegelman, the founding editor of PC World, decided to release his creation to the world, he simply requested that if people liked it, they send him a little cash. Though he trademarked the word "freeware" for his creation, "shareware" soon became the accepted term for this business model. And now there are entire Web sites, or major parts of them, devoted to downloading software.
48. Sony Mavica MVC-FD5 (1997)
In the wee early days of digital photography, getting pictures from camera to computer was a major challenge. There were no memory card slots, no Bluetooth, not even USB. Sony's Mavica MVC-FD5 was a stroke of genius: Put a floppy drive inside the camera, and then let shutterbugs use sneakernet to tote photos back and forth. You could fit about eight pictures on a disk (images were limited to 640-by-480-pixel resolution), which was good enough for most people at the time. The Mavica line eventually evolved to include integrated DVD writers.
49. Microsoft Excel (1985)
OK, to some of you this may be a contentious choice, since Microsoft Excel has been plagued with bugs and virus vulnerabilities throughout its existence. But would you believe that Excel was released for the Macintosh a full two years before it came out for the PC? Ultimately, when Excel did arrive on Windows, it buried Lotus 1-2-3 within a few years, thanks in part to its powerful scripting language. It eventually became so dominant that the rest of the Microsoft Office programs were redesigned to look more like Excel.
50. Northgate OmniKey Ultra (1987)
A legend among keyboards, the Northgate OmniKey was a monstrous, mechanical beast. It was heavy, loud, and insanely durable--a far cry from today's practically disposable membrane keyboards. Northgate fanatics still use them today (or its clone, the Creative Vision Avant Stellar), and original versions of the 'board regularly fetch $100 and up on eBay. Why did Northgate go out of business in 1997? Perhaps its products simply didn't break often enough to be replaced.