The 50 Best Tech Products of All Time
Best Tech Products Numbers 6 to 10
6. Apple iPod (2001)
Portable music players were old hat by 2001, having been around for several years and already a staple of cheap knockoff specialists. But Apple thought it could do better, and it came to the game determined to shake things up. Mission accomplished. The iPod was an instant success, reinventing the clunky and utilitarian digital music player as a stylish--not to mention elegantly simple--way to listen to music. The market responded categorically. Apple commands a monster 73 percent share of the music player market. Its closest competitor, Sandisk, has 9 percent. Newer iPods have greatly expanded that market by adding features like video and slimmer cases--and so far this franchise freight train shows no signs of slowing down.
7. Hayes Smartmodem (1981)
In 1978, with $5000 in hand, Dennis Hayes launched what would become one of the most noteworthy tech companies of the eighties: Hayes Microcomputer Products. Soon after founding his company, Hayes would release its flagship product, the 300-baud Smartmodem.
Primitive modems of the time generally required buggy acoustic couplers. But Hayes outdid them all with an affordable stand-alone unit that plugged directly into a phone jack. Eventually the screeches of carrier tones were heralding the computer telecommunications revolution, and online bulletin board systems sprang up everywhere. Competition ensued, with Hayes battling U.S. Robotics, Diamond, and others to see who could be fastest. Personal modems ultimately hit 56 kilobits per second. But although they have been far outpaced by broadband technology, we'll still be seeing modems in many homes for years to come.
Original 300-baud Smartmodems are very difficult to find, but some of the "faster" models (1200 and 2400) sell for around $20 to $30 on eBay.
8. Motorola StarTAC (1996)
Before the StarTAC, cell phones were enormous bricks that users were almost embarrassed to be seen with. Then came this svelte little number, weighing about a mere 3.1 ounces and sporting a clever clamshell design that had never been seen before. It soon became the cell phone to own, remaining so for half a decade and inspiring a legion of cell phones to follow. Think it's a monster by today's standards? Motorola's megapopular Razr is a direct descendant of the StarTAC, and it's 0.2 ounces heavier.
Collectors can pick up StarTACs on eBay for about $25.
9. WordPerfect 5.1 (1989)
It's surprising what DOS, in its waning years, was able to pull off. The poster child for DOS-based productivity, WordPerfect 5.1, was perhaps the final killer app on that aging platform. The word processor's innovations were numerous, including pulldown menus, support for tables, and a famous Reveal Codes mode that showed all the hidden typographical commands embedded in a document, and allowed you to edit them without a graphical user interface. Newer Windows versions of WordPerfect exist, but WordPerfect 5.1 endured for years and years, as many businesses, especially legal firms, clung to it for dear life in an effort to keep from having to upgrade to Windows.
If you're intent on finding a copy of the original software (which means you're probably a lawyer who's desperately trying to open an old file), it is being sold for around $25 on eBay.
10. Tetris (1985)
In the beginning, the goal in most video games was to shoot aliens, race through a maze, or beat up thugs. None of the games required much thought, just a deft hand on the joystick and a pocketful of quarters. Alexey Pajitnov's independently developed Tetris was one of the first games that required actual use of your brain, and it shook up the gaming industry in profound ways.
Pajitnov's game of falling bricks was simple enough to grasp, yet challenging enough to offer endless replay value. Tetris became a hit on a number of platforms, from PC to Mac to Game Boy (in fact, many Game Boy buyers reportedly purchased the device solely to play Tetris). Despite being more than 20 years old, Tetris continues to inspire new variations and knockoffs, demonstrating that a game doesn't need amazing graphics and involved storylines to get people hooked.