Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors
Top Deals On Great Products
Picked by Techconnect's Editors
Best Tech Products Numbers 36 to 40
36. McAfee VirusScan (1990)
As long as there have been PCs, there have been viruses. But it wasn't until the early days of Windows 95 that antivirus software became utterly indispensable (Windows 3.1 viruses weren't nearly as bad). At the time, McAfee VirusScan was the top choice in virus protection (though many opted for Norton). In 1997 McAfee acquired Dr. Solomon's Software and with it, one of the best antivirus engines around. And even though recent versions of VirusScan haven't been as well received as its early brethren (McAfee now seems more interested in promoting other security products than catching exploits), it remains a pretty good product.
37. Commodore Amiga 1000 (1985)
Commodore's Amiga probably has more cult followers than any other defunct computer system, despite the fact that it never sold well and eventually bankrupted the company in 1994. But what a noble failure it was. The Amiga was years ahead of its PC--and Macintosh--brethren, using the Mac's Motorola 68000 processor and a separate video CPU, which allowed the computer to perform 3D animation, full-speed video, and other unheard-of feats. Its abilities with high-end audio processing quickly earned it the title of world's foremost "multimedia computer," but perhaps users simply weren't ready for its next-gen tricks.
38. ChipSoft TurboTax (1985)
If you really understand what all those cells and instructions on your 1099s, 5305-EAs, and Schedule Rs mean, you probably don't need TurboTax (now owned by Intuit). But for those of us who don't know our ISOs from our NSOs, TurboTax makes life much easier during that first (and possibly second) weekend of April every year. TurboTax may not be revolutionary, but as far as essential PC software goes, many users can't easily live without it.
39. Mirabilis ICQ (1996)
Why pick up a phone when you can send an e-mail? Why send an e-mail when you can fire off an instant message? Specializing in short-burst communications, IM was a no-brainer technology that took off quickly thanks to ICQ, developed by Israeli tech firm Mirabilis. For a long while, ICQ was the only choice in IM, and hundreds of millions of user ID numbers were assigned. Alas, the numerical ID was ICQ's downfall. By the time it was able to easily link digits to e-mail accounts, users had moved on to other options. AOL bought ICQ in 1998 and still supports it, though AOL Instant Messenger is now the market leader.
40. Creative Labs Sound Blaster 16 (1992)
Prior to the Sound Blaster, your PC's audio was pretty much limited to a few squeaks and beeps to let you know that you successfully stabbed the ogre or your machine was crashing. The Sound Blaster product line changed all that by putting real audio capabilities into the computer. The Sound Blaster 16, one of the series' early models, brought 16-bit sound to the mix, which made audio (and music) finally passable on a PC. Today, integrated audio has become standard, largely relegating the Sound Blaster family to high-end gaming PCs. That's not such a bad thing, because the SB16's direct descendants, today's Audigy and X-Fi lines, do an astonishing job of reproducing the high-quality, multichannel sound that gamers thrive on.