In our story "The 25 Greatest PCs of All Time," the Commodore 64 was likened to a toy in comparison with the Apple II. A deeply offended reader, operagost said: "What an insult to the Commodore 64. A toy? A very popular toy, I guess, as it outsold the Apple II nearly every year it was offered. I liked the Apple II, but to pretend it had no real competition is disingenuous to all parties involved."
In our online poll, lots of people wrote in the programming language known as Smalltalk as their #1 product of all time. Lots and lots and lots and lots of people, actually--so many, in fact, that it's a tad suspicious. But Smalltalk, which sprang from Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center and has been around for decades in various versions, has been extremely influential: It was an object-oriented language back when that was an arcane idea. A modern flavor of Smalltalk, Squeak, is one of technologies that powers the $100 XO (One Laptop Per Child) notebook for emerging countries.
jmjohnson says: "If the Apple II made it into the list, I'll vote for the Atari 800 and its successor the Atari 128XL. Neither the Apple nor Commodore 64 had a true OS. Rather they used BASIC and machine language subroutines for everything. The Atari 8-bit used a true operating system (several were available in fact) and introduced several architectural features used in later PCs, including many current models:* banked RAM to grow beyond the 64K the 8-bit processor could directly address. (I had more than 1MB installed), * the use of extra RAM as though it were a disk drive (RAMDrive), * video that dynamically shared addressable RAM, * separately addressable video layers,* polyphonic sound,* multi-tasking (you could program alternate tasks to run during the vertical blank interupt between screen refreshes), * greater mathematical precision than PCs without a separate math co-processor."
A file manager utility for DOS? What could be more mundane? Actually, 1985's XTree was so useful that we heard from multiple people who told us that it's one of the best tech products in history. (You know an ancient utility was something special when it has its own fan page.) XTree died in 1995, but a current product for Windows known as ZTree is an unapologetic clone that brings XTree's retro-but-still-potent goodness into the modern world.
Original 128KB Mac
We may be PC World, but hey, we love Macs: 1986's Mac Plus is #14 on our list of the all-time great products. However, some people thought we gave short shrift to its groundbreaking predecessor, the original 1984 Mac. How come it didn't make our list? Mainly because its dearth of memory--128KB just wasn't enough--made using it a floppy-swapping nightmare.
USB Flash Drives
kj1975 says: "Not too bad, but I can think of several products that should be on the list that are not. Beginning with the most significant gadget/application of this century: plug and play interoperability through a computer USB port. While developed during the late nineties, it took this century with the advent of all manner of devices such as digital cameras, the IPod (ranked number #6 but really does not belong in the top 40 in my opinion) and more importantly, USB flash drives, which also should be in the top five."
drjoebdavis says: "How could you forget the optical mouse in the Top 50? The mouse is an absolute necessity in almost all computer work. The optical mouse, circa 1980 has been the biggest boon to the typical user since the GUI. Gone are the days of the special mouse pad and the required--and tedious and seemingly endless--cleaning of the rollers encasing the ball. My vote is for the optical mouse in the Top 10, high up on the Top 50 list."
QV-10 Digital Camera
world2020 says: "QV-10 - first (!) digital camera, where it is? Do you remember QV-10 fun clubs and photo exchanges on Internet, made with QV-10? Just in 1995-1996."
JazzGuyy says: "Where are the really great technology products like the light bulb, the electron tube, the transistor, the phonograph, radio, TV, magnetic tape, CDs and more? Even limiting things to computers, where is the 80xx CPU, COBOL and FORTRAN, etc?"
HP 12C business calculator
Montalvo says: "Personally, I'm impressed by staying power. How about an electronic product that continues to dominate its niche and is virtually unchanged 26 years after being introduced? What is it? Take a guess... It's the HP 12C business calculator. I bought my first one two years after getting an MBA in finance and have used one ever since. OK, so maybe some of its appeal is based on its bizarre-sounding 'Reverse Polish Notation' computation system. But users know that RPN is not just zany window dressing; it's something that really adds significant functionality and efficiency. A product that can survive, let alone prosper, in the highly changeable hi-tech market for more than a quarter-century really deserves some recognition. It's a marketing tour-de-force, something that's more than a bit ironic in that HP has long been known for its technology, not its marketing. Congratulations, HP! You built a damn fine calculator!"
rgd130 says: "I think you missed the boat on PDA's. In the early '90's the HP95, an XT computer with QWERTY keyboard in a 3.25"x6.25"x1" package was certainly pocketable. It's system manager allowed switching between Lotus 123, Phonebook, Appointments, Calculator, Word Processor, Stopwatch, Communications, etc applications like Windows does today. It ran many of the DOS applications of the day and considerable user written software was available through user groups. It and HP successors were THE palmtop computers of the first half of the 90's."
csusi says: "I am surprised the WII is not on there. Perhaps it hasn't made a large enough impact yet, but I can foresee the day in a few years when homes are designed with rooms designed for interactive immersible video games. Where considerations such as open space for moving around and a projection tv (so u dont break the screen when u let go of your play-stick) are designed into the room. The Wii has the possibility to radically change home life much the way TV did 50 years ago."
josefr says: "No Winamp? Please. Without Winamp there would be no iTunes."
atholi says: "It was interesting to see that early MP3 and LZH compression programs were not mentioned, nor was BSD. Do "products" have to be for sale, or could it include freeware and hackware? Otherwise, on the whole, a great list that had me grinning with recollection. Please send it to Congress so they can see real greatness."
kenee says: "The introduction of Visicalc, which ran on the Apple II, was really the turning point in the growth of the microprocessor market. No other event in the industry matches the sudden access to mathematical processing that became available to the public through this product. When Visicalc was introduced, sales of both it and the Apple II exploded."
jackifus says: "HP 35 from 1972: the first scientific pocket calculator changed the world. Do you folks have a memory?"
MelancholyGiant says: "A vast majority of the items on this list were either A. Derived from the IBM PC, or B. Add-ins to the IBM PC, or it's descendants, or C. Applications predominantly run on the IBM PC. So where's the IBM PC on the list?"
ItsaMario says: "Note: I speak from the viewpoint of a young adult. My list of the best computer-related products & concepts includes:1. The Internet itself, as a platform for a wide variety of both information and services- both what's on it now and what will be on it in the future. 2. The GUI concept, whoever it is that deserves credit for it. 3. The Apple II, for igniting the personal computer revolution when companies like IBM had no idea why regular people would want a computer in their home. With those in mind, my list of honorable mentions is the following: Google Web search, Mac OS X, DNS, Napster (never used it, but it started the online music revolution), Podcasts As for the best desktop computing program of all, I'd have to say it's Quicksilver."
Skyfox says: "Voodoo3?? The Voodoo 1 was the revolutionary product that finally brought high quality 3D to the masses, and made a name for 3Dfx. By the time V3 came out, nVidia's excellent TNT and rapid development cycle were already well on the way to burying 3Dfx."
snowmannishboy says: "Apple's LaserWriter / LaserWriter Plus surely belongs on the list. That printer with PostScript, a copy of PageMaker and a Mac made for a revolutionary combination in publishing."
stevietheman says: "I would add PHP, the first open source server-side scripting language designed for the web, by Zend Technologies. It made web programming more accessible to a broader range of computer users. And their extensive online help facilities, chock-full of useful user comments, were revolutionary. Consider that some of the most important and influential websites, such as Wikipedia, run on it. Even this discussion board runs on it. It is nearly ubiquitous in web hosting solutions."
maybaum says: "I'll bet the TRS-80 got more people into computing than all the Apples put together."
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors
Walmart Promo Codes
Walmart promo code for an additional $10 off grocery app orders
Target Promo Code
Target promo code - Save 25% on laptops and tablets
Home Depot Coupon
Home Depot coupon code - 10% off select office furniture and home decor
eBay coupon: $5 off first purchase
Sign up today for 15% off Overstock coupon
40% off St. John's Bay items w/ JCPenney coupon