When eWeek Labs named 25 products as the most influential of the 25-year era of the PC (see “25 products define 25 years of personal computing” at eweek.com), we had regrets about important innovations that didnt make the 25-year cut or that didnt muster Top 25 scores in our rankings. Readers were even more vehement in their comments about notable products that did not make that list. Weve therefore turned up the range of our radar to include the years before IBM shipped the PC and widened our sweep to include technologies that are part of the PC-driven digital transformation of modern life, to offer our readers this second 25.
Although it may be hard to remember today, this Internet search site set the bar for Google and others to clear.
Far more than just a bookstore, its become a pathfinder for electronic storefronts and Web service ecosystems.
Laser Print Engine
Thank goodness Canon-powered printers such as Hewlett-Packards LaserJet and Apples LaserWriter displaced the daisy wheel for office-grade hard copy.
Centronics Parallel Port
Hacked by hardware hobbyists into an interface for controlling anything.
If we knew which brand was first, it wouldnt be the first “clone.” En masse, they made IBM a mere enabler.
CP/M and QDOS
An intentional exception to our 25-year limit, these were the spiritual and the actual parents, respectively, of what became MS-DOS.
Data General/One PC
Despite a screen that required a flashlight to read and a battery life measured in minutes, it defined the look of the modern laptop.
Domain Name System
It made the global network speak plain English. Sorry about that, world.
Redefining market efficiency, its influence may be second only to that of e-mail.
Ethernet (IEEE 802.3)
Invented, like so many things, at Xerox, it was popularized by 3Com as DIX (Digital/Intel/Xerox) and IEEEd in 1983.
Its AT command set for in-band control made digital telecommunication accessible to mere mortals.
Smalltalk did it earlier, but Java was far more influential in making mainstream programmers think “object”-ively.
Active-matrix color caught our eye on Apples PowerBook 540c in 1994 and went on to shrink the footprint of the desktop PC display.
Whether or not it damages a beginning programmers brain, without it there would have been no Microsoft as we know it.
Breaking the mold of the brick-size cellular phone, it set todays expectations for pocket-size personal communicators.
Love or hate the way its used, regret or ignore the passing of superior products, you cant escape the PPT deck .
Oracle Relational Database
The first DBMS to handle, with impressive superiority, massive record sets in pioneering PC Week Shoot-Outs.
Its influence cant be disputed, even if its not universally cheered (and its loopholes opened the door to the Morris Internet worm).
Defying circuit-switched conventions, this combo wrapped the future of communications in a packet.
Turbo Pascal (Borland International)
Transformed expectations of programming tools price and productivity.
Its what GNU vehemently claimed not to be, with Linux loudly finishing that job.
Made the PC-as-controller paradigm accessible to anyone with an opposable thumb.
Another exception to our 25-year rule: Before IBM made PC hardware “professional,” VisiCalc made businesspeople want a PC.
The mass-market archetype of a user interface so horrible, people learned it and never forgot it.
Included by implication on our first Top 25 list, XML needs its own entry here to reflect its transformation of information. Replacing cryptic, task-specific binary data structures with largely self-disclosing and readily repurposed text-mode streams, XML is enabling the revolution of Web services and driving a database revolution.