Technologies That Changed Everything

Technologies 4-12-12Can you imagine living life without a remote control? Muting the TV to take a phone call? Get up and turn the volume down. Bored with what you are watching? Get up to change the channel.

That’s just one example of a technological revolution that changed everything. Countless other technological areas can trace their roots back to one single, revolutionary product that upped the ante on everyone in that industry. What set different industry standards over the years?  Wondering how things may have evolved without certain products?

Let's look back to how things were once upon a time, and how some of yesteryear’s most revolutionary gizmos are technological dinosaurs by today’s standards.See if you remember any of these.  PCWorld complied a list of 12 technologies that changed everything:

Flash-Matic TV Remote

Think about it: When was the last time you got up to change the channel? Or, for that matter, manually opened a garage door, used a key to open your car, or turned a knob on any piece of consumer electronics?

Thank the Flash-Matic, the first wireless TV remote, which used flashing lights to turn the set on and off, control volume, and cycle between channels.


The space race launched a new way of using computers.  Without it, the internet might not yet exist. Other side benefits of that massive research and design infusion: advanced microprocessors, graphical interfaces, and memory foam mattresses.

Atari Pong

Pong was not the first home video game system, but the massive popularity of its home version (introduced in 1976) lead to the first home PCs, as well as to our current console-game universe.

PC Model 5150

Before IBM unleashed the "PC" onto the world in August 1981, there were perhaps a dozen completely incompatible personal computers, all of which required their own software and peripherals. Shortly after August 1981 there were just three: the PC itself, the dozens of clone-makers doing their best to copy IBM's open design, and those pesky Apple guys.

The IBM label turned personal computers from a toy for hobbyists and gamers into a business tool, while software like Lotus 1-2-3 and Wordstar gave businesses a reason to buy them.

Motorola DynaTAC 8000X

Remember the "brick"?  More than a foot long, weighing more than 2 pounds, and with a price tag just shy of $4000, the DynaTAC 8000X would be unrecognizable as a cell phone to any of today's iPhone-slinging hipsters.

Yet the shoebox-sized unit--approved by the FCC in 1983 and immortalized by Michael Douglas in 1987's Wall Street--was the first commercially available cell phone that could operate untethered from an external power source.

IBM ThinkPad 700C

In 1992 IBM introduce the ThinkPad and technology suddenly went from being strictly for low-level geeks to something that was simply cool. The business world has never been the same.

Broadband Internet

The Internet, the World Wide Web, Amazon, Google, YouTube--all of them were game changers in their own way. But their impact wasn't really felt until the bits flowed fast enough to let us access these things without losing our minds.

U.S. businesses had been able to lease costly high-speed voice and data lines since the late 1960s, but it wasn't until 1995, when Canada's Rogers Communications launched the first cable Internet service in North America, that consumers could enjoy the Web at speeds greater than 56 kbps. DSL followed in 1999. Now Americans access the internet at much faster speeds with 3G and 4G wireless broadband changing the game again.

The Slammer Worm

With the good comes the bad. In January 2003, the Slammer/Sapphire Worm took down everything from network servers to bank ATMs to 911 response centers, causing more than $1 billion worth of damage in roughly 10 minutes. Malware is now the preferred tool of professional cyber criminals, not just random internet vandals.


Yes, the iPod was and is a groovy little gadget, and so are the iPhone and the iPad. But without the music store, the iPod was just another gizmo for playing CDs you'd ripped and illegally downloaded tunes. Without the App store, the iPhone would just be a phone and the iPad might not even exist.


Web blogs have completely rewritten the rules of media. Pick any topic and you'll find dozens, and possibly thousands, of blogs discussing it in mind-numbing detail. Now anyone can be a journalist and everyone's an "expert." Open source WordPress is the biggie.

Capacitive Touchscreens

"Apple didn't invent the capacitive touchscreen, but it was the implementation of the technology in the original iPhone that completely altered the face of the smartphone market," notes Ben Lang, senior editor of CarryPad, a Website focused on mobile Internet devices.

The Cloud

Still, the always-accessible internet will change the game more than any of these other technologies combined. Because the cloud will essentially turn the internet into a utility with the ability to take your data anywhere.

For more information on these products and what made them revolutionary for their time, see the full PCWorld article here.