Today marks the day that the United States celebrates the holiday known as Thanksgiving, where we (are supposed to) give thanks for what we have.
But you don’t have to celebrate Thanksgiving to give thanks for certain things we have in tech.
- The dream of a desktop computer everybody can afford has been realized. A new and shockingly decent computer costs under $300. Bear in mind a $300 PC today cost around $1,200 less than 10 years ago.
- Netbooks. Just a scant few years ago it was only a dream to be able to purchase a decent portable computer for under $800. Netbooks have obliterated that price point and allows everybody to have a laptop now. (And in fact I wrote this article on one.)
- USB. Arguably one of the most important innovations in computer hardware. The U really does mean Universal. Thousands of devices are available for it. It works not only with desktop computers but also wireless phones and even some cars. Most importantly, it killed the floppy diskette (and thank God for that because those were terrible).
- VoIP. Voice over Internet Protocol is something people take for granted a bit too much. The most important thing VoIP ever did was not allow us to communicate anywhere, anytime for free – but rather that it broke the shackles of Big Telecom. When companies like Skype and Vonage started offering voice plans that were literally less than half the cost of what the local Telco could offer, they had to lower their rates just to compete. In this respect, everybody wins.
- Microsoft Windows 7 and Apple Mac OS X Snow Leopard. Both of these offerings have finally matured to a point where nearly all the common issues they had in previous versions are now nothing but things of the past. These are the operating systems we were waiting for all these years, as in the ones that looked good, functioned the way they’re supposed to and are less than half the size of their predecessors. Whether you’re a Windows or Mac user, what we have now is the best there’s ever been from either company.
- Ubuntu Linux. I’m not saying it’s the best Linux distribution, but it is the offering that put Linux on the map as far as consumer awareness is concerned. Prior to Ubuntu there was little to no corporate interest in manufacturing consumer computers bundled with a Linux operating system that were widely available. But thanks to Ubuntu, they got the attention of the big players like Dell for example.
- WordPress. PCMech is WordPress powered. This is the publishing platform that can turn any web site into something as easy to use as a word processor. It is designed in such a way where it accommodates the novice all the way up to the expert programmer level and everywhere in between.
- Twitter. Love or hate Twitter, it did allow people the most effective way to post little notes on the internet micro-blog style in a way that’s simple and easy. Moreover it’s accessible from anywhere. Your desktop computer, laptop and wireless phone (even if not a smartphone). It also proved that the most important thing concerning communications on the internet is still raw plain text. You can throw out all the video, Flash and audio you want, but it’s the text that matters most. Twitter proved that easily.
- Community wi-fi. More and more cities, towns and communities are giving away free public internet access to anybody who’s in range. From libraries to hospitals to apartment complexes to huge public areas (like the one in Tampa, Florida), it’s getting easier than ever to get online without spending a dime.
- DVR. I don’t think there’s any argument that Digital Video Recording beats the way we used to do it – VHS.
- Wireless networking. If you wanted to run internet – or even a set up a basic LAN – from one room to the next and/or to the above floor(s) or basement, you had to drill holes in the floor to snake CAT-5 cable and there was no way around it. Drilling the holes was a pain and the networking cables were prohibitively expensive. Wireless routers cured that ill in short order. And fortunately because of the way wireless networking works, if you’re out of range with a single wi-fi router, you can use a second as a WAP (Wireless Access Point) to extend the range.
- Cheap optical data storage. The most cost effective way to back up anything if you’re a penny-pincher is to use DVD media. USB sticks still can’t touch a DVD in the cost-per-gigabyte department. A 100-pack of 4.7GB DVDs costs $35. That’s 470GB of data storage at just slightly under $0.08 per gigabyte. Storing data has never been so cheap.
- Automotive GPS. Possibly the greatest vehicle accessory ever devised, because it’s a technology that assists the driver to go places. It’s safer than a paper map on the steering wheel, can help you avoid traffic, answers the question of "WHEN WILL WE GET THERE?" easily (they will all tell you when you’ll arrive at your destination), and most importantly alleviates driver stress – because you’re never lost.
- Shopping online. There have been a lot of figurative bumps in the road with online purchasing over the years, but these days there are safeguards in effect both by the vendor and the bank and make for much safer transactions compared to years ago. When you buy online now, you can purchase with confidence.
- Internet. Sounds obvious, but you should be thankful for it. Internet allows us to communicate in ways unthinkable before its time. Other than amateur radio, there was absolutely no way to communicate with anybody in another country without it costing you extra. A lot extra. Now it’s as easy as a click of a mouse – for text, audio and voice.