Wired names top ten tech breakthoughs of 2008

As one might expect, virtually every one of the items on this list relates to either personal computing or cell phones. The notable exception is #8, which is more a testament to the phenomenal reach of Michael Phelps’ singular near-hijacking of the Beijing Olympics than to the impact of the supersuit on the general population, which is clearly nil.
Some editorial comments on the top ten:


10. Flexible Displays. Good news for those of us who like to wad things up and stuff them in our pockets–we may soon be able to do this with cell phones.
9. Edible chips. Now this one is interesting and of considerable widespread utility. Anything that can help assess medication compliance and efficacy represents an unqualified step forward. Presumably, the chips are tasteless, given that when drugs are involved it would be unwise to promote the “No one can eat just one!” idea embraced by makers of a different kind of chip.
8. The Speedo LZR. This ultra-low-drag bodysuit developed using NASA technology revolutionized swimming in 2008 and is credited with the setting of literally dozens of new world records. Public demand for such a suit is guaranteed to remain at around zero regardless of cost, but it was definitely as efficacious an addition to the sporting world as any kind of doping–and unless the thing leaches toxins into swimmers’ pores, it’s unquestionably safer than anything in a syringe.
7. Flash Memory. This is not a recent development, merely a rapidly progressing one. In 2004 I had a 256KB memory stick that, if I remember correctly, cost more than the 2GB flash drive I own now.
6. GPS. Global Positioning System satellites have offered consumers a growing number of conveniences in recent years. When I was in high school the only way to measure off-road running courses with any acuracy was to take a piece of soldering wire, bend it along the path of the route or trail of interest on a map (assuming such a map could even be found), and then straighten out the wire and lay it along the scale of miles or kilometers to determine the distance. Nowadays, GPS receivers made by Garmin and others are enormously popular–and pose a headache for road-race directors who are constantly confronting geek-ass anal-retentives who yell at them for hosting 10,000-meter road races that, according to these non-tangent-running midpackers, actually check in at 10,007.65 meters.
Also, the ubiquity of GPS has taken some of the fun out of police-procedural and crime-thriller shows and flicks; how impressive can it be when a cop is tracking the bad guys when your grandmother’s using the same technology to locate her dentures every morning?
5. The Memristor. An ecouraging leap from the theoretical and mathematically describable to the physical. It will be some time before products using this technology reach the market, but a world without computers reliant on RAM and repeated rebootings would be a praiseworthy one.
4. Video-capable single-lens release cameras: It’s critical that every idiot with a digital camera, an Internet connection, and a bad idea (estimated to number 113.4 million in the U.S. alone) have the option of anyone-can-do-it video recording, because YouTube is not yet sufficiently choked with stupefyingly briliant clips of, for example, people farting in their dogs’ faces and so on. Improvements in this area are of distinct benefit to pros, though.
3. USB 3.0. This is one of those technologies that almost no one who uses and benefits from it will recognize by name. (How many FireFox fans actually know what version they’re running?) Interestingly, the Wired writer takes roughly the same swipe at YouTube users I just did.
2. Android. An operating system for cell phones created by Google, this product is presently being used only by T-Mobile’s lukewarm G1 device. Because Android is an open-source platform (think Linux), it’s expected to make leaps and bounds in a relatively short time.
1. Apple’s App Store. I figured Wired would make an Apple product its top choice, but didn’t figure its selection would be a flat-out advertisement for the company rather than one of its pricey gizmos.

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