Shortly after rounding up my list of 5 overhyped technologies, I wondered which tech advances didn't disappoint. With the rapid pace of technology, it's hard for things touted as "the next big thing" to become just that, shifting user paradigms. You don't remember what life was like before it, and you can't imagine life without the added convenience. Here are five I consider successes...
1. HDTV (1998)
This was definitely a game changer. I remember seeing reports on local news stations gushing over the technology. "You have to see it to believe it." "So lifelike it's like looking through a window." "Wait until you see live sports on this." The hype machine was going full tilt on HDTV. When I finally did actually catch a glimpse of one with my own eyes, it was breathtaking. The colors and the details were so vivid I couldn't stop staring. Taking a step back, I noticed others having the same reaction. Never before had slides of still life fruit been so engaging. The TV industry hasn't seen such a shift since since color TV, and try as they may to have that impact again with 3D and 4KTV, HDTV is the only recent development that truly was worth all the hype it received.
2. Multi-Touch (2007)
Multi-touch may very well have been released before, but I didn't know about it nor care about it until I saw that famous Steve Jobs presentation for the original iPhone. My work buddies were all individually tuned in behind their laptops at their office. Then when it was time for our lunchtime walk to the cafeteria, we were all amazed and excited. Everyone was expecting an iPhone to be announced, but what was shown was truly amazing. The flicking, the swiping, the pinch-to-zoom, the ease of the whole thing was unbelievable. Ever since that announcement, the multi-touch technology that drove the iPhone hype has extended its reach to tablets, our laptops, our monitors and just about everything that is touch-sensitive. Things are so much easier because of it, and it's hard to believe we used to arrow down or up on menus with physical buttons on our phones, or click and drag a tiny cursor with a stylus.
3. Blu-ray (2008)
With HDTV being such a huge hit, the logical next step was extending this high pixel density medium to our movie disc players. Blu-ray and HD-DVD had a format war, Blu-ray won and movie-by-movie, disc-by-disc, the available content began to grow and the whole medium became more ubiquitous. People lined up for $99 Blu-ray players on Black Friday, and just like HDTV, it brought a whole new viewing experience. For me personally, the best thing about Blu-ray, besides the crystal-clear image, is the uncompressed sound tracks that accompany it. Things never looked or sounded better, and I'm even convinced the experience rivals the movie theater.
Do you remember having to search the internet, download and unzip files, and follow a README or "How-to" for each and every program or add-on you put on your phone? This doesn't even touch on updates, which were all self-managed by the user, and required that same roundabout process only a computer nerd hell-bent on customizing things could endure. Critics knocked the original iPhone because it didn't allow this, then came the App Store and like the start of a movie, everyone was silenced. This was another why-hasn't-anybody-thought-of-this-before moment. Downloading games, utilities, and features to our phones and computers has become easier ever since. The word "app" is now in the English dictionary, and even 10 year-olds download and buy apps on their smartphones.
The iPad was announced to mixed reviews. I myself remember thinking the concept was silly and pointless. "It's just a big iPhone." The public was convinced otherwise, lining up in droves to get their hands on one. News stations did their obligatory people-lined-up-in-front-of-an-Apple-Store stories, and you couldn't escape the buzz. After seeing my friends use the device and after I realized the practical conveniences a big iPhone could bring to my home, I bought one. It was more than "you got to see it to believe it," this was "you have to use it to believe it." Once a tablet arrives in your home it simply changes the way you do things from that point forward. Internet browsing on the couch, thumbing through recipes in the kitchen, watching videos on an airplane. There's an intimate experience while viewing media on a tablet, and its unlike anything else.
What's your favorite recent home technology?