The most important tech of the last 22 years


CUECAT!!! Wired sent one with my subscription one month in the late nineties.


I knew that Walt Mossberg (ever squandering his name’s potential as a hard-hitting crime-beat reporter with a taste for vigilante justice), liked his tech fuzzy and consumer focused; but this list confirms it.

No mention of SSL? More or less the entire reason that you can do online banking and buy junk on the internet? Anyone?

Any of the SQL products not from Enterprise Software companies and price to show it? Y’know, that software that more or less made the swarms of (mostly insufferable, occasionally revolutionary) internet startups economically viable?


I can’t even remember how I got mine. I sort of wish I had it now, but at least I still have my fridge magnet.


I think i can get behind everything there except the newton and the macbook air.

The product that gets the prize for ai-assistant has not yet been created. It may well be deserving, whenever it shows up, but thus far such systems are vastly too flaky.

Somebody loves his macbook air. My wife has one, yea very nice laptop. An incremental improvement following right down the groove of light laptop improvements at the time. Certainly not “important” given that IBM had been making business laptops with the same ideas (small screens, moderate perf, few media readers) for years.

Most deserving one of those spots:
Google Maps!


I think you need to read it as “most important tech consumer products”


Seems like most of his list is either hardware or end user software. Stuff that normal people can relate to, rather than stuff they can’t. I mean, if Jeremy Clarkson did a “most important car developments of the last 50 years” I am uncertain as to whether or not traction control and variable valve timing would be included, whereas the Jaguar E-Type and Bugatti Veyron would likely be in it.

Anyway, it’s just a list by a guy. No one considers it definitive.


I have a couple of them tucked away somewhere myself. Once you got past the “encryption”, they made great little devices for bar code projects. I never did bother with the hardware modification to disable the scrambling.

I still can’t believe someone thought they’d take off as a way of getting people to interact with advertisements.

The ‘Cuecat’ was doing ‘QR codes’, ‘iBeacon’, and assorted other (worthless) integrating-marketing-with-your-own-device-voluntarily-because-reasons-or-something schemes years before they were cool, not that they ever were.

They are a veritable prescient pioneer of worthless advertising tricks that wouldn’t really be technologically ready for another decade or so.


Did anybody ever actually use their cuecat? I had one too, but can’t even remember what it was supposed to be for (and certainly never used it for whatever that purpose was).

I think I used the one I got free in Wired to scan an ad for the Swatch watch that measured internet time. I tried to buy it with flooz , but instead i used this newfangled application for my palm pilot (called paypal) that let me beam my payment to the seller. Ah, memories.


Yeah, I had TWO of them but I was also Mac based at the time so no barcode funnsies for me!

Absolutely. And, at least you can use a cell phone to scan QR codes nowadays. The whole “kludge in a PS2 keyboard splitter so people can bring barcodes to their personal computer to scan them to get more advertisements” thing was an amazing combination of inspiration and cluelessness.


I never used mine for for the intended purpose past the first few novelty scans to see what it was all about.

I have used them for actual barcode scanning… Things like building a database of a video collection, or during development of software that would need barcode input.

Mostly, they’ve just collected dust. I think I still have one in the original packaging.

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Oh, Walt.

I’d say the 3dfx Voodoo certainly has had more impact than the macbook air (I have an air, and love it, but it’s just a laptop done right and not a groundbreaker like most of the rest of his list).

And if he wants to conflate web services and software with tech hardware than I think either Everquest and/or Doom did more to shape our current world than Android. And I wonder whether the iPod would have taken off if it wasn’t for Napster.

And I also still have my cuecat. What’s that say about us?


you cyberpunk, you!


What about OpenGL? At 1992, it makes make the 22 year cut, and basically everything that isn’t Direct3D is either OpenGL or a direct descendant of it.


I must admit that ‘internet time’ always struck me as silly, even back in the day, and I’m the sort of whiner who thinks that we should use TAI rather than UTC because leap seconds suck.

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IIRC - you could scan bar codes for ads and that would take you to a website with more info.

I have never actually used it - but I have one. Somewhere.

Apple’s iPod was the first mainstream digital media player, able to hold 1,000 songs in a device the size of a deck of playing cards.

What does that mean? It was bit smaller and had more style then it’s competitors but as far as I remember that was it.