Magazine article Insight on the News

High Tech's Second Coming

Magazine article Insight on the News

High Tech's Second Coming

Article excerpt

Ultrafast Internet access, computer-designed cars, digital video, free online banking and satellite telephones are among popular devices that have changed Americans' lives in 1998.

When scientists manage to kill HIV/AIDS cells in a test tube or teleport a beam of light, it's a cause for celebration. When some clever marketers figure out how to bring such research to the masses, it's often a nonevent. In all fairness, this probably is the way it should be: It's Madison Avenue's job to tell the public about new consumer goods. In its look back at 1998, Insight has made its list of 10 consumer products and trends likely to change many Americans' lives. With two exceptions, the devices on this list were available in 1997 and, in some cases, for a lot longer. In our judgment, however, 1998 was the year that ordinary people could begin to buy them.

Cable Modems. The long-promised, high-speed Internet-access method arrived in the form of the cable modem. Using existing cable lines, these modems deliver Internet content as much as 100 times faster than ordinary modems.

Cheap Long Distance. The long-distance price wars continued as Sprint became the first company to more or less abolish long-distance rate structures by making all long-distance calls at all times the same low rate.

Computer-Designed Chrysler Cars. Designed entirely on computers, Chrysler's LHS, 300M and the Dodge Intrepid are more interesting looking than anything since, well, Chrysler's last generation of new cars.

Computers Become Appliances. Apple's iMac and Microsoft's Windows 98 weren't breakthroughs. In fact, technophiles greeted both products with a big yawn. The products, however, make a difference because they substitute whiz-bang new features for tiny innovations that make things work better and faster.

Digital Video Discs. These CDs with movies promise better and sharper pictures and sound, as well as the ability to add extras such as scripts and interviews. Already they've outpaced laser discs to take second place to VHS.

E-mail Use Hits 40 Percent. Although e-mail has been common for about three years now, 1998 marked the year in which 40 percent of the American public had access. Significance: 40 percent is roughly the size of the white-collar workforce.

Free Online Banking. For about 15 years, banks have promised that users will be able to do their banking from their desktops. …

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