Looking back

Jason Saundalkar looks back over 2008 and homes in on the technology releases that caught his eye

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By  Jason Saundalkar Published  October 28, 2008

As another year draws to a close, I can confidently say that 2008 has been an excellent year for the consumer IT industry. There have been a number of products and technologies that have impressed me this year but perhaps the biggest was the second coming of netbooks.

The eagle eyed among you will note I’ve said second coming because the first set of netbooks actually hit the market way back in the year 1997. These were in the form of HP’s OmniBook 800 CT and it ran Microsoft’s Windows 95 operating system. I should point out however, that when HP released the OmniBook, the term netbook was never used to describe it. It was only brought to market in 1999 by Psion, who are most famous for their range of handheld devices and was re-introduced at the start of this year by Intel.

Today’s netbooks are far more heavily specified beasts and thus have a wider range of uses than before. As great as this is, I’m more impressed with netbooks because they’ve made it possible for even very low income households to get in on the IT bandwagon and experience the internet and the wealth of knowledge it offers.

On the graphics front, both AMD and nVidia impressed me but for very different reasons. The former absolutely blew my socks off with its latest batch of video cards because every GPU from the Radeon HD 4000 series offered awesome performance at a very strong price point.

nVidia on the other hand impressed me with the launch of its Compute Unified Device Architecture (CUDA). This set of development tools allows software developers to create applications that can use the parallel processing architecture of a GPU. As GPUs comprise a huge number of parallel processors, they can seriously outperform CPUs when doing heavily threaded tasks such as audio and video encoding. What this means for end users is that something that once took several hours can now be accomplished in as little as an hour. That’s fantastic.

2008 has been a fantastic year and, looking forward, 2009 looks poised to follow suit with Intel leading the charge with its soon to be launched ‘Nehalem’ processors and its associated multi-GPU-friendly platforms.

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