10 Years of Tech: The unsung heroes of technology

With more and more time being spent in the company of gadgets and computers, any innovation that make gadgets less of a pain to use and saves you time is much appreciated.

UrbanWire honors the top 10 unsung technology heroes of the past decade – the tiniest bits of technology that have become so ubiquitous and often-used that I can’t imagine doing without them, yet so often being taken for granted in day-to-day use.

This list is in no particular order.

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10.  Scrolling Thumbnail Preview


Imagine this, but with more scrolling action.

When it was popularized:

Definitely popularized in the last decade due to the proliferance of streaming video sites.

What it does:

This is a hard one to describe since the king of all streaming sites, Youtube doesn’t even actually use this feature. This iPhoto video best illustrates what I’m talking about (12 seconds into the video), except used in streaming sites. Basically, dragging your mouse across the thumbnail would allow you to preview the contents of the video.

Why it’s being honored:

It’s absolutely baffling to me why Youtube doesn’t have this as a standard feature. Just imagine how much time could be saved from watching crap videos (that was probably filmed by a 12 year old with a jerky camera phone) if you had the ability to preview the thumbnails before watching the whole thing.

I’m disappointed that this isn’t as widespread as it should be, but it’s slowly and surely gaining traction after Apple included this as a feature in Snow Leopard, using it for previewing videos before opening them in the main video player.

9. Quicklook


Instant viewing of images.

When it was popularized:

2007, with the release of Mac OS X Leopard.

What it does:

Pressing spacebar allows you to instantly preview files like word documents, videos and pictures – all without needing to open up the relevant application.

Why it’s being honored:

It’s a real time-saver. Quicklook lets you preview all your documents without opening applications, which may take a long time and lag your laptop.


Works for more than pictures!

Perhaps you just needed to quickly refresh your memory about something you typed in another word document, or maybe you just wanted to check the size of a folder -Quicklook lets you do that in an instant.

With all the features that Microsoft “repurposed” from the Macintosh (like Windows 7’s new taskbar, clearly made in OS X Dock’s image), this is one of the features that should’ve made the cut.

8.  Tabs

When it was popularized:

Tabbing was actually available in the commercial landscape since 1988, but was only popularized in the past decade with the advent of internet browsers and multitasking-happy users. With the release of Internet Explorer 7 in 2006, all the major web browsers like Firefox and Safari finally had tab support.

What it does:

It’s a user interface that allows multiple pages and documents to be contained within a single window, with no need for lots of windows clogging up your desktop.

Why it’s being honored:

Ah… The almighty tab. What would we do without you?

There’s been a big hoo-ha for a couple years already about multitasking and how it reduces attention span. We can congratulate tabs as one major factor that allows us  to multi-task easily.

With all of the content, and none of the clutter, one can easily open up fifty tabs at one go and peruse at leisure. Tabs greatly reduce mess in your desktop window and personally, I find it mortifying every time I see an inexperienced computer user insist on opening a new window when they want to go to another website.

Tabbing has permeated most of technology’s landscape, except for the last frontier – window managers like the Windows Explorer for Windows users and Finder for mac aficionados.

It’s simply shameful that both Microsoft and Apple didn’t see fit to grace their respective window managers with tabs, especially when there’s plenty of software that allow tabbing functionality like the QTTabBar for Windows 7.

7.  Undo Send for Gmail


People get fired over things like this, you know?

When it was popularized:

2009, as a new feature in Google Labs.

What it does:

A method of letting you pull back a sent Gmail message within 30 seconds.

Why it’s being honored:

Who here hasn’t accidentally sent out an email that you regret immediately right after pressing send?

Whether it’s to the wrong person, or an email with dreadful spelling mistakes, or forgetting to attach a file, Undo Send is infinitely useful. For all of you guys who don’t know this feature even exists, go to your Google Mail and look at the top right corner,  under Google Labs.

Gmail’s Undo Send is a godsend, in every sense of the word.

6. Session Restore

When it was popularized:

Firefox, first seen in 2006’s Firefox 2.

What it does:

A feature that restores all your previously opened tabs in the event of a crash.

Why it’s being honored:

Crashes are an unavoidable issue. Someday, somewhere, you will run into an douche bag of a site that makes your Firefox crash, probably due to the imbecile coding in his basement and forgetting to put in a comma or a bracket, forcing you to lose all your work.

With session restore, you never really lose all your work. You’ll be able to resume right back where you were surfing, with no need to try and figure out which tabs you had open.

I have self-diagnosed Obsessive Compulsion Disorder, so I can’t tell you how much I hate having to search for all the sites I had open in my tabs after a Firefox crash.

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About Ang Cheng Wei

I am not always right, but I am never wrong.
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