The Best of Cybertech

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It was a boom year for tech toys. That meant lots of people were buying lots of expensive stuff they didn’t really need. If it wasn’t electronic, we made it electronic. If it was already electronic, we combined it with something else electronic, made it smaller and taught it how to play Edelweiss. And along the way we managed to build technologies that will change the way we live, work and relate to one another. It was a great year to be a geek.

Any song. Anytime. Free. That’s the beauty of Napster, the simple computer program written by college dropout Shawn Fanning that sparked a global frenzy of music sharing. With 38 million converts, even Metallica and its legions of lawyers won’t get this genie back into its bottle.

2. Nikon Coolpix990
Digital photography finally became cheap enough, easy enough and good enough for the rest of us. This Nikon takes pictures that look as good as film, and its preview function—you can erase the flops—does film one better. No wonder 5 million people bought digital cameras in 2000.

3. The Sims
It’s the Game of Life for the millennium. You control a family of suburbanites. You go to work, you cook dinner, you mow the lawn—no aliens, no spaceships, no rocket launchers. How do you win? You don’t—you just try to stay happy. Kind of like real life.

4. The Hunger Site
Every time you click on this website’s home page (, a donation goes to the needy, paid for by the site’s advertisers. It’s a welcome antidote to the feeding frenzy of get-rich-quick dotcommies.

How do you measure the worth of a website that delivers videos, munchies, toiletries and electronics to your door within an hour of your clicking to order? If the ever plummeting nasdaq is a guide, may not be around much longer. But we’ll sure miss it when it’s gone.

6. F—,,—this was the year their bright and shiny dotcom promises turned to bitter ashes. This website with its unprintable name suggesting an unseemly demise has become essential reading for its gleeful tracking of the Internet industry’s dot bombs, layoff by layoff.

7. Visorphone
Just clamp the VisorPhone onto your Handspring Visor (a cheaper clone of the Palm), tap a number in your address book and—bang!—look who’s talking. This will be remembered as the year the cell phone and the pda finally got married.

8. Paypal
At last, a simple and easy way to “wire” money—even tiny amounts of it—online. You can use it to send your deadbeat brother five bucks via e-mail, or to pay $200 for those vintage Care Bears you bought on eBay. It’s quickly becoming the medium of choice for small-scale e-commerce.

9. The Sony Music Clip
The first portable digital music player that really showed us why they’re so cool: they’re tiny, they’re light, they don’t skip even when you jog and they look like something Q would issue to Agent 007. Nobody does it better.

10. The RIM 957 wireless handheld
E-mail is still the Internet’s killer app, and RIM’s 957 is the wireless gadget of choice for on-the-go e-mail addicts. A large, readable screen has been grafted onto the teensy keyboard, giving pda features to the seriously info-obsessed.