The Web      Powered by


Return to Transcripts main page


CNN Presents: Top 25 Technological Breakthroughs

Aired April 17, 2005 - 20:00   ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. I am Carol Lin. Top 25 tech breakthroughs is up next but first, these are the headlines. Just eight hours from now the Roman Catholic cardinals will gather for a special mass of the election of the supreme pontiff. Later, Monday, they begin their secret conclave to elect a new pope. They will be deliberating under new rules designed to prevent a deadlock.
An American woman who helped victims of the Iraq war has become a victim herself. Twenty eight year old Marla Rusica (ph) died in a Baghdad car-bombing Saturday. In 2003, Rusica founded a group to aid injured Iraqis and the families of those killed in the war. A western official says she was killed while traveling near the Baghdad International Airport.

And a sheriff says a convicted sex offender has confessed to killing a 13-year-old Florida girl. Searchers found Sarah Michelle Lunde's body yesterday in the Tampa Bay area. David Onstot (ph), who once dated the girl's mother, is charged with first degree murder. Authorities say he told them he strangled the girl during an argument. Sarah Lunde's family and friends are grieving and looking back on her life. I'm going to talk to someone who is probably closest to her. Her youth pastor, later on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT. That newscast begins at 10 p.m. Eastern.

In the meantime, more headlines in 30 minutes, but right now a look at the top 25 tech breakthroughs in 25 years.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Innovations, inventions and the things that make us marvel. The top 25 technology breakthroughs that changed the world and our lives during CNN's first 25 years, from satellite TV to fiber optics, hybrid cars, to genomics, to the high tech gadgets which entertain and the ones that can save your life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Imagine how it would be if we are able to gain a comprehensive understanding of how the earth really works, system by system and how it's connected.

SIEBERG: We're counting down the discoveries, the breakthroughs, that make our lives safer and better every day.

(on camera): Welcome to CNN'S TOP 25. I'm Daniel Sieberg joining you from the Sony Wonder Technology Lab in New York. This month we look at the top technology breakthroughs as CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary. You know, a quarter century ago most people couldn't imagine eating genetically modified corn. The most popular video game featured a yellow circle chomping through a dot-filled maze and TV remote controls, well, they only had a few buttons, on, off, volume control and channel up down.

(voice-over): We've come a long way since then so we asked a panel of experts to look at the major technological discoveries CNN has covered over the years and come up with a list of the stories that shape the way we live.

JOSH MACHT, MANAGING EDITOR, TIME.COM: You have things that have become phenomenons (sic), you have things that are hugely widespread, that change people's lives across the globe, that influences a huge impact that sort of ties them all together.

SIEBERG (on camera): Twenty five technology breakthroughs in 25 years, there is much to cover, so let's get right to the countdown. Rumbling in at number 25, you can't stop storms from blowing your way but several high tech tools are improving our ability to know when they're coming.

Rob Marciano shows us how the experts keep tabs on weather around the world.


ROB MARCIANO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hurricanes, tornadoes, snow storms, tsunamis. They're unstoppable, unforgiving and often unpredictable. But around the globe, several technologies are helping to even the odds by giving the public and policymakers more time to plan and prepare to weather the storms.

CONRAD LAUTENBACHER, NOAA ADMINISTRATOR: We have been able to improve our warning systems, our records on tornado warnings, on hurricane warnings, on flood warnings, have been improving.

MARCIANO: And that translates to lives saved. The four hurricanes that hit Florida last year claimed about 110 U.S. lives. Without today's warnings systems, each one of those storms might have had a much higher death toll. A global network of sensors, satellites and other equipment keeps a constant eye in the skies and the surrounding atmosphere. High-flying geostationary satellites and low- flying earth orbiting satellites give scientists a telescopic view of weather systems as they travel around the planet.

For more down to earth analysis, Doppler radar helps track the growth, movement and severity of storms. Aircraft mounted sensors and weather balloons monitor atmospheric conditions like air circulation and jet streams, while on the ocean, buoys and other equipment measure temperature changes on the sea surface and signal if a developing storm is on the horizon.

But despite the impressive technology, it may surprise you that the most important innovation in the world of weather is not a high tech gadget. Computer modeling. It's the foundation of modern meteorology and the primary tool scientists use to generate forecasts.

(on camera): Data is collected from various sources, like radars, satellites, combined with other information like the weather patterns or the current conditions. It's how we meteorologists predict whether sunny days are ahead or a storm is fast approaching.

LAUTENBACHER: The advancement in models has significantly improved and probably is the most important increment of advantage that we have today that we didn't have 15 years ago.

MARCIANO (on camera): And the future of climate prediction looks bright. Experts say their plan to develop new applications for current weather technology is truly out of this world. It's called GEOSS, a ten year multibillion dollar program that unites more than 60 countries on a single mission. Linking the world's weather observation systems to better understand how all aspects of the global environment is connected. A need tragically underscored by last year's Indian Ocean tsunami and a critical defense against the whims of nature.


SIEBERG: Number 24 on our list? Well, you're presumably using it right now. Nothing is black and white about today's TVs. From jumbo-sized screens to svelte plasmas, we have the skinny on all the latest in small screen entertainment.


SIEBERG (voice-over): Over the past quarter century, TV screens became bigger and better.

MACHT: Twenty five years ago, as you say, you have television and color TV, and that was a great thing. But there was always in the background a huge amount of experimenting with larger displays, better lighting, better color and it took a long time for us to get to the plasma TV that we see today.

SIEBERG: In the future, technology that will change TV as we know it, according to the Federal Communications Commission, high definition television. HDTV is a digital signal providing movie quality video and CD quality audio. It's already available on a lot of stations and the federal government has mandated that all stations be capable of broadcasting in HDTV by 2007.

At number 23, technology used in manufacturing. Over the past 25 years, robotics continue to build things faster and cheaper than manual labor. But computers are taking production to a new plateau.

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY: Oh, we love CAD-CAM, computer aided design, computer aided manufacturing, so you can come up with an idea for a part, for a device or a thing and you can make one, you can make a prototype of one right from your desktop, right from your computer.

SIEBERG: And fresh off the drawing board, or rather, the printer, ink jets filled with liquid plastic, or other materials, could revolutionize manufacturing in the future.

SUZANNE KANTRA, "POPULAR SCIENCE": Ink jet technology can be used in three dimensions and so you could actually print out a ball, you can print out just about anything you can design on your computer. SIEBERG: Number 22 has us seeing double. Stem cell research and implications for humans aside, cloning holds a lot of promise for animals. The most famous clone was created in 1996, Dolly the sheep, the first cloned mammal. Champion livestock have been cloned, including racing mules and milk cows, in hopes of passing on prizewinning traits. And just last year, a company calling itself genetic savings and clone created the first cloned pet cat.

BEN CARLSON, GENETIC SAVINGS AND CLONE: We tell our clients to think of a clone as being like a later born identical twin.

SIEBERG: Some researchers are cloning endangered species from DNA kept in frozen zoos, others hope to clone species way past endangered, like the extinct Tasmanian tiger, from DNA samples.

You might blame number 21 for the epidemic of couch potato-itis. The ubiquitous remote control.

KANTRA: We talk about remote control technologies, it doesn't just mean turning on and off your television. The remote control enables us, when you drove down the street, to be able to hit a button and open up your garage. It enables, today, for you to walk up to your car with your key still in your car and put your hand on the handle and open the car without having to take your key out.

But if you go back to just the entertainment system, it's true. We have gone remote crazy.

SIEBERG: In the future, look for remotes that are easier to program and that control multiple devices.


SIEBERG: We're counting down to the number one technology breakthrough of CNN's first 25 years. Coming up, if technology is a silver lining, we'll show you the cloud.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (video clip): I can't see a clear end to spam, to viruses, to phishing, none of it.

SIEBERG: And later, don't miss the number one pick. Here's a hint, it helps keep you on the go. That still ahead on CNN'S TOP 25.


SIEBERG (on camera): Cell phones are light. Instant messaging makes communications a breeze. At the click of a button, e-mail races around the world. So if communication is such a cinch, what's weighing us down? How about something called e-baggage. Number 20 on our list, Erica Hill explains.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Phishing. ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Words we used to associated with lunchmeat and a weekend pastime have become much more sinister.




HILL: All terms of the digital revolution and signals of a growing problem online. When the Internet age dawned, the net seemed like Eden, everything at your fingertips, not a sneaky snake in sight. The biggest communication headaches were probably junk mail and telemarketers. Today we're mired in e-baggage, online scams and traps aimed at taking down not only your computer but often your identity.

BRIAN COOLEY, CNET.COM: The sky is the limit, unfortunately, on all forms of e-baggage. I can't see a clear end to spam, to viruses, to phishing, none of it.

HILL: With your daily routine now a target, an entire industry has emerged to handle the e-baggage.

CALEB SIMA, CTO & FOUNDER, SPI DYNAMICS: I kind of consider the industry to have started sort of in the early '90s, at which point it was rare to have heard of one security company that was by themselves. Now there are hundreds of them.

HILL: Hundreds aimed at curbing spam and viruses and attacking new threats.

CHRIS ROULAND, CTO, INTERNET SECURITY SYSTEMS: Spim is the new form of spam that is sent over instant messaging systems. Pharming is a sophisticated technique which is used to send you, while you are using your computer, to a hacker's own Website.

HILL: A Web site where your personal information and identity are at risk. Also gaining speed, cell phone viruses and hackers going after your PDA. Remember the Paris Hilton debacle? How did we get to this point?

COOLEY: The public Internet, commercial Internet, dates to about 1995 and I don't recall there being a lot of spam, a lot of this e- baggage until maybe two years after that.

HILL: And from the late '90s through today, e-baggage has snowballed. Even with the rise of Internet security companies, it's a constant battle to stay a step ahead of the bad guys.

(on camera): Some liken the problem of e-baggage to fire. We invented flames one day and then the next realized we needed a thousand fire departments just to control the blaze.

(voice-over): With the Internet now home to these cyber wildfires, is it time to pull the plug?

ROULAND: The advantages of using the Internet today hugely outweigh the risks out there.

COOLEY: The good side is everybody, every major player, is onboard, every corporation is aware of it. Every consumer is aware of it. So at least we have the seeds planted for a nice crop of secure products and secure minds, that means all of us, in the relatively near future.

HILL: Until then, security experts agree, use a firewall, keep anti-virus software up to date and be stingy with personal information. And if the offer in your inbox seems to good to be true, it probably is.

SIEBERG (voice-over): Number 19 on our list gives power to the portables.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Batter technology has changed everything.

SIEBERG: A quarter century ago, alkaline batteries were the standard, but today lithium ion lights up our lives.

KANTRA: You would not be able to get the four to eight hours of talk time and two weeks of standby in your cell phone from an alkaline battery. It just would not be possible and so by creating these new battery chemistries, they have enabled this whole new range of devices that can be incredible tiny.

SIEBERG: The next big leap in battery power is likely to be fuel cells, which can be recharged by refilling, much like a reusable cigarette lighter.

Let's get small with number 18, the scanning tunneling microscope reveals miniature images in 3D.

NYE: So we now see images of a flies face that 50 years ago were just inconceivable because we are using these scanning electron microscopes and tunneling electron microscopes which are based on quantum physics. So quantum physics, or quantum mechanics, was discovered in the 1920s and it is only now that these images are routine. Fifty years from now we can't imagine what they'll lead to.

SIEBERG: At number 17, energy and water conservation. Water- saving devices like low flow toilets and showerheads allow cities like Las Vegas to bloom in the desert, postponing an almost inevitable water shortage and appliances are becoming more energy efficient. One of the most successful energy savers is the compact fluorescent light bulb. If every home in the U.S. replaced one conventional light bulb with an energy star compact fluorescent, it would prevent pollution equal than that emitted by one million cars.

KANTRA: Looking into the future is an LED lighting source, or light emitting diode, and that takes a fraction of the energy that is going to give you, again, a beautiful, pleasing, upper (ph) lighting feel.

SIEBERG: Also lighting up the horizon, nuclear fusion, which doesn't produce radioactive waste like nuclear fission. Plans are in the works to build the world's first fusion power plant, but scientists say it's at least 20 years away.

Number 16 is right at your fingertips. Biometrics is the digitization of physical characteristics like fingerprints, facial features and voice patters in order to identify someone. Some airports are using the technology to help trusted travelers bypass long security lines.

And Piggly Wiggly and other stores are using biometrics for a pay by touch system to scan your index finger instead of swiping a credit card, but ...

MACHT: It takes identity theft to a crazy level.

SIEBERG: Experts say the newest biometric systems won't be fooled by a dismembered digit, even though it did work for Arnold Schwarzenegger in the "Sixth Day."

However, there are other ways to fake fingerprints like Play-Do. And since the biometrics info is computerized, hacking is always a threat.

MACHT: There are so many things that have to happen to make a lot of these biometric technologies really work in a failsafe way, but you're going to have to do that to make people comfortable with this technology.


SIEBERG (voice-over): We are on our way to number one, and here's a hint.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Anybody who wants to see the change, needs to spend time with a teenager, as painful as that might be. They will show you how this technology is going to change.

SIEBERG: Also coming up, sitting in front of a TV screen battling bad guys may not be your idea of fun, but wait until you find out how many kids and adults are doing just that.

There's more to come on CNN'S TOP 25.


SIEBERG (on camera): Although the legendary Pong was invented more than 25 years ago, it was only in the 1980s that video games began popping up everywhere. Today we are playing on a whole different level, after some pretty humble beginnings.


SIEBERG (voice-over): Pac-Man ate his first dot at the neighborhood arcade and kids took aim at Space Invaders from their home living room. The year was 1980 and the first wave of video game fever was in full swing. Fast forward to 1983.

DAN SHU, "ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY": They created a surplus of over six million ET cartridges and supposedly they are buried in some New Mexico landfill somewhere because no one bought these things and so the industry just went bpbpbpbp.

SIEBERG: Some said video games had seen their day, until 1985, when a little Italian plumber named Mario brought the industry back to life. It has been an upward rise ever since.

DR. RAY MUZIKA, JOINT CEO, BIOWARE CORP.: Every generation of video games they get better and better. The storylines are getting better, the art's getting better, the design and the content within them improve.

SIEBERG: Today, nearly 90 percent of America's school age kids have some kind of video game and a recent study found the average kid reportedly plays videogames for about 90 minutes per day.

Total sales figures now peg videogame sales at almost $10 billion a year, surpassing box office receipts. These days games look and feel like reality, first person shooters, wartime strategy, sports of all kinds, online role playing fantasy worlds. But critics say some games are too real, too violent and our kids are playing too much.

CRAIG ANDERSON, UNIVERSITY OF IOWA: Research experts have come to a solid conclusion here that these violent games, even the cartoonish violent ones, are not appropriate for children, that there are negative effects.

SIEBERG: Anderson's work was published in the American Psychological Association, concluding that "laboratory exposure to a graphically violent video game increased aggressive thoughts and behavior."

Studies aside, many Americans speak with their wallets.

DOUG LOWENSTEIN, PRESIDENT ENTERTAINMENT SOFTWARE ASSN.: And for the interactive generation, the digital generation, games are, I think, increasingly entertainment of choice.

SIEBERG: Even college campuses are keeping up with the times. Dozens of universities are now offering degrees in game design.

TRACY FULLERTON, GAME DESIGN PROFESSOR, USC: Videogames are a funny mixture of the dramatic, they're really emotional experiences, but they're based in system mechanics, a system where players face with interesting and important choices.

SIEBERG: So what lies ahead?

DR. GREG ZESCHUK, JOINT CEO, BIOWARE CORP.: Our challenge is going to be to make great stories which you can interact with and really enjoy as an entertainment form and we consider the best, most valuable thing you can do with your time.

SIEBERG: Whatever form they take, it is likely videogames will keep making waves in technology, pop culture and the news. DNA testing, the identification of the tiny building blocks that make each person unique, comes in at number 14. This technology helped reunite an unidentified baby lost in the Asian tsunami with her rightful parents and it helped authorities crack the 30 year old BTK serial killer case.

KANTRA: DNA testing seems to be sort of the miracle sort of solution for all of these TV shows that you see today. You find one piece of hair, you have a hair follicle and all of the sudden you're going to be able to tie it down to the person who committed the crime. That was not possible just about ten years ago because we did not have the technology to be able to take a sample and make it big enough to do the type of testing that we need to see the full DNA.

SIEBERG: Tuning in at number 13, a better way to transmit television.

NYE: At CNN, don't you live on satellite television? So you watch, when you say to the person in Baghdad, what's going on, Christina, and there's that delay. It's going up to a satellite, 36,000 km, 20 something thousand miles in space back down to the earth at the speed of life.

SIEBERG: While CNN's signal is sent out by a satellite, it often comes to viewers' homes by good old fashioned cable. But today, millions of households have dispensed with cable, to get a wider variety of channels, including CNN, via satellite TV companies like Dish Network and DirectTV. And the satellite revolution has moved to radio. Sirius and XM radio feature a wide variety of programming and give motorists the ability to drive across the country and listen to the same station all the way without commercials.

Number 12, super thin strands of glass. Fiber optics that transmit light and data much more efficiently than copper wire and coaxial cable. With their advent in the early '80s, telephone voice quality improved dramatically.

KANTRA: In addition to voice quality, you also are able to ensure large amounts of data to transfer and have that reliable.

SIEBERG: Fiber optics also make high volume phone traffic possible, allowing someone in a call center halfway around the world to help you fix the other 24 things on this list, or not.


SIEBERG (on camera): In the past 25 years, spacecraft have rolled on Mars, landed on distant moons, passed through Saturn's rings and even left or solar system, and number 11 on our list, Miles O'Brien takes a look at where unmanned spacecraft have been and where they're going.


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Space may be the final frontier, but here there are not final reports, just a never- ending story that unfolds with each robotic foray into the void. The latest chapter is already a compelling tale.

A pair of NASA rovers landed on the surface of Mars in January 2004. In short order, Opportunity and Spirit answered an important question. Was Mars once warm and wet and thus a cushy birth for life? The answer, a resounding yes.

MATT GOLOMBEK, MARS SCIENTIST: So it begs the question of whether there was a second genesis. Did life form somewhere else besides the earth.

MARK HAMMIL, ACTOR: I'm Skywalker, I'm hear to rescue you.

O'BRIEN: Turn back the clock about a quarter century to 1977. "Star Wars" premiered and NASA launched its own trek to places far, far away. Voyager 1 and 2. Throughout the '80s wowed scientists with their discoveries. Active volcanoes on Jupiter's moon Io. 1100 mile an hour winds on Saturn. Ten new moons around Uranus, and finally, close-ups of Neptune.

Fast forward to 1989. Shuttle astronauts release Galileo on a long journey to Jupiter. In the early '90s, NASA's Magellan spacecraft unlocked the secrets of cloud-enshrouded Venus.

In 1997, NASA's Pathfinder mission was designed to be faster, better, cheaper. It's tiny rover, Sojourner, roved around the surface of Mars, giving scientists plenty to ponder while capturing much of the world's fancy as well.

(on camera): But space is an unforgiving place. In September of '99 a navigation error sent the Mars Climate Orbiter to a crash landing. Three months later, the Mars Polar Lander made its own crater on the red planet when its engines cut off too early. The failures would end the so-called "faster, better, cheaper" approach.

(voice-over): Cassini threaded the needle through Saturn's amazing rings in July of 2004 after a two billion mile, seven year journey. Cassini carried a hitchhiker that scored its triumph early this year. The European built Huygens probe dropped to the surface of Saturn's enigmatic moon, Titan. A very foreign, yet oddly familiar world. A seashore, except this ocean is made of methane.

CAROLYN PORCO, CASSINI IMAGE SCIENTISTS: There we are on the surface. And there are boulders of some sort, and we're going to be working out how they came to be.

O'BRIEN: Hubble Space Telescope has orbited our planet for 15 years now. The eye above the sky proved the existence of black holes, saw early galaxies in the making and gave us new insights into how stars form.

Taken together, all these instruments of mankind have created a golden age of astronomy. Every year, every mission, the galactic plot thickens.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SIEBERG: The top 25 technology breakthroughs of the past quarter century have changed our lives in the industrialized world but consider this, as we make our way to number one.

NYE: We take all the stuff for granted, we live with all the stuff. But about half the people in the world have never used a phone.

SIEBERG: Later, banking online means never having to stand in line again. Also coming up, the tech of war.

Stay tuned to CNN'S TOP 25.


CAROL LIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. I'm Carol Lin. Top 25 tech breakthroughs continues in just a moment, but first here's what's happening right now. Authorities say a convicted sex offender has confessed to killing a Florida teenager. They also say suspect David Onstock (ph) once dated the girl's mother. He now faces a first degree murder charge. Searchers discovered 13-year-old Sarah Lunde's body yesterday in a pond.

And a freak wave ends up - ends a relaxing cruise returning from the Bahamas. The Norwegian Dawn was hit by a seven-story wave, flooding cabins and slightly injuring four passengers. The ship was returning to New York, but was diverted to Charleston, South Carolina for repairs.

And Roman Catholic cardinals will file into the Vatican's Sistine Chapel tomorrow to begin the age-old process of electing a pope. The cardinals moved into their sequestered lodgings today. Some Vatican watchers predict a choice in just a few days.

At 10:00 Eastern on CNN SUNDAY NIGHT, Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher gives us an inside look at the customs and secrecy surrounding the papal enclave. After the break, more of CNN 25, tech breakthroughs.


DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Welcome back to CNN top 25. I'm Daniel Sieberg at the Sony wonder technology lab in New York and we're counting down the top 25 technology breakthroughs of the past quarter century. We turned to a panel of experts to compile a list of the major tech advances as CNN celebrates its 25th anniversary. We're more than half way to number one.

Now with number 10. You know, thanks to high tech toys like digital cameras, MP3 players, camcorders and PDAs, we're up to our necks in data. Keeping those memories alive and compact is our next discovery.

At number 10, digital storage, the ability to convert photos, music, movies and data into digital information means you can fit thousands of songs into an MP3 player, hundreds of pictures into a camera and the Library of Congress into a box. Digital storage also means an enormous amount of information is available through the Internet.

SUZANNE KANTRA, TECHNOLOGY EDITOR, POPULAR SCIENCE: And there's so many sites out there, but how do you find out what's the best information and wading through that is going to take you a long time. And it's going to be interesting to see how those technologies evolve that weed out the good from the bad.

SIEBERG: Also, digitization makes information and photos easy to mess with. It's made photo shopping practically a household world.

BILL NYE, THE SCIENCE GUY. And that information can be manipulated and moved around and changed in a way that 25 years ago, you'd just really stroke your chin about it. You'd need to hire professional retouchers for thousands of U.S. dollars, but now, you can sort of create your own reality very quickly. Is that good?

SIEBERG: The chips are down for number nine. Processors are the brains of the computer. They used to take up entire rooms, but as the 1980s dawned, researchers had created chips small enough to fit into desktop computers. Remember the 286? Today, microprocessors are everyone.

KANTRA: Now we find them in our cell phones, our PDAs, kids' toys in particular have really taken off with the ability to be smart. You have these learning toys where kids can learn languages and have a truly interactive experience.

SIEBERG: Gone are the good old days when a pocketful of dough actually meant paper bills and metal coins. (INAUDIBLE) little bit here. With the arrival of online banking, credit cards and e- commerce, people learned how to shop with no real cash ever changing hands. At number eight, Veronica de la Cruz examines how technology has changed the way we make and spend our money.


VERONICA DE LA CRUZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Remember the days when cash was king? Well, the king's days at the helm of the economy may be numbered. From banking to shopping and investing, technology is helping Americans turn a cold shoulder to cold hard cash.

JIM SMITH, WELLS FARGO CONSUMER PRODUCTS: I think we have seen a massive change, shift in the way customers are handling their payments, the rise of debit cards, credit cards. Online bill payment has really shifted transactions away from paper and cash.

DE LA CRUZ: Wall Street has come a long way as well. In 1929, the stock exchange saw its greatest day of volume with just under 16 million shares trading hands on Black Tuesday. And while technology has since helped vast numbers of people invest, it also would contribute to the next great crash, which occurred on October 19, 1987.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Today's Wall Street sell off led to panic dumping of shares worldwide.

DE LA CRUZ: When unchecked computer trading allowed the market to fall by 22 percent.

IAN McDONALD, WALL STREET JOURNAL: When you look at 1980, the average share volume on the New York Stock Exchange was about 140 million. Last year, it averaged about 1.4 billion shares a day. Investing is just a much more democratized activity and a lot of that is because it's so much cheaper and so much more transparent and it's really because of the Internet.

DE LA CRUZ: You don't even have to swipe your credit card any more to make a purchase. Thanks to the Internet, what used to take hours can now be done in minutes.

SMITH: Really, this has been a story about convenience. You can see everything from your checking accounts and savings accounts to CDs, auto leases, IRAs, investment products, home equity loans, mortgages, credit cards. Now customers can do all of that 24 hours a day, seven days a week from the comfort of their own home.

DE LA CRUZ: Here at the history of money exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank in Atlanta, you see the evolution of currency, from bartering to coins to bills. Some day museums like this may be the only place you'll see cash any more.

RICH OLIVER, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF ATLANTA: People now are going to e-tailers instead of retailers to buy a lot of things, so we're seeing that as a real emerging trend.

DE LA CRUZ: And a landmark shift has already occurred according to the Fed. Electronic payments have surpassed the use of checks for the first time as of last year and while still prominently used, cash may be next.

OLIVER: We do know from the research that it's apparent that debit cards for example, are beginning to take the place of many cash transactions.

DE LA CRUZ: Although seeing it disappear altogether is not likely to happen any time soon as is evident by the millions of dollars that are still being physically managed and stored at reserve bank facilities like this one.

OLIVER: I'm not one that believes that cold cash will disappear very quickly. It has one great attribute to it and that's privacy.

DE LA CRUZ: One day we may see all money go the way of these $100,000 bills, but then again, clicking the confirm transaction button online just doesn't feel quite as good as holding a stack of cash in your hand, now does it?


SIEBERG: Number seven, decoding an organisms DNA, collectively known as the genome. Over past decades, researchers figured out the genetic code of many organisms, including a mustard plant, which could lead to heartier and tastier crops and the laboratory mouse, which believe it or not is similar genetically to humans. But what made the most waves was the publishing of the human genome. This could lead to big breakthroughs in disease diagnosis, gene therapy and drug design.

NYE: It is very reasonable that people will find a cure for Parkinson's or at least a way to avoid it. They'll be a way to avoid cancer, because people are figuring out how these genes work and so genomics, or understanding genetic code, is this idea is nascent. It's just the beginning of it.

SIEBERG: Lasers land at number six. A laser is a device that creates and amplifies a narrow beam of light. It was patented back in 1960, but its researchers took years to find practical uses.

KANTRA: Lasers used to mean (INAUDIBLE) light shows and then we saw them coming into media players, CD players, DVD players. Today, you see lasers in levels that you use at home to be able to measure things. You see lasers in medical applications to be able to correct for visions. We're going to see them coming into lots of different applications in the future as well.

SIEBERG: We're closing in on number one. Do you think you know what it is? Here's another hint. There are no strings attached. But first, the apple of IBM's eye and ways to get around with less gasoline. That's ahead as we continue our countdown on CNN's top 25.


SIEBERG: Number one on our list is just minutes away, but first, our countdown continues with number five. In the past 25 years, they've gone from exotic room-sized whirling (ph) behemoths to something that fits in every room, every pocket or in your car engine. The personal computer is number five. In 1980, Apple dominated the home computer market.

JOSH MACHT, MANAGING EDITOR, IBM.COM (ph): And all of a sudden, IBM says, we got to compete and obviously 1981, they come out with their IBM PC. They opened up the architecture of that computer and all of a sudden, clones, the IBM clones, like Compaq came out within a year or two. For all the hype that was behind the PC early on, it is all materialized in a different way and it seeped into our lives to the point where so many people now say I go on three times a day. I go onto the web to check things. I go on to connect with people and none of that in 1980 certainly, that was not something that the average person could ever imagine.

SIEBERG: Number four, biotechnology, manipulating an organisms genetic material. A couple of years ago, genetic scientists strengthened the muscles of a mouse with muscular dystrophy. The break through could lead to ways to repair human muscles. Much of the nation's corn, soybeans and cotton is genetically modified to resist pests or pesticides. And one company is selling zebra fish alterned to glow under a bright light. The motive there, to amuse aquarium owners. Proponents say all this genetic tinkering is safe, but some folks worry about unintended side effects. NYE: This is the problem, is you don't know - it's very hard to assess the effect of genetically modified food, genetically modified organisms on ecosystems because ecosystems are so complex.

SIEBERG: Driving onto number three, alternative fuel vehicles. Higher prices for gasoline have sparked greater interest in cars that burn less of it. So far, hybrid cars have made the biggest splash. Toyota, Honda and Ford sold 88,000 of them last year alone. But the government says fuel cell cars, vehicles that burn hydrogen and emit nothing but water and heat may someday revolutionize on road transportation.

NYE: I'm a huge fan of alternative fuel vehicles, hydrogen for example. Just watch out everybody. Where do you get hydrogen? I'm not trying to be a doomsday guy. Where do you get hydrogen? Right now we get it from methane. We get it from natural gas. Now if we could get it from solar energy, oh yes, loving that.

SIEBERG: And while cleaner transportation means lower emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas that contributes to global warming, experts say alternative fuel vehicles alone are unlikely to reduce global climate change.

The first Gulf war introduced the world to a new way of fighting. Laser-guided bombs and unmanned spy planes. Since the early 1990s, through the current Persian Gulf conflict, the military has seen a technology revolution, transformed in part by smart bombs and robotics. At number two on the list, Jamie McIntyre takes a look back and a look ahead to the future of warfare.


JAMIE McINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): During the 1991 Persian Gulf war, the Pentagon touted what was then state of the art weaponry.

VOICE OF NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF, DESERT STORM COMMANDER: I'm now going to show you a picture of the luckiest man in Iraq, through the crosshairs. And now it is rear view mirror.

McINTYRE: Then, bombs were guided by lasers. Now smart bombs are ever smarter, guided by satellites unaffected by bad weather. Back then, several planes would often attack a single target. Now a single B-2 stealth bomber can hit as many as 80 different targets on one sortie. Then a U.S. aircraft carrier could generate 200 bombing runs a day. Now it's up to 700 a day, using smarter and smaller bombs. Then predator spy drones were only eyes in the sky. Now armed with hellfire missiles, predators not only hunt, they kill. So in 1999, when NATO triumphed over Yugoslavia without suffering a single casualty, it seemed technology was king. But the turn of the century saw a turn in the tide of battle.

DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: For the most part, the United States of America and our friends and allies were organized, trained and equipped to fight big armies and big navies and big air forces. That's not what we're doing today. McINTYRE: If the air war in Kosovo was casualty free, combat on the ground in Iraq has been costly and how to keep ground troops out of harm's way is the next big challenge.

(on-camera): The future of warfare can be summed up in one word that describes my friend here: robots. And here at IRobot, small cutting edge company outside Boston, the future is now.

(voice-over): The creators of "Star Wars" imagined armies of robots meeting on the field of battle, but that reality is confined to a galaxy far away.

HELEN GREINER, CHAIRMAN, IROBOT CORPORATION: In the near term, in the next 10 to 20 years, the robots won't look like human beings going into these types of situations.

McINTYRE: Helen Greiner is the chairman and co-founder of IRobot, whose best selling military robot is the pacbot (ph), a small but versatile vehicle that can search dangerous caves as it did in Afghanistan or find and disarm roadside bombs as it does in Iraq. Autonomy is the new buzzword in the robot world, giving machines the ability to act, if not think on their own, such as IRobot's simple home vacuum cleaner. The next step is to use swarms of smaller robots that work together, like in this scene from the Tom Cruise movie "Minority Report."

VICE ADMIRAL JOE DYER (RET), IROBOT GOVERNMENT INDUSTRIAL DIVISION: In the future, we'll be able to do that with a collection of small robots to whom we will say go search this building and find the individual within.

McINTYRE: That's science fiction, but these more rudimentary robots are now in development by IRobot. They can talk to each other, follow the leader or spread out to form a perimeter. Some worry that technology will make war too antiseptic and therefore, too tempting. But Joe Dyer, a retired admiral and F-18 fighter pilot, disagrees.

DYER: War is never antiseptic or easy and I don't think basic human values will be changed any more by the introduction of robotic technology, than agriculture was changed with the introduction of the combine.


SIEBERG: All right. We finally reached the top of our list, the biggest technology breakthroughs of the past 25 years. Do you know what it is? Well, we'll tell you next on CNN's top 25.


SIEBERG: We've arrived at number one. The brain power of engineers and inventors, the creativity of ordinary people. Together they've harnessed the tools needed for us to connect, inform and entertain. Big technology has made our world much smaller.

PROF. SCOTT SHAMP, NEW MEDIA INSTITUTE, UNIV. OF GEORGIA: For a long time, people have thought of it as - of information as being a destination. You had to go to a book. You had to go to a library. You had to go to a shaman (ph) but now with new mobile technologies and wireless technologies, information is turning into a companion. Ask a 17-year old now a question and you're going to find him reaching into their pocket, because that's something that they expect to be able to gain access to whenever and wherever they are.

SIEBERG: Twenty five years ago, our phones were stuck to the walls. Facts were found in books and we bought music at a store. Now they're all in one package that fits in our pocket. So how did it happen? Well, technology, yes, but also creativity, starting with the Internet.

CHRIS SHIPLEY, TECHNOLOGY ANALYST: The Internet is liberating of the imagination. It's equalizing in so many ways, but it's exploding with opportunity. Whether you're someone who's very wealthy or someone who is not, it allows us to connect with and hear from parts of the world that we would never see.

SIEBERG: The Internet allowed tech-savvy music lovers to force a complete overhaul of the recording industry, while taking a few liberties with copyright law.

SHAMP: For the longest time, a record industry, a recording industry was selling us music in a certain format that worked fantastic for them, CDs, 13 songs. If you want one, you buy all 13.

SIEBERG: But kids in dorm rooms had different ideas. The suits had to listen to the 17-year olds in order to survive the digital revolution.

SHIPLEY: It takes time for old industries to reinvent themselves. I think we're seeing that in the music industry and I think we're seeing it, when music is made widely available and very affordable, then people are willing to take if you will legal aspects to acquire it.

SIEBERG: Some leaps we see in technology are lucky accidents. Text messaging on cell phones is a national past time in Asia and on thousands of campuses. It's been used to organize political rallies, answer health care questions and help teenagers learn.

SHAMP: The whole text messaging was a kind of technology component which just allowed you to test the systems to see if they were operational. But then what people have done is started to layer on different and creative approaches with it.

SIEBERG: And people want to use those tools everywhere. Wireless hot spots have popped up in cafes, airports and millions of private homes. At the University of Georgia, Professor Scott Shamp helped create one of the very first hot spots. Users can get instant coupons for stores that are in the zone, even get the scoop on where there's a free parking space. People called Shamp from around the globe to find out how they could create these wireless zones, to make surfing the net or doing a business deal, even easier. And in the developing world, the possibilities are even more profound. SHAMP: Technologies such as wireless has allowed these poorer countries to do is to leapfrog. They don't have to put in the same type of infrastructure throughout all of their country. For fractions of the cost, they can establish a communication infrastructure in places that could have never been served before.

SIEBERG: Whether it's instant messaging or kids from the office, e-mailing the latest baby pictures from your phone, it's the personal connections that make the technology matter.

DAN BRICKLIN, INVENTOR SOFTWARE DEVELOPER: Were we thinking all of things of society because of this connectivity, the fact that you could, wherever you are if you're bored, you could call your mother. We take that for granted now. And ten years ago, very few of us were able to do that and 20 years ago, almost none of us could do that.

SIEBERG: So what's next? Entertainment and information in your hand, content specifically designed for this very small screen. Check out audio books from the library on an iPod or download a semester's worth of textbooks without killing a single tree. And the best new stuff, well, just use your imagination.

BRICKLIN: Those of us who invent may have no idea what's going to be the leading application of what we build. The telephone people, Alexander Graham Bell, didn't have a clue what this thing was going to end up being used for.

SIEBERG: And he probably would have been amazed. One can only imagine the possibilities and of course CNN is ready to follow the technology breakthroughs of the next 25 years. That's it for this edition of CNN top 25. Speaking of technology, please visit our website at to read more about the technology breakthroughs of the past quarter century. Also be sure to join us next month as we count down the top 25 most fascinating people of the past 25 years. I'm Daniel Sieberg from the Sony wonder technology lab in New York. Thanks for joining us.


On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.