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The year of picos, e-books apps, netbooks

December 1, 2009

We are so advanced in a technical sense; but we also reveal a quaint temperament in dealing with our lives.
But at least we’re still making progress. The year’s not quite over yet, but it’s over enough to observe a few of the most interesting high-tech highs, lows and trends of 2009.

Pico projectors: The first pico projector hit the market late last year: a pocketable, rechargeable, iPod-size box that could project a six-foot image onto a wall, a sheet or an airplane ceiling (my favourite). This year, several rivals appeared — and now companies have started building projectors into other gadgets. Nikon, released the first camera with a built-in projector. Cellphones, obviously, will be next.

Low-light cameras: From the beginning of digital-camera time, the rule was: if you want to take no-flash photos in low light, you’d better buy yourself one of those big, black, heavy SLR. cameras. This year, Panasonic and Olympus teamed up to create the Micro Four Thirds format: coat-pocketable cameras that take near-SLR-quality photos. Fujifilm and Sony released new shirt-pocket models whose redesigned sensors do exceptionally well in low light. And Canon’s PowerShot S90 combines an unusually large sensor to produce amazing low-light shots.

Rise of Apps: Of course, are those 100,000 wildly creative, infinitely fascinating free or cheap program­mes that you can download to your iPhone or iPod Touch. For maybe $1 or nothing, you can turn your phone into a barcode reader, musical instrument, carpenter’s level, video-editing station, game machine or just anything else. This year, the idea caught fire.

E-books: Amazon’s Kindle e-book reader, a lightweight plastic slab designed for reading books and newspapers was an intriguing experiment, a gadget hound’s toy. But in 2009, e-readers seemed to become ready for the mainstream. There was a second-generation Kindle, a larger-screen Kindle and a series of new rivals from Sony. Then Amazon opened up its e-book store (containing more than 380,000 books) to people who don’t own The whole thing heated up considerably with Barnes & Noble’s entry into the market with its Nook.E-books.

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