2007: The year's photo highlights

Robots capable of emotional interaction and Microsoft's contribution to touchscreen computing were among the tech on show in 2007
By Colin Barker, Contributor
1 of 12 Intel

Intel kicked off 2007 with one of the year's biggest announcements, having made a significant leap forward in processor design.

The company's 45nm (nanometre) chips, code-named Penryn and launched in November as the Xeon 5400 family, use two long sought-after innovations to increase performance while holding down power consumption. This involves using several elements — including the metallic element hafnium — rather than silicon in part of the transistor.

The use of the new materials breaks with 40 years of processor tradition, but is essential to improving chip performance in the future.

The image above features a Xeon 5400 wafer. A pin is used to illustrate quite how small the technology has become. There are 410 million transistors on each dual-core chip, and 820 million on each quad-core.

2 of 12 RSA Conference

February saw Bill Gates' last appearance at one of the world's largest security shows, the RSA Conference, which was held in San Francisco.

At the show, he handed over many of his responsibilities to Craig Mundie, Microsoft's chief research and strategy officer. Gates will now spend more time on his Foundation — a fact he seems pretty happy with, judging by this photo.

3 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

This robot, created by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has been built to duplicate human head, neck, arm and hand movement, and to interact with humans on an emotional level.

Quite which humans would use a banana like a telephone we're not sure, but the robot, called "Domo", does seem to be an advance on previous generations.

4 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

Sun has committed heavily this year to the concept of recreating a data centre in a portable container — ideal for disaster-recovery situations where the original data centre or storage network has become unavailable.

Housed in a 20-foot shipping container, the company refers to its offering as a "virtualised data centre", because it can be moved around independently of any infrastructure.

Sun claims its offering is 20 percent more energy efficient than a standard data centre and takes a tenth of the time to deploy.

Rather than having "Sun" emblazoned across the side, the final product will be less of a give-away to thieves, coming in an all-white finish. Some interested business customers have also requested that rust is added to the outside of the data centre to further deter any unwanted interest. 

5 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

"Hello Moto! I'm on Everest!" Those could have been the words of British climber Rod Baber, who claims to have set the record for the highest-ever, land-based mobile phone call and text message.

Baber's call was made from 8,848m back in May on the highest peak of Mount Everest. Baber was using a Motorola Moto Z8 handset.

Reception on Everest is possible because a base station in China has line-of-sight with the mountain's north ridge.

Baber's roaming charges were not known at the time of writing, but presumably took his breath away.

6 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

It's not all Dome and gloom on the Greenwich peninsular these days, and a June visit showed why. O2 — along with its technology partner NEC — has poured considerable capital into creating an interactive environment at the venue which now bears its name.

O2 customers can now request fast-track entry to the venue and VIP areas through sending and receiving text messages, and they can have their image superimposed onto popular music videos and sent to their phone for distribution to friends.

NEC has implemented an RFID infrastructure across the complex, which can track the movement of catering staff and hopefully stop anyone stealing coffees.

7 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

Summer in London can mean only two things: Wimbledon and strawberries. It also meant IBM invited the press down to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club to take a look at the technology which keeps the world's most watched tennis event ticking over with military precision.

There is a lot of technology in use and, as our picture shows, it has to be crammed into a very small space. These days, the data is entered on court-side notebooks, and is then transferred to the operations centre deep underground the Wimbledon complex.

These monitors produce the scores for Wimbledon's broadcasters as well as the volumes of statistics which are vital (apparently) for any sports broadcaster these days.

However, no matter how sophisticated the technology or how many statistics it creates, we can rest assured that it won't stop the arguments.

8 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

The DigiBarn is a computer history museum nestled in a 90-year-old former farming building, deep in the Santa Cruz mountains just south of San Francisco.

The pride and joy of Nasa contractor Bruce Damer and his partner in curation, Allan Lundell, the DigiBarn is continually growing as the lions of Silicon Valley donate their old playthings.

The collection is broad, taking visitors from early 20th-century mechanical calculators all the way through to modern web appliances.

One of the oddest items in the DigiBarn collection is this device, created in 1980 by early Apple employee Daniel Kottke. It's a portable digital music player which Damer calls "the ancestor of the iPod".

It is perhaps not so much "portable" as "transportable", like the early Osborne 1, the rather chunky machine released in 1981. You can carry it, but only at the risk of long-term back injury.

9 of 12 Glenn Edwards

Johnson Riungu, a student at Kenya's Kenyatta University, is totally blind.

Until recently, many of the everyday tasks of student life were impossible for Riungu without a student assistant. Just keeping up with the reading elements of the curriculum meant having to have the material read out by a helper.

Now, thanks to a second-hand IBM ThinkPad, supplied by IT charity Computer Aid with help from the UK's Department for International Development (DIFD) and Sightsavers International, Riungu and other students have access to information previously only available in scarce and bulky Braille books.

To help students like Riungu, DIFD has also provided funding for Dolphin Pens, which contain screen-reading and voice-enabled applications that vastly improve the accessibility of the internet.

10 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

How did Microsoft come to dominate so many different markets? One way is to take a fairly common idea — in this case a very large, touch-sensitive screen with some "paint" software (as seen on even the very earliest Mac computers back in the 1980s) — and then say things like this about it: "We're redefining the way people interact with digital content. What we want to do is make technology more accessible."

Those were the words of the director of marketing for Microsoft Surface Computing, Mark Bolger, in October.

Whether or not being able to paint things on a large electronic surface is revolutionary, it looks like fun — for a few minutes at least.

11 of 12 Colin Barker/ZDNET

As daylight dwindled in November, London lay in the grip of a winter storm — a storm of hype created around the launch of Apple's iPhone in the UK.

At 6.02pm on 9 November, the doors of Apple's flagship store on Regent Street were thrust open to some of the Mac maker's biggest fans, who flooded in to be the first to buy one of the most expensive mobile phones on the market.

12 of 12 LSI and the Computer History Museum

The transistor turned 60 in December, having been invented at Bell Labs in December 1947.

The very first transistor may not be much to look at, but the whole of modern digital life stems from it. Known as a "point contact transistor", it was commercially manufactured in Pennsylvania a few years after its invention. The transistor was nearly called a "triode", but that name lost out in a ballot at Bell Labs.

It took little over a decade for the integrated circuit to be constructed from those transistors. Integrated circuits will celebrate their 50th birthday next year.

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