Top tech projects that have changed the world

The PMI has released a list of the top 50 projects in the past 50 years. Here is our pick of the top tech projects on the list.
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The World Wide Web is the most important project of the modern era as it single-handedly revolutionised how we live, think, work and play.

That’s according to the Project Management Institute (PMI), which has marked its 50th anniversary with the publication this week of a list of the 50 projects it considers have been the most influential in shaping the world we live in today – and probably tomorrow.

Not surprisingly, pure technology-based projects feature strongly in the top 50 but there are many others that make the cut as well:  Apollo 11; the launch of the Euro currency; LiveAid; Harry Potter; the Panama Canal expansion; the Global Polio Eradication Initiative; the Chernobyl Cleanup; and the Sydney Opera House to mention just a few.

These are some of the top tech projects that make the 50 Most Influential Project list, with their position on that list in brackets:

1.       World Wide Web (#1)

The WWW project started out less than auspiciously. The Internet already existed in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee, a 33-year-old British computer scientist at the CERN research lab in Europe put together a project proposal for an information management system. At that time, the  Internet was clunky and difficult to use.

However, his initial project proposal largely underwhelmed his boss. “Vague but exciting” was the verdict about the project. Nevertheless, the boss had the sense to stay out of the way and let work on the project proceed.  The World Wide Web was officially launched in 1993 and the world as we knew it, changed forever.

2.       Intel 4004 (#3)

This was the predecessor to the smaller, cheaper microchips we use today. While early computers were huge, the Intel 4004 project – set up to produce a way to power a calculator – showed it was possible to put all a computer’s processing onto a little slice of silicon. In 1981, IBM close Intel’s 8088 chip to power its PC, the device that revolutionised the computer market.

3.       M-Pesa (#9)

The project that effectively launched the mobile money – and banking – revolution. It started as a solution hack in Kenya were people were using their prepaid airtime minutes as a form of currency. This sparked Vodafone into realising that it might be possible to build a money transfer platform using mobile phones, and M-Pesa was born.

4.       Netflix (#11)

Netflix streaming heralded a new era of on-demand binge-watching and content creation specifically for streaming platforms. It also marked the demise of the video DVD.

5.       DynaTAC 8000X (#12)

It was nick-named “The Brick” by its developers, Motorola. It was a project that involved teams of developers across the United States. But when the world’s first commercial cellphone made its debut – weighing in at 1kg and with only one hour of battery life – it was an instant hit and laid the groundwork for today’s smartphones.

6.       Alexa (#13)

Alexa has made the concept of voice-driven computer interface a way of life. The Alexa project itself started in great secrecy in 2011, after Amazon bought the voice-recognition company, Yap. The project took three years and over $200million. Today, Alexa is integrated into everything from music systems to cars, vacuum cleaners and a host of other household items.

7.       Google search (#17)

Google wasn’t the first Internet search engine but it soon outpaced its competition following its launch in 1998. Today, Google commands more than 90 percent of the Internet search market – and it’s the only search engine to have become part of the lexicon of English (and other) languages. Google it.

8.       Watson (#47)

After IBM’s Watson beat human champions at the game Jeopardy, it effectively ushered artificial intelligence and machine learning into the mainstream of technology – and who knows where that will lead. 

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