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Top 11 Technologies of the Decade

The most powerful technologies take a while to mature. But when they do, they can rapidly retire mainstays that are decades old

1 min read
Cover illustration for top 11 technologies of the decade
Illustration: Michael Solita

Life was different a decade ago. Your phone couldn’t contain your entire music collection, for example, or guide you to a restaurant in a foreign city. Bomber-reconnaissance planes invariably had pilots on board. And how’s this for quaint: Your corner drugstore still stocked photographic film! The technology waves that washed away those realities spread from tremors that occurred years before: The first smartphone was unveiled by IBM in 1993, the first digital photo was taken in 1975, and the first drone aircraft flew during World War II. Clearly, the seeds of the next crop of technology staples have already been planted. Perhaps the first tender shoots can already be discerned among the pages of this issue.

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New Pixel Sensors Bring Their Own Compute

Atomically thin devices that combine sensing and computation also save power

2 min read
close up image of a chip

This optical image shows the 900-pixel 2-D active pixel sensor created by the researchers.

Akhil Dodda, Darsith Jayachandran, and Saptarshi Das

By giving compute powers to atomically thin versions of the CMOS sensors now found in most digital cameras, a prototype sensor array can capture images using thousands to millions of times less power, a new study finds.

CMOS sensors are a kind of active pixel sensor, which combine a light detector with one or more transistors. Although scientists have made steady progress towards more energy-efficient light detectors, the signal conversion and data transmission capabilities of active pixel sensors are currently extremely energy-inefficient, says study co-lead author Akhil Dodda, an electronics engineer who was at Penn State University at University Park in Pennsylvania at the time of the research.

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John Bardeen’s Terrific Transistorized Music Box

This simple gadget showed off the magic of the first transistor

5 min read
 A small electronic gadget encased in clear plastic has a speaker and some buttons.

This music box demonstrated the portability and responsiveness of the point-contact transistor.

The Spurlock Museum/University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

On 16 December 1947, after months of work and refinement, the Bell Labs physicists John Bardeen and Walter Brattain completed their critical experiment proving the effectiveness of the point-contact transistor. Six months later, Bell Labs gave a demonstration to officials from the U.S. military, who chose not to classify the technology because of its potentially broad applications. The following week, news of the transistor was released to the press. The New York Herald Tribune predicted that it would cause a revolution in the electronics industry. It did.

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Get the Coursera Campus Skills Report 2022

Download the report to learn which job skills students need to build high-growth careers

1 min read

Get comprehensive insights into higher education skill trends based on data from 3.8M registered learners on Coursera, and learn clear steps you can take to ensure your institution's engineering curriculum is aligned with the needs of the current and future job market. Download the report now!