TechRadar's 10 favourite technologies of 2008

When you sit there with a glass of mulled wine this Christmas, think about what a great technology year 2008 has been.

We've had some hot gadgets, smarter phones, flatter TVs and faster (and thinner) computers.

But consider the technological advances that have underpinned your favourite products.

We've had Intel's Atom processor powering a new generation of netbooks.We've seen a new breed of solid state drives teaming up to push the old hard disk towards extinction.

And where would we be without the following...

1. Open source software
2008 has done wonders for the image of open source software. In fact, you could argue that Linux had a breakthrough year. Although we're now on Ubuntu 8.10 (Intrepid Ibex), version 8.04 (Hardy Heron) has done much to spit-and-polish Linux for a mainstream audience. Netbooks like the Asus Eee have the option of the Xandros distro, while the Acer Aspire One runs Linpus Linux Lite. Open source software has also made great strides into the mobile arena with Android, while Nokia bought out the Symbian OS this year and promptly announced it would make it free to developers. Nice.

2. LED backlighting
While OLED technology got a significant boost from the Sony XEL-1 TV this year, let's not overlook the contribution of LED backlighting. It's hardly the most glamorous of technologies – a name like 'diamond backlighting' or 'ultra backlighting' would have given it more pizazz. But anyone who's seen a MacBook Air will attest to the clarity and brightness of an backlit-LED display. Similarly, Philips, Samsung and Sharp have been rolling out LED backlighting inside their newest HDTVs – the Philips 42PFL9803 , Samsung LE46A956 and Sharp LC-52XS1E to name three. If large-sized OLED panels finally become affordable in 2009, expect LED technology to get cheaper.

3. Cloud computing
Who needs Windows 7? The Internet is fast becoming an OS in its own right. Hoping to rival Google's AppEngine and other Cloud computing initiatives, Microsoft unveiled its 'Windows Azure' platform this year. Web users can already use the word processor, spreadsheet and PowerPoint viewer in Google Docs on any Internet-connected device. Microsoft's Cloud-OS is a Windows-based environment that's capable of running applications like Word and Excel online. Azure fans the flames of this hot tech trend. Competition here will ultimately lead to better services and slicker software in 2009.

4. GPGPU – "Supercomputing on the desktop"
The concept of General-Purpose computation on GPUs (GPGPU) recasts GPUs as computing co-processors. By offloading data-intensive tasks from the CPU to other processor cores (like those in a graphics card), developers can gain improved application performance through parallelism. In November 2008, Nvidia unveiled its Tesla Personal Super Computer. This combines a traditional quad-core workstation CPU with three or four Tesla C1060 processors. Each C1060 is effectively a GeForce GTX 280 GPU with 4GB of GDDR3 memory and no video-out. As a result, Nvidia's top-of-the range, four-GPU S1070 system packs up to 4.14 Teraflops of processing power in each rack. Welcome to supercomputing on the desktop.

5. The large Hadron Collider
The debut of the Large Hadron Collider was on a par with the Millennium bug. Overrated and wildly over-reported. Rumours swirled that the world's largest particle accelerator could destroy the Earth. A lawsuit was even filed by doom-mongers in the US, which warned that "atoms colliding together at nearly light speed will cause an irreversible implosion, forming a miniature version of a giant black hole". On the 19th September, scientists successfully fired a stream of protons around the LHC's 17-mile circumference. The same scientists then broke it in December. The first bout of real atom-smashing is now planned for July 2009.

6. Mobile App stores
One of 2008's biggest success stories has been the iTunes App Store. Launched alongside the iPhone 3G (and version 2.0 of the iPhone/iPod touch firmware), the App Store has transformed the way that people add new software to a mobile phone. It has also caused an explosion of games, utilities and productivity apps to appear, ranging from professionally-coded (and premium-priced) software to free hobbyist projects. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then the 'Android Market', Palm's 'Software Store' and RIM's forthcoming Blackberry equivalent speak volumes.