For 19 years, the InfoWorld Product of the Year (POY) awards have created a unique portrait of the previous year in the fast-moving world of computing and technology. To get another perspective on this year's 12 winning products, services, and solutions, I looked back at the POY winners from five, 10, and 15 years ago. I found a lot in common through the years but also differences. Some years we were stingy with the awards; other years we found scores of great products.
Fifteen years ago (Jan. 14, 1985), there were only three official POY winners: the Apple Macintosh, Borland International's Sidekick, and the Canon laser printer engine -- which supplied the guts of several printers, including Hewlett-Packard's Laserjet. We noted that all of them "are setting trends by thinking small." We also awarded honorable mentions in each category.
-- Hardware. The IBM PC AT and the HP Portable.
-- Software. Living Videotext's Thinktank, an idea processor; Ashton-Tate's Framework, an integrated set of applications and an outlining structure; and Telos Software Products' Filevision, a pictorial database.
-- Peripherals. Okidata's Okimate 10, a low-cost color printer; the Sears 4084 Total Video System, a combination monitor and television set; and Koala Technologies' Muppet Learning Keys, an input device for children.
Ten years ago (March 5, 1990), we recognized 11 hardware products and 24 software products, with three singled out for additional awards. The three grand prize winners were the HP Laserjet IIp as hardware product of the year, Borland Quattro Pro as MS-DOS product of the year, and Informix Wingz 1.1 as Macintosh software product of the year. Here are the other best products of 1989.
-- Hardware. The Next Computer; Compaq LTE/286 portable; Hayes V.42bis Smartmodem 2400; Bernoulli Box II/44 removable hard disk drive; Zenith ZCM-1490-Z monitor; 3Com 3Server/500; HP 7550A plotter; Panasonic KX-P1124 printer; HP Scanjet Plus scanner; and the Ahead VGA Wizard/Deluxe video board.
-- Software. Lotus Magellan, a combination of utility, file viewing, and search functions that we honored as Best New Idea; Dac Easy 4.0 accounting program; Generic Software Generic 3D Drafting for MS-DOS; Autodesk Autocad, Release 10 c5 for Macintosh; Datastorm Technologies Procomm Plus LAN communications software; Borland Paradox 3.0 for MS-DOS database; Oracle for Macintosh, Version 1.0 database; Oracle Server for OS/2; Aldus Pagemaker for OS/2; Timeworks Publish-It, Version 1.0, for Macintosh, desktop publishing program; Claris Smartform Designer, Version 1.1; Corel Draw for MS-DOS; Adobe Type Manager, Version 1.0, for Macintosh; Microsoft Works 2.0; Novell Netware 386; Quarterdeck 386 operating system/environment; Borland Turbo Pascal, Version 5.5; Logitech Multiscope Debugger; Superproject Expert; Baler 5.0 Spreadsheet Compiler; Central Point Software PC Tools Deluxe 5.5; Word Perfect 5.1 for MS-DOS; and Microsoft Word 4.0 for Macintosh.
Five years ago (March 20, 1995), we honored eight hardware and 10 software products. Here's the best of 1994.
-- Software. Microsoft Access 2.0; Borland C++ 4.0; NetManage's Ecco Professional 2.0 personal information manager; Novell's NetWare 4.1; Frye Computer Systems' Frye Utilities for Networks; IBM OS/2 Warp, Version 3; Aldus IntelliDraw 2.0; IncatSystem's Easy-CD Pro 2.01 CD mastering software; Software Publishing's Harvard Graphics for Windows 3.0; and Adobe Photoshop, Version 3.0.
-- Hardware. HP 100LX personal digital assistant; Standard Microsystems' SMC Elite SwitchingHub ES/1; IBM PS/2 Server 85 466; HP NetServer LC; Dell Latitude XP 475C notebook; Compaq ProLinea MT 4/66; ATI Graphics Pro Turbo video board; and the Epson Stylus Color Ink Jet Printer.
InfoWorld Test Center's team of editors and analysts selected this year's winners from hundreds of products they tested during 1999. Analysts' personal picks are posted on our Web site, http://www.infoworld.com, where you will also find a forum about the winners.
I'm also happy to announce the return of our readers poll online. The readers poll has always stirred passions and provoked a lot of discussion, and I expect this year will be no different. Voting ends on Jan. 28.
(Sandy Reed is editorial director of InfoWorld and has been a technology journalist for more than 15 years. Contact her at email@example.com.)