- The Washington Times - Monday, December 31, 2001

In general terms, I believe it is safe to say, 2001 was a year we shall be glad to see depart. And yet, it was a year in which technology played a great and growing part.
The September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the outcome of barbarous terrorism and genuine evil, brought millions of people to the Internet in search of data, information, hope, help and comfort.
Indeed, in lower Manhattan that day, about the only means of communication that worked reliably was the Research in Motion "Blackberry" pager/communicator, whose wireless networks worked while cell phones jammed and land lines failed.
In the aftermath of the attacks, the Internet was used to quickly disseminate information, as well as provide clues to those hunting the terrorists.
Companies such as Viisage Technologies Inc., of Littleton, Mass., which had trouble getting attention for face-recognition systems including those based on a PC platform suddenly found its offerings winning favor in several quarters. Using Viisage's face-recognition software development tools, the U.S. Army is developing multiple custom applications for access control and other high-security deployments. The Army has completed initial installations of the face-recognition technology in both the United States and abroad, the company said in a Dec. 18 announcement.
Other companies are offering products aimed at enhancing security at a desktop level. Digital Persona (www.digitalpersona.com) offers something that will help protect a personal computer. The $69 U.are.U Personal security unit includes a plug-and-play USB finger sensor, security software and finger-scan-enabled applications that replace passwords to Web sites and encrypt sensitive data.
I've had one on my desk for several weeks, and it has worked great at speeding up system logon as well as logging into some Web sites. Under Windows XP, you also can set up the device to enable more than one person to log on to a given computer (Mom, Dad, Junior) with each getting his own system privileges and access.
There have been a plethora of patriotic computer themes around, many of them free for the asking. Yahoo, the Internet portal, will let you customize your page to include an American flag background; a search of the Web using www.google.com revealed more than 7,400 references to American flag screen savers.
Linn's Stamp News, a philatelic weekly, offered a download of the "United We Stand" postage stamp image for use as a computer desktop background (www.linns.com). Online printing companies are offering stickers and business cards with American flags as well.
And who can forget the sterling efforts using the Internet to raise money for the victims of the attacks? The Salvation Army, the Red Cross and the United Way, among many others, used the Internet effectively to help raise millions of dollars in a short period. It could have been done by other means, but having the Internet at hand was a way to enable many people, all over the planet, to immediately offer assistance during a difficult time.
Perhaps a meaning to all of this is that when and while tremendous events happen in this world, computer technology is offering a way to help cope with such events, and that's a good thing. While many of us would want to dial the world back to Sept. 10 or even a little earlier and avoid the heartache a nation endured, the fact that we are able to face this situation and respond, and to do so in large measure because of our technological resources, is an encouraging sign in and of itself.
Was the luckiest man in technology this year a certain Mr. William H. Gates III of Seattle? You could argue that point, but consider: Microsoft's fate in the antitrust trial was far less-serious than it could have been.
The company's Pocket PC is gaining quite a bit of momentum here and abroad as users flock to the platform. And while some may decry a rush to stores for Windows XP I think the jury's still out on that one the arrival of this latest version of Windows, in "home" and professional versions, offers what I believe is one of the most rock-solid and useful operating systems to hit the streets in a very long time.
And if Mr. Gates was lucky, then his counterpart at Apple Computer Inc., Steven Jobs, was also rather fortunate this year.
The arrival of Mac OS X brought a Unix "core" to desktop computing in a slick and elegant package; the release of Version 10.1 of that OS (yes, it's a redundant name, but that's Apple's doing) made the OS a more solid and stable player. Now, the company is offering an update that connects the OS to a variety of cameras and other hand-held devices for easier data transfer.
From a technology standpoint, 2001 did deliver a lot of good to a lot of people. Let's hope the good continues in '02, while the bad is far less for everyone.
Write to Mark Kellner in care of The Washington Times, Business Desk, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; send e-mail to [email protected], or visit the writer's Web page, www.kellner2000.com. Talk back live to Mark on www.adrenalineradio.com every Thursday from 8 to 9 p.m. EST.

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