Trace the roots of just about any useful device or capability derived from electronic technology and you will find yourself wading in research and development dipping back generations, even centuries.

10 Electronic Technologies That Changed Construction
1. The Internet
Collaboration Is Evolving From Sharing to Managing
2. Computer Aided Design
CAD Pioneers Gave Desktop PCs A Full Range of Electronic Drafting
3. Lasers
Lasers Have Become Common Element in Industry’s Toolbox
4. Analysis Software
Speed and Power of Computation Opens Doors to New Possibilities
5. Personal Computers
Personal Computers Empowered Users and Launched a New Age
6. The Fax
Speeding the Pace of Business and Shrinking the Globe
7. Critical Path Method
Network Logic Was Aided By Mainframe Power
8. Calculators
Calculators Built on Microchips Doomed Slide Rules
9. Mobile Communications
Contractors Were Early Adopters of Mobile Comms
10. Global Positioning Systems
Location-Based Technologies Track Construction Operations
What's Next?
Innovations Are Ready for Trial and Adoption, But Great Gains Will Take Major Change

But in construction offices and on job sites, the electronic devices that really started to shake things up began to proliferate in the early 1970s. Most were enabled by the invention of microprocessor chips and by the creation of data-handling products that brought the big-time computing capabilities previously available only to the biggest corporations and institutions down to a scale that let even small businesses create, reuse, manipulate and store digital data.

Many innovations that emerged have evaporated like hailstones on a hot day. But some remain in widespread use decades after introduction and continue to evolve into ever more useful tools.

Curious to identify qualities that help some technologies succeed spectacularly, and hoping to draw lessons for evaluating technologies to come, ENR editors in May surveyed readers and interviewed industry leaders and visionaries to ask them for ideas about technology survivors and their view of the future.

In one Web poll, 26% of 371 voters said CAD has had the most impact on the industry, followed by personal computers at 18% and the Internet and mobile communications at 13%. But asked in another survey to rank a list of tools in one-to-ten order, with one reflecting greatest impact, Web-based project management was first at 6.5, followed by fax machines at 6.2, laser-based tools and electronic calculators at 6.1, engineering analysis software at 5.9, database tools at 5.4, mobile communications at 5.1, the Internet at 4.2 and CAD at 3.9. Like the rest of the revolution, the results are mixed.

Ric Jackson, managing director of FIATECH, an industry consortium that helps press new, market-ready technologies into use, says the tools that took hold worked because they filled a need that was real and understood or the usefulness became apparent as soon as the product came out even if the need was not understood at the time. Winning technology is typically easy to use, cost-competitive and very reliable, he says.

adget and software vendors often promise that the electronic technology revolution is at hand and next year’s killer application will transform the way business is done in a flash. Yet ENR readers and proponents of technology adoption in construction say the process has been grinding along for decades, bringing more evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, change. They suggest that a more accurate analogy to the real pace of progress might be the "Hundred Years War."