Published Jan 1, 2007 8:00 AM

23. Play It Again, Tomorrow

What: Digital video recorders

Who: TiVo Inc., Alviso, Calif.

Impact: First available for home use in the late '90s, Silicon Valley-based TiVo pioneered digital video recorders (DVRs) — attached-to-the-TV devices that allow viewers to record programs on an internal hard disk — allowing viewers to specify not only which programs to record but also to "pause" live TV, "rewind" just-viewed footage, and entirely skip over annoying commercials. Now a "how did we ever live without it?" staple in more than 12 million American homes, TiVo — as well as DVR brands including ReplayTV, EchoStar and Motorola — has achieved the ultimate in American pop culture: It has become a verb, as in "I'll TiVo Heroes and watch it over the weekend."

Eureka moment: The DVR's real moment of reckoning was collective, and corporate. Even though the percentage of U.S. homes with DVRs was and still is relatively small, the technology terrified the ad industry when first introduced, creating a "death of the 30-second spot" hysteria that forced radical thinking in how commerce communicates to the rest of us. The stampede of marketing money now pouring into social networking, cell phones and the like is a direct descendent of TiVo's challenge to the media status quo. "DVRs were one of the primary drivers that slapped the marketers between the eyes," says Paul Rand, global chief development and innovation officer at Ketchum marketing and PR. "They underlined that how you reached consumers was changing."

— Randi Schmelzer