Before we dive into 2010, let's close the books on the last 10 years - that decade of reckoning. We noted before Christmas that, as we forecast long ago, the major stock indexes were a bust for the decade. But check this out... Were the last 10 years a wash for the whole economy?

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So what's the term for 10 years of no growth in jobs, the slowest GDP growth in 70 years and a 4% fall in inflation-adjusted net worth? Dormancy? Depression? Whatever it is... ouch.

Historically, downturns have been enormously creative times technologically, notes Patrick Cox, our tech analyst. Our current economic mess will be no exception. Economic pressures are forcing reassessments and hard, creative choices. The result will be an explosion of breakthrough technologies. Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker is just one of those studying business cycles who predicts that the recovery from our current mess will be unparalleled and spectacular...

In the early 1400s, German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented the movable-type printing press. This invention did far more than facilitate book production and increase the availability of knowledge. It started an information technology (IT) revolution that continues to accelerate even today.

In Gutenberg's era, his advances in lithography not only increased access to the world's greatest thinkers. They also put practical business and technical knowledge in the hands of commoners. This seemingly insignificant invention smashed monopolies of thought and political power. The result was exponential growth in science, technology and democratic ideals. The Renaissance and the Enlightenment followed, on up to our present era.

We've already seen a series of printed circuit lithography technologies revolutionize the electronics industry. Every electronic device you own - from your television to your mobile phone - contains a lithographically printed circuit board of one form or another. Like many of the transformational technologies of the last century, it was invented during the Great Depression. The timing was not a fluke.