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Special 10th Anniversary Edition

In 10 Years of "Tools"

Total Number of Tools Tested: 734

During the past 10 years, Tools has tested 734 tools, from framing nailers to laser distance meters to cordless drills. Here are the top five companies that garnered the most "wins" in our tests over the years:

1. DeWalt........11 wins
2. Makita........10 wins
3. Porter-Cable...8 wins
4. Bosch..........6 wins
5. Milwaukee......5 wins

Number of RPM Reported: 18,038,775

Total Value Reported: $2,105,713

Then & Now: Cordless Tools

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THEN: Ten years ago, most voltage options were around 12 volts, with 14.4-volt tools just emerging. There were fewer choices, fewer features, smaller tools, less power, and limited applications. But the race was on.

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NOW: It's hard to find a tool category that doesn't have a cordless alternative. Lines now include tools like circ saws, rotary hammers, and concrete fastening systems, and models can run as high as 24 and 36 volts for heavy-duty jobs. Keyless chucks and ergonomic handles are the norm, while new tool body materials increase jobsite durability. Battery technology is advancing for faster charging and longer runtimes.

Then & Now: Mobile Phones

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THEN: Mobile phones were still pretty rare and expensive, and reliable coverage was even rarer. Many "car phones" required an antenna on the roof.

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NOW: Can you imagine running your fast-paced business or crew without one? Coverage is widespread, low-priced, and much more reliable. Nextel's familiar chirp brings instant access nationwide -- and now announces delivery of text messages and construction documents.

Then & Now: Pneumatics

THEN: Heavy, bulky, and basic can describe many nailers from just 10 years ago. They were great then, but had very few features and conveniences.

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NOW: Today's tools come with extra features like adjustable depth-of-drive and selector switches. Space-age materials offer durability and lighter weight, and more companies are offering cordless options. Emerging high-pressure technology is increasing power while lowering weight.

Then & Now: Record Keeping

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THEN: Paper and pencil. From punchlists to time sheets, paper and pencil ruled the jobsite. Project managers or office staff spent time after hours re-inputting jobsite information into the office computer.

NOW: The onslaught of Palm Pilots and new software is making common jobsite tasks, including order tracking, punchlist management, and time sheets, easy on handheld computers that can instantly sync data back to the office. Efficiency and accuracy improve significantly.

Then & Now: Cameras

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THEN: If you took pictures at all they were probably beauty shots of finished project -- taken with a 35mm camera and film that you had to wait to see if you got the shot.

NOW: Easy-to-use digital cameras track every stage of construction. Contractors keep customers up to date while documenting work to meet new insurance requirements.

Then & Now: Trucks

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THEN: Boxy, basic, and bouncy best describe the 1994 model trucks we were all driving back then. By and large, a truck was a truck.

NOW: Somehow a comfortable, quiet ride in a roomy, stylish truck captured the market -- even tough guys buy sleek new models. Fuel-efficient hybrid models are coming soon.