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For example can I say, "Working for Apple in the 1980s, surrounded by innovation, it felt as though I was on the precipice of computer technology"?

I would like to find a good word here to replace the horribly clichéd cutting edge.

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Had you been working for Wang, instead of Apple, you might say you were working on the precipice of Word Processor technology. Being at the precipice implies something drastically bad is about to happen. –  J.R. Jul 19 '12 at 9:40
    
    
I kinda like precipice here. Think of The Fool in the tarot deck, who is about to step over a cliff. Is something drastically bad about to happen? Possibly. Certainly something drastically life altering is. –  Bobbi Bennett Jul 19 '12 at 22:56

6 Answers 6

Precipice is not really the word you are looking for.

You could use in the vanguard or at the forefront but perhaps even they are clichés.

More at thesaurus.com

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A precipice is a cliff. If you say, "We stood at a precipice", the usual implication is that you were in danger of falling off.

The common phrase for the idea I think you are looking for is "cutting edge", as in, "Our company is on the cutting edge of toaster technology". Some say "leading edge". (For a while people thought it was cute to say "bleeding edge", I think combining the idea of leading edge and cutting causes bleeding, but that appears to have mostly died out.) As Andrew Leach notes, "vanguard" is another common term, though I think a little out of date.

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"Bleeding Edge" has an additional connotation of being risky, unstable, or potentially more costly to implement than is justified that isn't inherent to the others, I would say. –  Lawton Jun 11 at 20:50

You could say you felt quite Avant-garde meaning forward-looking or innovative.

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Note that avant-garde is normally understood to mean "unconventional", i.e. attempting to lead in a new direction rather than being at the front of the pack. –  Jay Jul 19 '12 at 15:24

Working for Apple in the 1980s, surrounded by innovation, it felt as though I was witnessing groundbreaking computer technology

groundbreaking breaking new ground; innovative; pioneering

"Working for Apple in the 1980s, surrounded by innovation, it felt as though we were about to make history in computer technology"

make history; to do something very important, especially to be the first to do something that will be remembered for a long time. The Wright brothers made history when they were the first to fly an aeroplane.

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I think the following sentence (with edge :) correctly describes your feeling:

I was on the edge of computer science innovation.
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I think on the edge of (and the more common on the brink of) normally precede some narrowly-avoided negative outcome, not some positive, onging activity. –  FumbleFingers Jul 19 '12 at 11:42
    
@FumbleFingers Try on the cutting edge of. –  tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 2:36
    
@tchrist: OP specifically said he wanted "to replace the horribly clichéd cutting edge." –  FumbleFingers Aug 19 '12 at 2:43
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@FumbleFingers Sometimes I really hate being a peephole optimizer. –  tchrist Aug 19 '12 at 3:01

You could replace the horrible cliché with the arguably more horrible jargon bleeding edge, a slightly intensified version of cutting edge.

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