Last week, after months of seemingly inexorable escalation, Washington area technology stocks got thrown around the sky like kites off their strings. Starting the week up, they went down, back up, down and, as of Friday, were mostly back up.

One thing is certain -- Wall Street and Main Street investors remain riveted by Washington's technology stocks. The volume in some of the region's highly valued companies has been staggering in the last week. On Wednesday and Thursday, a whopping 2.6 million shares of Omnipoint Corp. changed hands. The average one-day volume for the company is 844,000 shares.

On the following pages are five technology companies with which investors fell in love in 1999. Three saw triple-digit increases in their stock during the year, and a fourth, Omnipoint, had a 1,195 percent increase in price. Together, they have a market value of $183 million, almost $50 billion more than they did a year ago Friday.

In the stories that follow, The Post's business staff looks deeper into this love affair, peeling back the stock market hype to find some of the fundamentals behind five of Washington's most highly valued companies, the reasons for their rise and their prospects for 2000.