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1 Decade, 10 Technologies that Changed Our Lives

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 67 comments
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Here is our selection of technologies of the past 10 years that have made the biggest advances and changed our life. Feel free to jump in and add your favorites.

If you were to live in the year 2000 now, which technology you are used to today would you miss the most?

10. Digital Camera

In 2000, I was the proud owner of a $700, 2.2MP Kodak DC280 snapshot camera that came standard with a 20 MB Compact Flash memory card. The four AA batteries were good for about 30 pictures. For tradeshows I used the amazing $1000 Sony Mavica FD97 (2MP) with a 20x optical zoom, which stored 3 pictures on a standard floppy disk. True photo enthusiasts had to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a decent DSLR camera or relied on regular film cameras.

Ten years later, the film camera is dead, we are well past 10 MP, and our cameras record high definition video and store hundreds of high-resolution pictures on small Flash cards. The first digital camera in a cellphone was first released in 2000 and has become a standard feature in virtually every phone and is available as front- and backward-facing versions in high-end phones. While it is likely that the picture quality delivered by cellphone cameras will never reach that of snapshot cameras, the quality is now good enough for small prints - which has turned those phones effectively into our daily snapshot digital and video camera.

 9. Netflix

Netflix was founded in 1997 as part of the dotcom boom and was largely invisible for the first few years of its existence. Back in 2000, we were still used to stop by a Blockbuster store, pick out movies from a  shelf and pay huge fines if we forgot to bring that movie back in time.

Netflix revolutionized that idea with DVDs-via-mail delivery, that gave you as many movies as you wanted to watch for a flat fee, which caught its rivals, mainly Blockbuster sleeping and by surprise. Ten years later, Blockbuster is in bankruptcy and Netflix is the first company that has made video streaming successful. Netflix now offers a library of more than 100,000 titles and has more than 10 million subscribers. Over the past years, Netflix has become synonymous with video rentals and changed the way we acquire content for our TVs.

8. Microprocessor

The pace of processor evolution and the way we perceive the role of the processor has been truly breathtaking. Ten years ago, we were introduced to the gigahertz race between AMD and Intel, which AMD led initially with the demonstration of the first 1 GHz Athlon in late 1999 at ISSCC and the commercial introduction of a stable 1 GHz CPU in the first quarter of 2000. Intel struggled to keep the pace with its Pentium III initially, but accelerated the increase of the clock speed with the introduction of its Netburst architecture and Pentium 4 in late 2000. Intel's Pat Gelsinger predicted that we would be using 20 GHz processor in nuclear power plant-like environments by 2010. In 2005, however, the gigahertz died just before reaching 4 GHz because of current leakage and the enormous heat generation of the Pentium 4 processor.

AMD, which had trouble following Intel in the gigahertz race and had not been able to match Intel's marketing message, changed its strategy in 2003 to a different processor architecture with integrated memory controllers as well as more efficient processors. Intel saw the end of the gigahertz race as well and began developing power-efficient processors in 2003 with the mobile Banias chip. Intel decided to transition to dual-core processors in 2005 with the 90 nm Smithfield core (Pentium 4 D 800 series) and was brought down to its knees especially by performance capability of the AMD Athlon X2 processor series. Intel struck back in mid-2006 with Core 2 Duo (Conroe core), which was based on the Banias foundation and Intel's first desktop processor that focused on power efficiency and cut the power consumption of its direct predecessor from 130 watts to 65 watts. The price war that Intel triggered with the Pentium 4 D (dual-core) processors caused heavy losses for AMD. The Core 2 Duo generation helped Intel to regain its dominance and margins, while AMD was unable to recover and was later split into a chip design and a manufacturing company.

The processor may be somewhat boring today, the but the rivalry between AMD and Intel was amazing to witness over the past 10 years and brought an entirely different processor to our computers than what we use in 2000.             

7. Facebook

Maintaining your own homepage isn't exactly a new concept. Some may remember Geocities, which gave people an opportunity to own their own website. MySpace or Facebook follows the same basic idea, to give people around the world a presence on the Internet.

However, Facebook was the among the first to recognize a need for simplicity, organization and communication. Founded in 2004, more than 550 million people now use the network to communicate with friends and colleagues, share images and videos and play games. Next to Google and Email, it has become the most important reason to be on the Internet for many people among us.

6. iPod

I did not think much of this white MP3 player Steve Jobs pulled out of his pocket pants in 2001 and predicted it would change the way we listen to music. It was just another music player, albeit a nice one, that was, however, rather expensive. Alright, so Apple had its own MP3 player. So what?

We know better today. Apple sold more than 260 million units so far and holds about 70% of the market. The iPod has become synonymous with the word 'MP3 player' and lives through the iTunes ecosystem that has changed the way we acquire music. You may have downloaded music illegally from Napster in 2000, but most of us may purchase their music now through iTunes.

5. PS2

If there was one game console that defined the way we are playing video games today, then it is Sony's PS2. The iconic device has sold almost 150 million units to date. Despite the arrival of the PS3 in late 2006, the PS2 remained a popular (and affordable) gaming console to date and is actually still in use in our household today.     

 4. Wi-Fi

If you were traveling in 2000, you were lucky to find a hotel with available Internet access, for which it charged nosebleed prices. You used a telephone cable you brought along and used 56K dial-up access, possibly AOL. In many cases you had to program the dial-in procedure of your modem in order to obtain optimal connectivity.

If you ask our kids today, they that wireless access for granted and you see strange faces when you are using Ethernet cables for Internet connectivity. We have come a long way, from Intel's first Wi-Fi kit the company sold in 2001 on a limited basis for a staggering $1300 (one router, two Wi-Fi cards). Wi-Fi is standard in virtually all computing devices today, it is included in many set-top boxes, in game consoles, and in TVs.   

3. Notebooks

Wi-Fi, of course, brings up the notebook as the computer device of choice. Mobile Internet detached the computer and turned the notebook into a more popular computer than the traditional desktop PC. Today, notebooks deliver vastly more processing and graphics horsepower in relation to the desktop computer, offer a wide variety of screen sizes from 10 to 17 inches at prices that range from about $200 to more than $4000.

There are no signs that the traditional notebook form factor will fade away, even if we are now seeing tablets as complementing segment and evolutionary stage for the mainstream notebook.

2. Google

There is no other company that I was so wrong about than Google. I interviewed Sergey Brin in early 2000 in his messy office with empty soup bowls and an overstuffed trash bin. Back then, web portals were the way to go and Yahoo, Excite and Lycos showed the way. We believed banner advertising would be the only way to earn money on the web. Then Google pitched text-based contextual advertising. I had my doubts about Google's chances to stick around.

By 2003, we already knew that Google was the best search engine around, but the company was still in its infancy and companies such as Microsoft did not take Google serious. Today, Google is on its way to be the next Microsoft with search and advertising at its core, a mobile operating system that is leading the world market and a software services ecosystem that may be leading the way into cloud computing for the consumer.   

1. Cell phone

If we are honest, the cell phone of 2000 was a very rough device that was trying to find its direction. It was a voice device and, here in the U.S. we did not even use SMS as a communication service. Back then, I remember that I subscribed to a Sprint WAP data service with traffic reports for $50 per month.

It took us some time to catch up with the data usage models that came out of Europe and Asia, but we eventually got the message and now quickly adopt a new generation of smartphones that are predicted to replace entry-level notebooks in many scenarios. Many of us may already be using a phone as their main email and communication device as well as the basic Internet and entertainment device on the road. I often have to think back to an interview with a Sun executive in 2000, when I was told that the cell phone would assume many more function and not just the feature of a traveller's alarm clock. He was right: It is now our MP3 player, a mobile video player, a digital camera, a video camera, a mobile game console, an Internet device, as well as a universal communication device.

I may have been able to live without my cell phone in 2000 for a few days, but it has become essential to my communication needs today. It is the one device I would not want to miss anymore. 

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  • 12 Hide
    toolinthemist , December 30, 2010 4:10 PM
    "notebooks deliver vastly more processing and graphics horsepower in relation to the desktop computer"
    What? Are you kidding me? Since when have notebooks ever offered more power then a desktop? I enjoy the mobility of my laptop, but it will never match the power of my desktop or even the power of a mediocre desktop.
  • 10 Hide
    masterasia , December 30, 2010 4:20 PM
    What about free porn on the internet?
Other Comments
  • -4 Hide
    rmmil978 , December 30, 2010 3:47 PM
    I think that, if nothing else, 9/11 changed the cellphone market forever. I have no data to back this up, but I know that pre-9/11 most of the people I knew had no cellphone, post 9/11 almost all did. Not just for the fear of terrorism per se, but the ability to quickly communicate to any loved one in any situation, it showed us how important that was. Would cellphone sale penetration be just as much today if it hadn't happened? Of course! But I think it certainly sped things up quite a bit.
  • -5 Hide
    LORD_ORION , December 30, 2010 3:55 PM
    Really? The Wii motion sensor is not on there? The accessible game console that allowed families to begin to game together and work out with?

    Even my mom owns and uses a Wii regularly now.
  • 2 Hide
    dogman_1234 , December 30, 2010 4:01 PM
    I can't wait untill 2020, when we look back form 2011 to 2019 and what many people have generated for our society. Next stop, research into HEALTHY 3D, or true 3D as what I have heard it be called.
  • 9 Hide
    crom , December 30, 2010 4:05 PM
    If you have the microprocessor on this list then #1 on this list should be compact flash memory. Its paved the way for the smartphones we have today, as well as allowing large storage in small space for everything from cars, gps units, and new refrigerators.
  • 12 Hide
    toolinthemist , December 30, 2010 4:10 PM
    "notebooks deliver vastly more processing and graphics horsepower in relation to the desktop computer"
    What? Are you kidding me? Since when have notebooks ever offered more power then a desktop? I enjoy the mobility of my laptop, but it will never match the power of my desktop or even the power of a mediocre desktop.
  • 5 Hide
    tmk221 , December 30, 2010 4:13 PM
    finally tumbs grading system is up :) 
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , December 30, 2010 4:20 PM
    I would definitely add rechargeable battery technology like Li-ion and NiMH. Pretty much all we had back then was NiCd.
  • 10 Hide
    masterasia , December 30, 2010 4:20 PM
    What about free porn on the internet?
  • 7 Hide
    dertechie , December 30, 2010 4:23 PM
    toolinthemist"notebooks deliver vastly more processing and graphics horsepower in relation to the desktop computer"What? Are you kidding me? Since when have notebooks ever offered more power then a desktop? I enjoy the mobility of my laptop, but it will never match the power of my desktop or even the power of a mediocre desktop.


    What I think he means (though he stated it badly) is that the gulf between notebooks and desktops in both price and performance has shrunk. Consolitis and even mediocre hardware being powerful enough for Joe User have aided immensely in this, as has Intel and AMD both putting focus on power efficiency.

    Notebooks are still far less powerful, it's just less obvious now with high end desktop hardware being such overkill for Joe User.
  • 3 Hide
    vertigo_2000 , December 30, 2010 4:25 PM
    Human DNA Decoding?

    Privatization of space?

    Even GPS for the masses should be on this list.
  • 2 Hide
    jj463rd , December 30, 2010 4:27 PM
    Which technology would I miss the most probably Class IV Lasers-liberation from tyranny and authoritarianism by technological means.
    However I think that on the peaceful side of things probably the rise of broadband Internet access (although it did exist but was not as common before in the 90's) along with more powerful desktops,laptops etc.
  • 3 Hide
    Onus , December 30, 2010 4:27 PM
    Yes, GPS for everyone is a pretty big deal. I think we'll need to wait another decade for the space and DNA decoding to show their merits (but it will happen too).
  • 1 Hide
    c0oim4n , December 30, 2010 4:38 PM
    LORD_ORIONReally? The Wii motion sensor is not on there? The accessible game console that allowed families to begin to game together and work out with?Even my mom owns and uses a Wii regularly now.

    If you haven't noticed, the technology has been around for over 20 years... The NES had the Power Glove, which was basically the early incarnation of the Wii.
  • 6 Hide
    wildwell , December 30, 2010 4:39 PM
    Global high speed internet access, wireless or not.

    Many of the above technologies wouldn't be the life changers they are now without common high speed access. The internet evolved from just a collection of web pages to the life-integrated network it is today because of the amount of data we are able to transmit and receive.
  • 0 Hide
    wildwell , December 30, 2010 4:45 PM
    c0oim4nIf you haven't noticed, the technology has been around for over 20 years... The NES had the Power Glove, which was basically the early incarnation of the Wii.

    The technology behind everything on the list originates from last century: digital cameras, streaming data, microprocessors, bulletin board services (think Facebook of 1990), digital audio files, notebook computers, Google, and cell phones.

    You ever use the NES PowerGlove? If it worked so great, why did everybody that had a glove, have almost no games for it? Everybody with a Wii has a whole library of motion controlled games.
  • 1 Hide
    Anonymous , December 30, 2010 4:47 PM
    @toolinthemist -- You are dead on right! The advent of Flash memory has made most of the other innovations (cellphone, notebook, camera) possible. Not just in capacity, but durability and shock resistance. In a decade from now, we'll look at rotating mechanical disks as an anachronism.
  • 1 Hide
    ProDigit10 , December 30, 2010 5:03 PM
    Netbooks, microprocessor, wifi, LED tv's
  • 7 Hide
    hardcore_gamer , December 30, 2010 5:07 PM
    iPod ??? wtf ffs ????
  • 0 Hide
    LORD_ORION , December 30, 2010 5:23 PM
    ProDigit10Netbooks, microprocessor, wifi, LED tv's


    That's another one... high def, big screen TVs.... even if you don't own one, they forced the carriers to force you to digital. That's a significant impact.
  • 2 Hide
    malphas , December 30, 2010 5:47 PM
    The cellphone/mobile phone market must be different in the UK compared to the US. By the late 90's everyone apart from pre-teens had one, and used it for voice and SMS, which is almost exactly what everyone is still using their phones for today, most people still don't own a smartphone or use half the functions their more basic phone even has.
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