Technology has been on a major uptick over the last century, but that graph’s increasing line is stiff in comparison to the curved line of upgrades in just the last 20 years. The 2000s ushered in a whole new crop of tech, including the popularity of the digital space.
And as a result, consumers have been reaping the rewards for a couple of decades now.So, as we cap off the 2010s, it’s important to go back and see just what were the biggest advancements and upgrades in technology in the millennium’s first two decades.
Disclaimer: This list is not meant to be a scientific breakthrough list (i.e. first truly synthetic organism, molecular robots, etc.). While we can all agree that those are probably more important, this list is to acknowledge the advancements in consumer related goods and services.
Duh, right? You knew it was coming, so might as well just kick off the list with a bang. The iPhone, which made its debut in 2007, revolutionized how we communicate by essentially putting a computer in our pockets. You could talk, text, surf the web, listen to music, take pictures, download apps … just like you would on your laptop, but even moreso.
The iPod could technically skirt under the release of the iPhone, but due to the music industry’s battle with streaming services and the introduction of the first mp3 players in the early 2000s, it gets its own spot on the list. Released in 2001, the iPod changed the way we carried our music with us. No longer were we porting around a bulky non-skip CD player and a book full of albums and mix CDs. Instead, you had the soundtrack to your life in one convenient little white brick.
Before YouTube took the world by storm in 2005, internet users and fans of viral videos had to find their fixes on sites like College Humor and eBaums World. But then YouTube came along and unified the home video masses. For the first time ever, user-generated content could reach the masses and people could become YouTube famous. A crazy concept that wasn’t even a reality at its inception.
Imagine being able to rent and watch a movie from the comfort of your own home. The idea seemed preposterous during the day of Blockbuster video. And sure, Netflix started off as a mail-in video rental subscription service, but something about naming the company Netflix gave it legs for the future. And if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Netflix is “Simon Says” because it sparked all of the streaming services we enjoy today.
Nook and Amazon Kindle
If there’s one thing the last 20 years ushered in, it’s the less is more approach. Before all of these smart devices became the norm, people had to amass a collection of things to enjoy – books, music, movies and more. And just like the iPod and Netflix, the Nook, and more appropriately, the Kindle allowed you to carry all of your book collection in the palm of your hand.
It may be the grandparent of the bunch, but Facebook (technically MySpace, if we’re really being real) launched the social media world that we all live in today. Created in 2004 in a Harvard dorm room, Facebook quickly rose to become the platform for college students (originally) to communicate with one another. Now, more than 15 years later, its social offspring (Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and more) have carried on the torch to newer, greater heights.
The idea of user-sharing music across the web was brilliant. Unfortunately, artists didn’t seem to like the idea of their music being shared (aka “given away” essentially) for free. And although Napster’s rise came and went rather quickly, it’s impact was felt and it helped pave the way for subscription-based music streaming companies like Spotify to exist.
3D printers have actually been around since the 80s. In fact, the first 3D printed object was an eye wash cup printed in 1983. But the first commercially accessible/affordable 3D printers hit the market in just the last 10 years or so. For the first time ever, consumers and smaller businesses could have their own 3D printers to save on speed of production, customization, single-step manufacturing and more.
Touch screen/motion capture functionality
Although not new, but definitely more affordable, touchscreen and motion capture functionality became a huge economic breakthrough after the new millennium. They’ve become so ingrained in our lives, that they’re used daily with our phones, computers, tablets – even video game systems. I mean, playing Fruit Ninja wouldn’t be the same if there was no touchscreen technology ...
And speaking of video game systems, Nintendo effectively turned the gaming market on its head when it released the Wii in 2006. Floundering after its subpar reception of the Gamecube, Nintendo went back to the drawing board to revolutionize how we experience video games. The result was a motion-based capture system that turned the traditional gaming controller into more of a motion detection remote to add a whole new level of interactivity into family friendly gaming.
While the topic of your average Joe Schmo traveling to space has been a hot topic for more than two decades, the future looks bright. Guess we’ll just have to stay tuned for what 2020 launches at us.
You know those dusty boxes of old videotapes, film reels and photographs of yesteryear? They’re slowly yet surely fading with time. But thanks to digitization, your memories can be preserved for generations and generations to come. Better yet, we can help!
It’s overwhelming just how many triumphs in tech took place in the last 20 years. And this list only scratches the surface. But, if you think the last couple decades were a trip, just wait for the ride over the next twenty.