10 technological changes in 10 technological years

Summary:I found myself strangely nostalgic today after looking back at my own childhood, from a Generation Y perspective, and realised how much things have changed in a mere decade.

My goddaughter is now of an age where she can talk, understand, and learn pretty well. She's six, so she's pretty on the ball with things already. The things that she experiences and sees are so different to mine, and she's only 16 years younger than me. Times change quickly, I know, but it hit me like a wave of elderly welfare benefits disguised as a petrol tanker last night.

The differences between her generation and mine, even though separated by a few years, are stark and somewhat terrifying in hindsight.

1. There were nine planets in the solar system.

For years it was always nine planets and then one day, they decided it was either going to be eight, or about twenty. They chose eight. After seven years of primary education, the world I knew it was, well gone actually; they had just declassified it as a planet.

2. A BlackBerry was a fruit, and so was Apple.

I wouldn't be too surprised if people heard either "blackberry" or "apple" and genuinely thought of the fruit. But I cannot seem to shake the association now built with my mobile device. People say, "have at least one of your five a day", whilst I have my BlackBerry in my hand making a call. I'd say that counts, right?

3. To load up a program, you'd have to slam in a cassette tape and wait 20 minutes for it to load.

My first computer, a CPC-464. It was so heavy you could have used it as a concrete block in a mafioso novel. A ten year gap is a bit of an exaggeration but I knew people still word processing back then on green-screened computers. When the 5" floppy disk came out, we saw that as a mini-revolution in itself.

4. You had to dial into the Internet.

You couldn't just have the Internet flowing in and out of the computer like an out of control waterfall. No, you had to tell it to dial another computer and information would be sent to and fro through, what was essentially a computer-to-computer phone call. What's even more weird is that it's still available, even today.

5. A single gigabyte hard drive simply couldn't be filled, through no will of trying.

My first computer bought for the family at Christmas 1996 (yes, it had Windows 95) had a 64MB memory and a single gigabyte of storage. My dad said, "we will never, ever fill that".

6. Video tapes the size of Bibles would be the only way to record a television programme, and even then it'd only be able to record an hour and a half at best.

Even though I'm far too young to remember the Betamax vs. VHS war, I most certainly remember hoping to watch back an episode of The Simpsons which I'd recorded on the oldest VCR in the world, and it failing miserably with tape lodged and jammed in every bit. It was heartbreaking.

7. The only porn we could find was the shredded remains of a dirty magazine under a bush in the local park.

This generation of Internet kids has seen more porn than any other generation of children, ever. When I was a lad, one morning you'd be lucky enough to find a shred of it near where the local dirty old man sleeps in the evening. "Kids having kids... blame the parents": no, blame the Internet.

8. There was only one computer in the house, and if there were more, only one would connect to the Internet at a time.

No such things as wireless back then. The only wireless you'd know of was the radio, and that would have been a main source of entertainment. It may sound like wartime England, 10 years ago wasn't that far away. Windows XP hadn't come out yet, I was still in a school uniform and the computers we used were running Windows NT.

9. There were no such things as flat screen televisions.

At least commercially, anyway. I come from a generation where our eyes are slightly closer together yet facing slightly the opposite way from being transfixed by a CRT television for all these years. And I laugh now at the "radiation warnings" from the sticker on the side of the box...

10. Twitter was called "text messaging" and the "tweet" only went to one other person.

Yes, a new phenomenon which many don't realise that was basically text messaging. While sending a text is still far more popular than Twitter, the days where news would slowly seep its way through a friendship group (nowadays a "social network"), whereas now you can update literally anyone and everyone in the space of 160 characters.

A lot can happen in ten years.

Topics: CXO, Browser, Collaboration, Hardware, Mobility

About

Zack Whittaker writes for ZDNet, CNET, and CBS News. He is based in New York City.

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