10 technological changes in 10 technological years

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

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • retitle it

    15 Technological Changes in 15 Years... and
    even with that you'd be off.

    Pluto was reclassified... this is not a
    technological innovation, even its
    classification name already existed.

    15 years ago Forest Gump came out, and even it
    was talking about Apple being big then, when it
    was set... 15 years before that. Blackberry?
    well, I'll kind of give you that, but even its
    technology is a stretch

    Tape installs? never done them, ever, period..
    I've owned a computer for 20 years.

    10 years ago I had broadband to my house, 2
    years before that, I got it in my college dorm.

    I've over flowed every harddrive I've ever
    purchased, period. This goes back those 20
    years. 10 years ago, I had over 75gb's of
    mp3's, not to mention video and pictures.

    Video tape... had my first dvd player in '97,
    before that a laser-disc.

    Porn... well.... come on, '92? '93? why do you
    think people wanted faster modems

    Routers? I had a switch, cost me $100 used
    allowed my brother and I both to be online

    There were texts in '99?
    • Agree - more like 25 years, not 10.

      My first "cassette" computer was RS Color Computer in early '81. I had 5 inch floppies a year later and never used cassettes again. My first hard drive was 10MB a year later. We're talking almost THREE decades ago, not one. I was also doing text chat and email around that same time by dialing into CIS. (Compuserve Information Service) Online porn was around then, too. It was just transferred using FTP and viewed using pic viewers instead of browsers.
      • Punch Cards!!!

        At least in an education setting - 25 years ago, it was not uncommon to still use punchcards.

        Of course, we also had 8-inch floppies. ;)

        I too remember loading programs on my TI99/4a with a cassette deck - until I upgraded to a 5.25" floppy and added 32k of memory (with a card the size of Calculus text book).

        And when the first 3-meg hard drives came out - we literally believed you would [b]never, ever[/b] fill it.
  • And, some people have learned

    that you should have a backup plan and implement it.
  • Porn Access

    Ah Come On Zack !
    All you had to do was go to the nearest book store, and open the Daily Sport !
    For those of you who don't make it to England, that "National Enquirer" type periodical, has nothing to do with Sport, other than about 6 pages in the very middle.
  • RE: 10 technological changes in 10 technological years

    What about IP telephony ...
  • Extrasolar planets

    Fifteen years ago, ours was the only known star with planets. Now there are at least 85 extrasolar planets. With all the public excitement (a lot of it silly) over "E.T.", "Star Trek", etc., it's amazing how little this real step towards finding alien life has impacted the public imagination. Or maybe we have just been conditioned to expect it all along...
  • Nice look back! But dial-up's not so bad.

    Sure I have high-speed Internet now, but dial-up is my friend when I'm on the road! When I'm visiting relatives, most of them don't have high-speed Internet at all (much less a wireless router). No problem, I can hook into their phone line and check my email and surf the Web. Sure it's slow as hell, but it does at least *work*.