8 images that show how technology has changed in the last 20 years


Can you remember the last time you used a CD walkman to listen to your favourite songs? Or what about using your trusty flip phone to Bluetooth them to your friends? What about getting home from school and logging into MSN (on your big bulky desktop computer) to continue chatting to the people you’d been around all day at school?

In the last 20 years, technology has come a long way. We have seen innovation and developments that we could barely have imagined. Since the beginning of the new millennium, we have seen some of the most dramatic changes and online retailer, MyMemory has taken a walk down memory lane, creating a series of images that show how technology has changed over the past 20 years - and how our lives have been affected as a result.

Mobile phones


It’s hard to imagine a world where our phones didn’t have cameras, but camera phones didn’t actually start appearing until the 2000s. It was Nokia and Motorola (remember them?) that dominated the market throughout the 90s and early 2000s. The models that were released between 1998 and 2000 brought about the first ever customisable ringtones, appearances and games, with the first ‘smartphones’ beginning to appear between 2004 and 2006 as they enabled GPS.

Flip phones were extremely popular throughout the 2000s, with Samsung being the most notable brand. The first iPhone was released in 2007, however, iPhones weren’t immediately popular like they are today. Instead Blackberrys were popular due to their physical keyboard with singular letters, email function and instant messaging system ‘BBM’. Today, touch screens are the norm and physical keyboards are somewhat of a rarity! Compared to the 47% of households that had mobiles in 2000, in 2018 this figure had more than doubled to 95%.

Television and Entertainment


Two decades ago, VHS tapes were the most popular way to watch films or record programmes from the TV. Around 2002, however, VHS' popularity decreased as people switched to DVDs due to their higher quality. By the end of the last decade, VHS was practically obsolete. Today, streaming sites such as Netflix are the most popular way of watching films and TV shows, and it’s a rarity for people to purchase physical copies of films. Interestingly enough, Netflix initially started as a DVD rental service, and didn’t introduce streaming services until 2010!

Gaming


It was the year 2000 that the PS2 was launched, which marked a turning point for gaming culture – it was the first console that looked ‘grown up’. Prior to then, gaming consoles were mostly aimed at children and teenagers, with popular games being classics like Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, played on N64, Xbox, PS1 and Sega consoles.

Where portable gaming is concerned, the Nintendo GameBoy was popular in the early 2000s, with the Nintendo DS being released in 2004, introducing a touch screen into the portable gaming world. Gaming systems nowadays are more portable than ever, with consoles such as the Nintendo Switch and the introduction of Google Stadia – which allows you to stream games over wifi and play them on a desktop, smartphones and tablets.

Music


In the early 2000s, music was mainly stored on CDs, bought in store and listened to on devices such as stereo systems or portable Sony Walkmans. The first iPod was released in 2001, where you uploaded your CDs into iTunes and stored them all on a portable device, that you could listen to anywhere.

The original iPod feature a 5GB hard drive capable of holding 1000 songs in 160-Kbps MP3 format. A 10GB option was available from March 2002, which doubled its capacity to around 2000 songs. Even the iPod and other MP3 players themselves have become almost obsolete in the last five years, as the memory capacity of mobile phones grew to be large enough to store your music collection on.

Nowadays, practically all music is downloaded or streamed to our phones and computers, dismissing the need for physical in store purchases. We can listen to our entire music collection anywhere, in great contrast to the year 2000 when you had to physically carry any tapes or CDs you wanted to listen to on the go.

Computers


Twenty years ago, computers were heavy, bulky and took up a lot of space on a desk (monitors could be more than 30cm deep!) They could be slow and unreliable, with the graphics being a lot slower than what we are used to today. Memory in computers was also limited, so external hard drives were common.

Today, computers are smaller, faster and more convenient than ever, and subsequently are part of our daily life, as we use them at work, home and even on the move. Rather than taking up a whole desk, computers can fit into a handbag in the form of a tablet or notebook, to be taken anywhere you like. They also have more memory than they used to.

Social media and Messaging


The first blogging sites became popular in the late 90s starting a social media sensation that continues on to this day. Early blogging sites included Blogger and LiveJournal. MySpace was launched in 2003 to become one of the first ever worldwide social media sites, and was popular among budding musicians as a place to upload and share their tracks. Facebook was launched in 2004, and by the end of the year it had 1,000,000 monthly active users.

Today, we have multiple social media platforms that all fit different social networking niches, such as Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn and many more. It’s rare to come across someone who isn’t on at least one social media channel, and as of the third quarter of 2019, Facebook had 2,499,000,000 monthly active users – making it the most used social networking platform worldwide.

The first widely used instant messaging platform was MSN Messenger, which was popular with noughties teenagers as a way to connect with school friends after classes were over for the day. It started as a text messenger, but later added photo sharing, video calls and games. In 2009 it had as many as 330 million users, but was closed down in 2014 when Microsoft replaced it with recently purchased Skype. Today’s popular messaging platform is WhatsApp, which in 2018 boasted 450 million daily users, with 1.5 billion people using the app.

Internet Speed


Twenty years ago, the internet connection used was known as ‘dial-up’, which used a telephone line to connect to the internet. This meant that you could only use either the phone line or the internet at one time, sharply increasing the number of arguments in households with teenagers! Dial-up would take up to a minute to connect, and was characterised by a series of musical beeps, screeches and boings as the modem connected. Needless to say dial-up was notoriously slow – 56kbit/s, which contrasts with UK average speeds today of 22 Mbps. To put this into context – a 6MB image would take 15 minutes to download on dial-up, but only 2 seconds today.

Today, we are able to access the internet completely wirelessly, from wherever we are. WiFi was introduced in the early 2000s, but demand for it exploded when WiFi enabled phones hit the market around 2007 and consumers wanted public WiFi points for when we’re out and about. On our mobile phone networks we also have internet access via 4G, and are slowly being introduced to 5G, which will only make our access to the internet even faster.

Memory


Twenty years ago people were using floppy disks and Compact Disc Rewritables (CD-RW) to hold files such as documents and photos, and although they were large in physical size, they didn’t hold much data. At the beginning of the millennium, USBs had just been invented, which held around 8MB – enough for two ebooks or a 90 second low-resolution video. Nowadays, we have USB-C drives, that can carry significantly more information compared to USB drives and offer double the transfer speed, all whilst gradually getting smaller in size.

Over the last few years we’ve gradually been moving away from storing information on physical devices as cloud storage has become very popular. Cloud storage allows us to access data from anywhere that has an internet connection, removing the need for us to carry around memory devices. Instead, our information is stored on huge servers around the world, providing almost limitless capacity. This does however leave your files at the mercy of other companies, so many people prefer to privately store them on memory devices.

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