Top technologies of the decade

Like many people, I’ve been thinking about the year to come, especially since I’m kicking off the new decade with a new job, and a new place to live. I’m also looking back at all the amazing things that have happened over the past 10 years, and a lot of people are doing that at well.  But I haven’t seen a list of the top technologies of the past decade that have gone mainstream and changed how people live or work.

So here’s the criteria:

– Technology could be created or available in the 1990’s, or earlier, but didn’t go mainstream until the 2000’s.

– Mainstream means that people that aren’t technology geeks first and foremost are using it.  If you parents use it, grandparents use it, then I consider it mainstream.  If you have a friend or acquaintance that doesn’t work in technology, or spend their waking hours playing technical support for friends and family, and they are using the technology then I categorize it as mainstream.

– Changing how people live or work.  Well that’s kinda obvious.  But for the purpose of this post, I’ll include it if it changed how I live or work.

And without further ado, here’s the list, in no particular order.
Some of the commentary may be a bit obvious, but I’m trying to document how my life has changed, and perhaps in 10 years, look back on this post with fond memories.

– Broadband.  In the late 1990’s, I still had to dial up to get connected to the internet.  But at the dawn of the new decade, broadband started hitting the streets and always on fast connections became a way of life.

– Wifi – Huge.  Absolutely changes the way I work and live.  Increases the impact of broadband significantly.   I don’t have to worry about where I put my computer in my house.  I can use it anywhere.  I can take my laptop with me anywhere I work and not have to worry about finding a connection.  I can take my computer with me to a coffee shop, a library, and be productive. And how do I know its mainstream, again that’s obvious, but my litmus test is my parents now have it in there house.  Now that’s not for them to use just yet, but its there if I want it.   If we only had wireless battery recharging, that would be awesome.

-Bluetooth – Like wifi, a very big deal.  Wireless headsets and mice help free us from the cords.  I don’t have bluetooth integrated from my phone to my car, but thats a high impact technology right there.

– DVR – A game changer. I think you could get a Tivo in the 1990’s, but this definitely went mainstream in 2000’s.   I’ll record shows even if I’m home when they are on, just so I don’t have to watch commercial.  I can now watch 3 hours of network/cable TV with commercials in 2 hours.   Pause a show and return in a few mins – that’s just huge, especially when you have a 4 year old who can interrupt whatever you are watching at any time.   Needless to say, this also has massive implications for the advertising market.

– On demand television- this was more or less available in the 90’s as pay per view, but its changed how consume television.  With the combo of on demand and DVR I can pretty much watch what I want when I want.  Now the question of is there anything good on is another story entirely.

– Netflix – Its like an extension to on demand.   This game changer has rendered the video store obsolete.

– MP3’s and digital music –  In 1997, on my cross country trip we had a mix of tapes and CDs.  But we needed a special adapter for the tape player in the car to be able to connect to a portable CD player.  Turns out that didn’t work, but that’s another story.   As the early 2000’s rolled around digital music became prevalent, and for me, by the mid 2000’s, my historic tape and CD collection was gone.  It was all digital.  (Man, burning 400+ CDs took a long time).   On a related note, in the mid 1990’s I had my car broken into and some of my favorite tapes and CDs were stolen. I was pretty upset as some the mixed tapes I made in college were really hard to replace.  But fast forward to today, and  now its all backed up, so the likelihood of losing any of my music is very low.  Makes me think that in addition to in home backup, I really should get an online backup service like Carbonite.

What’s also interesting here is that in the 1990’s most people had VCRs and the DVD was starting to come into people’s lives.  Like any media for music or video, it seems to have about a 10 year lifespan.  Records were around for a long time, but then we cruised through 8-track, tapes, CDs.  Video went from VHS, to DVD and now to blu-ray, but I’m sure that will all be gone in 10 more years for a completely digital on demand world.

– GPS – You could get a GPS in a rental car in the early/mid 1990’s.  But it didn’t become mainstream, with many car’s having it as an option or standard, and included on smartphones until the 2000’s.   Printed maps – gone.  AAA Triptiks (which I used extensively in my 1997 trip across the united states), done.

– Smartphones – These were around in the mid/late 1990’s.  And in the 1990’s Palm had a major market of 3rd party apps. So what we have today is nothing new in my opinion, except that the phones are faster, smarter, better and include wifi and GPS. .  But the smartphone didn’t go mainstream until the mid late 2000’s.  Its mainstream in my book because my mother is considering getting an iPhone so she can play games.

– Online banking – This was around in the early/mid 1990’s.  Today, I assume most people pay their bills online, but I know a number of folks that prefer to write and mail checks.   Online banking took a chore of managing bills that took people a chunk of time each week or month, down to a few seconds and clicks.  I think many people will say that this isn’t as impactful as some of the technologies above, but its definitely mainstream and definitely a game changer.  I’m hoping that in the next 10 years, I won’t ever need to get a bill or statement by mail.

– Digital photography and video – This is a late breaking addition after I originally published the post.  Thanks to Peter Conrad for helping me realize I overlooked a huge one.   This has completely changed how we take pictures, how we develop film (we don’t) and how we store our memories.   The biggest change for me at the end of this decade though is video.  When my son was born in 2005, I had a digital camera for taking still photographs and a tape based recorder for video.  I took a few early videos, but the conversion to digital was a major hassle, so I took mostly still photos.  Now I take videos first and pictures 2nd, mostly on my phone.  I wish I had better quality on my phone but that will happen over time.

Wow, that is just an amazing list.  In spite of all the crazy things that happened to us over the past 10 years, it was simply a mindblowing decade for technology.

Technology to watch for in the 2010’s.
These are things that I see as major life changers in the next 10 years, and I expect them to all go mainstream.

– Kindle and e-readers – These haven’t gone mainstream yet, but will be there very soon.   We were in a bookstore yesterday, in addition to shopping locally, my wife browsed for a bit to see what she wanted to get on her Kindle.  I explained the theory as to why you shouldn’t do this.  But its a fact of life.  Will bookstores be around in 10 years?  I don’t think there will be a lot of them left…

– Person to person payments – You can do this today a bit, but its hard and costly.  I know banks have dabbled in this, Paypal is working on it and with new payment systems like Square, I think this will be a reality very soon.   The big question is, will you carry cash at all in 10 years?

– Wireless battery recharging – I’m not talking about the ability to charge a device by placing it on a special mat.  That’s very cool don’t get me wrong.  It cuts the wires for the most part.  I’m talking about a device to charge, or maintain power without any cords and without being on a special pad.  Its wifi for charging.  I want it and expect to see it in the next 10 years.

So what did I forget?  What are you looking forward to in the next decade?


1 thought on “Top technologies of the decade

  1. very good tech list, for most part i agree, but some thoughts…

    disagree on netflix, its not a technology. its the USPS and the DVD, netflix is an application of the technology

    what about google? basic browser was the 1990s but algorithmic search engine as we know it is 2000s (google was not a commonly known site or verb until 2002-2003 time frame)

    you left out elec entertainment – think about xbox360 and wii vs game consoles (or pc games) of 1999. night and day. and high enough penetration to include on your list

    not sure what you would consider paypal, but could argue revolutionized ecommerce

    satellite radio? not high enough penetration yet i guess, but i partially blame congress for that

    also, your list ignores the “behind the scenes” infrastructure technologies that make much of this possible – evolutions in routing/switching, new stuff like blade servers, etc. Smart phones, DVR’s, bband would not be possible without them, so while not “consumer” techs, they prob deserve some sort of honorable mention

    finally, and in all seriousness, the wonder bra. u ever see one of those things in action? would trade in elec banking for the wonder bra in a heartbeat. guy who invented that is no dummy

    Next decade – i expect most of the most impactful consumer techs will be extensions of what we already have, just better, faster,smaller,cheaper (you could argue this is what much of the above list really is, you could also argue that “extensions” of what we already have is incedibly naive and myopic too) and environment oriented / green technologies – electronic cars, new sources of power, etc.

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