6 Technological Advancements We Take For Granted, But Wouldn't Have Been Able To Believe 15 Years Ago
We've come a long way in the realm of technology since the year 2000. I remember using floppy disks and watching my parents try to decipher paper maps during long road trips. Presidents weren't commenting on Facebook pages, because Facebook didn't even exist yet. My family still had a TV the size of a small box, complete with an antenna on top that we had to readjust every few minutes. In the 15 years since that infamous election year, we've seen major technological advancements we wouldn't have even believed.
It's hard for me to picture a time when I couldn't get on my iPhone and jump from Instagram to Facebook to Twitter to Google Maps in the span of seconds, but I didn't even have a smartphone until a few years ago. We adjust to new technologies extremely quickly in the grand scheme of things, and go from being fascinated by them to perceiving them as necessities in such short periods of time.
It seems so normal to me that I could ask Siri what zero divided by zero is and get a funny answer in return, but I wouldn't have even been able to do that a couple of years ago, let alone 15. Take a look at what else wasn't around in 2000 that we take for granted now.
When my dad first suggested to me that I get a smartphone, I was completely opposed to the idea. I had a Samsung brick phone that could make calls and send texts, and I had an iPod — why would I need anything else? But of course, I was just lagging behind: Smartphones have been so normalized that we unfairly assume everyone has, wants, or is able to obtain one until they point out that the world of emojis and FaceTime isn't universal.
What we mean by "smartphone" has, of course, evolved since 2000. Smartphones originally implied a combination of telephone and computing technology. But the Ericsson R380, released in early 2000, was the first device officially branded as a smartphone, with a stylus-equipped touchscreen and limited web capabilities.
Fast forward to 2015, and we have numerous corporations competing for the most technologically advanced device. Thousands of apps have become essential to our daily lives — and thanks to social media, smartphones have helped launch uprisings and sustain political revolutions.
Facebook was launched in 2004, and didn't become widely used until a couple of years later. We share a ridiculous amount of information about ourselves on this network, and it has become one of the easiest ways to get ahold of friends and family all around the world. What started as an experiment for college campuses became a way for individuals and companies to refine their brands, share viral videos, organize events, and so much more.
Ultimately, Facebook has changed the way we interact with people, for better or for worse. We've become increasingly reliant on the social media giant, but we should also be cautious about where our information is going.
3. WiFi On Airplanes
Okay, bear with me for a second. In-flight WiFi isn't particularly extraordinary — it costs an unusually high amount for its mediocre speeds. But with companies like Gogo gradually generating higher revenue and offering services beyond the traditional wireless Internet connection, in-flight WiFi appears to be gearing up to follow the same trajectory that smartphones did. It's already pretty incredible that Internet access has been popularized even up in the clouds, but we're quite technologically dependent and often unable to sit still for long periods of time without our various devices. I couldn't have written most of this paragraph back in 2000, and if in-flight WiFi services follow through on their promises to revamp their services, we could be seeing the next big thing.
4. Video Streaming
In addition to having a box TV with an antenna back in the day, I also had to stick cassettes in the VCR well ahead of time if I wanted to record anything. Now, 15 years later, I have Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and other streaming services readily available to me. Netflix and Prime have their own original programming, and I don't have to stress about missing shows because most streams are archived for later consumption.
I rarely use a TV now, because everything I could ever want to watch is at my fingertips. Some have gone so far as to conduct a "cable death watch," because it appears that streaming has rapidly become more popular than cable TV. If I hadn't actually lived through these past 15 years, I would have been completely taken aback by how quickly we went from the rise of DVR to the popularization of streaming services.
Video chatting became possible in the 1990s, but wasn't commercialized or popularized until the launch of Skype in 2003. Purchased by Microsoft in 2011, Skype had over 300 million users by the end of 2013. Of course, the rise of FaceTime and Google Hangout provided Skype with competition, but it's still going pretty strong. Back in 2000, I had to call my family in India using an international calling service with limited minutes and unreliable connections — now, I just have to open my computer. As someone who enjoys meeting people during my travels, Skype has always proved itself as a valuable tool to stay in touch with people.
Skype has been so normalized that people conduct Skype interviews, Skype into events, and more. We can't teleport, but we can still be in multiple places at once.
6. Google Maps
I spent so much of my time in Europe last year wandering around and pointing my phone in different directions, leading people to think I was pretending to be a Hogwarts student. In reality, I was obsessively using Google Maps to figure out where I was going. Being able to read physical maps is an important skill — you never know when you're going to be without an Internet connection — but Google Maps has become an integral part of our lives.
Launched in 2005, Google Maps has since been continuously updated, and it's the 10th most downloaded free app from the Apple App Store. It is possible to message people with your precise coordinates just by dropping a pin on Google Maps — much different from the look-for-the-nearest-intersection-and-yell-with-frustration-into-the-phone days.
Obviously, there have been a bunch of other technological advances since 2000 that would have seemed unbelievable back then. From the Apple Watch to GrubHub to Amazon's one-hour delivery service, we can do a lot of things we couldn't do back then. Some of them are silly and some of them are extremely convenient, but the fact remains that technology has come a long way.