“The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.” The Internet? Bah!, Newsweek, February 27, 1995.
Thinking back to when I was in my youth, I was still surrounded by technology (it helped that my dad worked in the tech sector), and over the course of 10 years, the development of technology never ceased to amaze me.
I remember in 1992, while my dad was at a conference in LA, my mum received a call on his cell phone, which he’d let her look after. She was so embarrassed to be seen with this technology that she dashed into one of the (then prevalent) phone boxes to take the call.
Jump forward to 1993, to the release of my all-time favourite childhood game, Doom, with its ‘pioneering 3D graphics’. Not only was I able to play this on the Compaq laptop we had (running Windows 3.1 for workgroups), but we were able to hook this up to our PC, sporting an impressive 424 MB hard drive and I could play against my brother.
I remember my dad trying to explain that one day we’d be able to do this from other rooms in the house, once we got the cables hooked up... Who would have imagined we’d be playing each other from separate cities on the Xbox 360 10 years later!!
In 1997, my dad showed me the Internet and I became a sucker for the chat room. This was the first time I’d been able to talk to people all over the world, without racking up an insane telephone bill; however, I still remember my mum getting annoyed that I was ‘on the phone’ all the time as the Internet was still running through the only telephone line in the house.
Next came the social Internet, really going mainstream in 1999. We’d installed a second phone line into the house to keep up with the amount of surfing my sister and I were doing. This year marked the launch of Microsoft’s MSN Messenger (as part of a strategy to take market share away from AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) which was dominating the U.S. markets). I remember my sister calling up her friend to see if she could come chat on MSN and I wondered why she wouldn’t just do this on the phone?! Little did I know what was coming two years later.
Napster. This software developed in a teen’s dorm room had taken the virtual world by storm. For the first time, you had the sensation of walking into the world’s largest music store. All I needed was an Internet connection that was capable of downloading songs at a reasonable speed (about 20 minutes for a three minute track) and a hard drive that could store my growing catalogue (10 GB!). When Napster closed its virtual doors, the news spread like wildfire through email and IM, and everyone was frantically downloading music before it was wiped off the service. My sister was in a panic to download as much Red Hot Chilli Peppers as possible, but by the end of the evening, the catalogue had disappeared.
By now, however, it was too late to stop the digital revolution. Kazaa had already been created as one of the pioneers of the peer-to-peer networks (whereby content is stored on local computers, instead of one main server, making it almost impossible to shutdown) and teenagers everywhere continued downloading catalogues of music.
So, by 2004, there was the launch of YouTube, the service which catapulted video streaming into the spotlight and gave us access to a whole wealth of new music videos and video blogs. Alongside this was the launch of Pandora (a legal source of streaming music with sponsored advertising) and soon would come the launch of Last.fm and Spotify. (Spotify recently finished a funding round of $100M, giving rise to a $1B market value.)
As bandwidth expands into households, streaming technology has been making waves in cyberspace. People who used to rely on the television for the latest shows are now able to stream TV on-demand from the likes of Tivo and tvcatchup.com.
We’ve seen business versions of Facebook and Twitter pop up (Salesforce.com’s Chatter and Yammer), and the same thing is happening with streaming in the workplace. In the next 24 months I expect to see a huge boom in the number of corporations utilizing streaming technology to interact with their ever-diverse workforce to get their message across. Not only does it allow dispersed works to access information, but it can happen live or on-demand, just like your favourite TV shows.
What part of your technology timeline stands out the most? Any predictions for what we’ll see next?