Change Is The Only Constant.


With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 looming, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what life was like pre-9/11. Technology so dominates and shapes our lives now, I have been trying to remember what the technological landscape looked like in 2001.

So, I did some research.

At the start of the decade, about half the population in the US had internet access. Now that number is closer to 80%. Everyone I’ve spoken with was glued to their TV or radio on September 11th. I do not recall speaking to anyone who’s primary source of information was the internet.

There was no on-line social networking to speak of. MySpace didn’t start until 2002 and was then overtaken by FaceBook in 2006 as the leading social networking site. There was no Twitter. The first tweets were in 2006, and there are now over 200 million Twitter users. If a terrorist attack happened today, I think word would spread like wildfire on Twitter and FaceBook. In 2001, we just called everyone – on our land lines.

And who’s got a land line any more?

Today, 96% of us carry a cell phone. At the start of 2001, only about 38% of the US population had a cell phone. Of course, those phones back in 2001 didn’t have cameras, didn’t have access to email and the internet, and hardly anyone texted. They are what we would now call “basic phones.”

I had this phone.

The first bluetooth headsets were announced in Spring ’01. Now, in some cities and states, they are required for cell phone use in cars. Of course, now most cars have built in bluetooth available.

The smart phone that defined the category – the Blackberry – wasn’t even a phone in 2001. It was a data device only. The first Blackberry with an integrated phone wasn’t released until 2002.

In ten short years the Blackberry defined, dominated and then was overwhelmed in the category it created. The 2007 introduction of the iPhone was the beginning of the end for Blackberry. In a market it once owned, it’s now third and falling further behind Apple’s iPhone and the legion of Android smart phones. I bet it won’t even exist in another 10 years – do I hear 5 years?

Ten years ago there was no Skype, no Youtube, no LinkedIn.

HDTV existed but few people were watching the few programs available in HD.

Chronicle, the award-winning local news magazine from WCVB in Boston started broadcasting occasional shows in HD in 1999. They didn’t switch to full time HD programming until 2006.

The cost of a 47” “HD ready” TV advertised on the BestBuy website in 2001? $1,999 and then you needed an HD box to make it work. Now you can buy a higher quality HDTV at less than a quarter of that price – no box necessary. And almost everything on the major networks is broadcast in HD now.

Speaking of BestBuy. They’ve done well in the last ten years, In 2001 the top electronics retailers were: BestBuy, Circuit City, CompUSA, Radio Shack, The Good Guys, The Wiz, Ultimate Electronics, Tweeter, BrandsMart, and Rex Stores. Today only BestBuy and Radio Shack still exist as brick and mortar stores.

Back in the day, the DVD player was the big seller – everyone was migrating from VHS to DVD. Now, you can’t even buy a stand-alone VCR at BestBuy. DVD is being replaced by Blu Ray and even that technology is being supplanted by cloud streaming services like Netflix and iTunes.

In September 2001, there was no iPod, no iPhone, no iPad. iTunes was released in January 2001 but it didn’t become fully functional until the iPod wasApple ipod released in October of that year. By the way, Apple stock was selling at about $16 a share in the Fall of 2001. Yesterday it closed at $390 so it’s been a pretty good decade for Apple.

Over at Microsoft, the big news was the roll out of Window’s XP. It was released for retail sale in October of 2001.

In my research for this post, I visited the AT&T website from 2001 via the Wayback Machine. If you’ve never used the Wayback Machine it’s pretty cool. They’ve archived a huge number of websites over the years so you can see what websites actually looked like in years gone past. It’s worth snooping around on.

Anyway, the big news at AT&T in the summer of 2001?

AT&T Rolls Out Next-Generation Payphones

If that doesn’t say something about how technology has changed in ten years, nothing does. When is the last time you used a payphone? Do you even know were to find one that works?

Funny, as I’m typing this, my word processing application is suggesting that the word “payphone” is spelled incorrectly – that word was, apparently, never included in the application’s dictionary. Not only is the device obsolete, so is the word, I guess.

In the last ten years, technology has changed in so many ways.

We’ve gone from a analog society to a digital one. From desktops to laptops and tablets. From calling to texting and from VHS tapes to streaming from the cloud.

In 2001 social networking ment people you met and saw and spoke to in the real world – now it means “friending” people and living partially in the real world and partially in a virtual world at the exact same time.

Change can be fun and exciting and scary and unsettling all at the same time. Who knows what the next ten years of technology will bring?

I, for one, can’t wait to see.

4 Responses to “Change Is The Only Constant.”

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