As we approach the twilight of 2019, we've almost lived through a whole two decades of this millennium.
Looking back at late 1999, as we prepared for the supposed doom of the millenium bug and possible end of the world, our lives were considerably different to what they are now.
F.R.I.E.N.D.S still had 4 seasons left, Family Guy and Spongebob SquarePants were making their debuts and Toy Story 2 was in the cinema. Britney Spears had just released ‘Baby One More Time', the Backstreet Boys were riding high on ‘I Want It That Way', and we walked around trying to get Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo No 5' out of our heads. We were all collecting Pokemon cards and were playing on our Game Boy Colours, while hiding in terror from our Furbys.
While much has changed culturally since the year JK Rowling released Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, even more has changed technologically.
In 1999, many people still didn’t have a computer in their home. If you were one of the lucky ones that did, it was a very big, beige box that most likely ran Windows '98 or '95. Connecting to the internet was a slow assault on the ears, as the dial-up modem negotiated a 56kb/s connection to the World Wide Web. Mobile phones were a thing, but you could only text and make calls and not much more.
Here are some of the biggest tech innovations that have come into our lives since we partied like it was 1999.
If you had an internet connection in the 1990s, you almost certainly had to negotiate with the person in your house who wanted to use the phone at the same time. Dial up internet, with its painfully slow connection could not be used simultaneously with the landline phone. This meant that if someone wanted to make a call, you would have to disconnect from your game of Neopets.
Broadband internet has come into its own over the last 20 years. Initial connections offered “fast” speeds of between 128kb/s and 512kb/s, nothing compared to today’s connections, but lighting quick at the time. They also allowed us to surf whenever we wanted, while also using our phone.
Broadband saved us from the stress of slow download speeds and family arguments over whether you could make a phone call.
As we moved through the 21st century, faster speeds thanks to fibre connections have enabled all of the streaming services, video chat and instant downloads that we are used to today. A massive change in 20 years.
Everyone remembers playing ‘Snake' on a Nokia 3310. This device was seemingly indestructible and had a battery that could last forever. This generation of device was one that revolutionised the way we communicated, all of a sudden everyone had a mobile phone and could talk and text from wherever they were.
Next came camera phones, with their full colour displays. VGA cameras were poor quality, with low resolution. That didn’t matter though, we could take photos and videos of anything, whenever, wherever, without having to carry a bulky camera with us. Combined with the action of ending a call on a flip phone with a satisfying snap, this was an exciting time.
Shortly afterwards, Apple shocked the world with the release of the iPhone. A device that combined an iPod, a PDA and a phone together. It had no keyboard, it was entirely based around a touch interface and it looked like it had come from the space age.
A short while later, Google released its Android operating system and competition for smartphones was rife.
These devices allowed us to remain connected wherever we were. 3G (and later 4G and 5G) internet meant we could stay connected outside and WiFi meant we could make use of our superfast broadband connections at home, without the need for wires.
Apple and Google launched their app stores for smartphone users to download new software that could add new functionality to their device, with everything from social networks to multiplayer games available to download.
The market for different types of app became very competitive, with many different developers producing apps that functioned in very similar ways. This required the developers to find ways to differentiate their apps from the competition.
In the iGaming industry, one tool for differentiation was to offer free spins and sign up bonuses, with the largest iGaming companies regularly competing to offer the biggest bonus. This meant that customers could shop around for the best deal when looking to play casino games on their smartphone.
While there have been many technical innovations since 1999, including self driving cars, Virtual Reality, reusable space rockets and wearable technology, the two defining innovations are mobile phones and broadband internet. Without these two, most of the other innovations would not be possible.
A self driving car wouldn’t work if it couldn’t communicate with super-low latency wireless internet. A VR headset would not work without a high bandwidth connection. Google Maps would not be as useful without a mobile phone. Tablet devices would not exist in the way they are now if smartphones hadn’t paved the way for them.
Without these two innovations, we might still be carrying Tamagotchis with us to play, while we argued about whether you were allowed to go online to check your email.