Maybe you grew up in the 90’s. Maybe you’re just curious what was so special about
the 90’s and why nobody will stop talking about it. Whatever the case, if you’re up for some 90’s technology nostalgia, then you’ve come to the right place.
Like millions of kids, I grew up during the 90’s. This was a time when technology was seeing rapid acceleration, and new ideas birthed the highly-connected digital world that we live in today.
So just what were the most impactful technologies of the 90’s? Well, there were quite a few of them, but in this feature, we’re going to look at 10 that most impacted the world right before the turn of the century. Sound good? Let’s dive right in within the gallery below.
And that’s it for our top 10 technologies of the 90’s. If you enjoyed this list, be sure to check out
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10 Revolutionary Technologies That Defined The 90's
1. 56K Internet
Although dial-up internet was made available in the 1980's, it wasn't until around 1992 that it found its way into millions of homes. Before this, if you wanted to learn about the history of Bill Clinton or check out some photos of cats you had to head to the library or go to Barnes & Noble and spend money on a book. With the advent of 56k internet, the everyday person gained quick access to readily available information. Well, provided they were willing to wait through a minute or two of dialing into the phone line and listening to loud screeching noises.
2. CD Player
For much of the 20th-century music was actually quite inaccessible. You either needed a massive vinyl player nearby or a tape player of some sort. That was all thrown into the past with the advent of the CD Player, a device so powerful it could play dozens of songs in high quality without skipping a beat, all from the palm of your hand. Of course, nowadays we have digital music that makes the CD Player look like an archaic toy, but through the 90's the CD Player spellbound the world.
3. Floppy Disks (3.5 inch)
The floppy disk's origins could be traced back to 1971 when IBM invented the colossal 8-inch 23FD. As with a lot of early technologies, it was hefty, so-much-so that 15 years later the 3.5-inch floppy would replace it entirely. But it wasn't until around 1990 that Windows and Apple PCs alike would adopt the technology as a de-facto standard. While it was only capable of housing around 720 kb of data, 3.5 inch floppies could be found on pre-built PCs through the turn of the century and were used for recovery and boot as late as 2008.
Nothing screams 90's more than a kid wearing bright pastel clothing walking around with a GameBoy. Nintendo's first handheld was a profound one, making the revolutionary gaming entertainment of the mid-80's available anywhere. Yes, this might have meant that thousands of kids were distracted from studying by legendary games like
Tetris, The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, and Pokemon Red & Blue, but it was totally worth it. Today, over 118 million units have been sold, making the GameBoy one of the top 5 best-selling gaming platforms in history.
When the iMac arrived in 1998 it was right on the heels of Steve Jobs returning to Apple. Within two years tens of thousands of iMacs would be found in schools across the United States. While its idea of merging monitor with hardware wasn't necessarily revolutionary, it didn't sacrifice screen size and instead was a tightly delivered product that went well beyond expectations. Its translucent body was dashing, its ease of use was child-friendly, and its pairing of powerful hardware and software inspired a new generation of video editors, designers, and artists.
You see, there was a time when not everyone had a cell phone. In fact, for most of the 90s, the average person had to use a payphone if they had to make a call while out and about. The pager was essentially an intermediary step that bridged the gap between many years of barrier of communication and today where we are plugged into the matrix. Capable of alerting you to a call and even receiving messages, this small device was a huge winner among business people, lawyers, and doctors. Companies that made pagers would accumulate quick wealth before they would largely fade out in favor of cellphones a half decade later. Even then, they're still used in some industries as a highly secure alert system, such as with firefighters and EMS technicians.
The PDA was essentially a smartphone before smartphones existed. It would house all the information you needed to be successful at work and life, from calendar systems to internet access and contacts. At the forefront of the technology was Palm, a company that desperately needed a hit in the 90's and finally found one. The big problem was that generally speaking, PDAs had underperforming hardware and software. Simply put, they didn't provide efficiency in daily tasks as well as they probably should have. So, they enjoyed a good run for a few years before Apple's first iPhone showed what a good user experience looks like.
8. Search Engines
Google dominates the search engine landscape today, but it wasn't always that way. In the 90's search engines were in a state of infancy, with lots of kinks to be worked out. So, as better algorithms and a growing list of results accumulated, websites like Cuil, AltaVista, Infoseek, AOL Search, and Ask Jeeves all tried to deliver their own angle on the technology. While most of these companies would die off one-by-one, search engines exist today and are a huge part of everyday life. How else are you going to find out the difference between loose and lose?
The Talkboy was the toy every young boy wanted in the early 90's. As seen in
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, the cassette player and recorder capitalized on the dominance of cassette technology, providing an affordable solution for recording random conversations and then playing them back. Yeah, you couldn't be too secretive about it since the Talkboy was the size of a fully-grown pineapple, but nobody minded. This device was really darn cool at the time, especially the Deluxe version that supported slow playback.
The only thing more fun than caring for a real animal is caring for a digital animal. The makers of the Tamagotchi knew this and delivered the handheld digital pet solution in the early 90's. Usually found on keychains, Tamagotchi hi's allowed for people to care for and raise a variety of digital animals, all presented on a small screen. Want to relax? Too bad, you better feed your digital pet before it starts beeping at you endlessly. Looking to watch a movie without distraction? Your digital pet wants to play and that's way more important. As crazy as it sounds, Tamagotchi's were one of the biggest fads of the decade, selling more than 73 million units over 10 years. Now excuse me while I feed my small digital penguin.