25 in the 2000s: technological innovations

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Wednesday, December 2nd, 2009

25 in the 2000s: technological innovations

this is part of an ongoing series called 25 in the 2000s. if you want a bit of information about the series, you can find the introduction here.

in technology standards, 10 years is a very, very long time. innovative people and programs are constantly looking for new ways to connect people, spread information and make life easier through advances in technology. in this list, i’ve used technology in the broadest sense: science, mechanics, computer, social media, etc. so, here’s the best in what’s happened in technological innovation over the last 10 years.

25. Kindle/E-Book Readers. admittedly, i have about 0% interest in these. i simply don’t have a consistent need, but certainly, many people do. save trees, ease the load of lugging around multiple books & instant access to a seemingly infinite catalog of books: all great advances.

24. Flash Drives. this may seem incredibly run-of-the-mill or boring, but think about life before flash drives. you had to burn a hundred cd’s or, at best, go through the hassle of constantly erasing and burning rewritable discs. even though i’ve, by and large, moved on to other methods of transporting data, i still have regular use for my flash drive.

23. Gaming Systems. much like the kindle, i have no interest in gaming systems. but, clearly, the advances made in gaming systems such as xbox, wii and playstation have been incredible. graphics have, in some cases, become near cinematic and the wii became an unparalleled gaming sensation.

22. Flat Screen TVs. in order to have a large tv only 5 years ago, you had to have a half acre of living room space just to fit the tv. now, with the aid of a mount above your mantle, you can get up to 150 inches of tv with just a bit of wall space.

21. Adobe Creative Suite(s). alright, as a graphic designer, here’s my geek out moment of the list. there’s a bad word i don’t like to use, but it’s necessary here: quark. yes, before adobe decided to nearly revolutionize the software platform for designers with indesign, having an efficient, coherent workflow was difficult, at best. the constant advances in the creative suite are exciting and should only continue to get better.

20. Satellite Radio. this is a strange time to talk about satellite radio simply because its in a state of flux. but, it cannot be overlooked how great of an advance it has been over the last decade. terrestrial radio has become atrocious, so when a radio platform was announced that gave the user control and cut the crap, it was a welcome advance.

19. External Hard Drives. it’s almost become cliché to talk about the computer you used to have that only had 64 mb of hard drive space, but the reality is that that was a reality. now, it’s hard to imagine having less than a couple terabytes of data storage and backup. due to external hard drives, we have more secure data and the option of increased data portability.

18. Blackberry. it’s no mystery that i’m a staunch iphone supporter and, quite frankly, i find the blackberry to feel very ancient. BUT, the blackberry’s impact in the evolution of the phone over the past decade can’t be overstated. still the companion of legions of business people, this became the go-to status symbol and on-the-go work necessity.

17. iTunes. itunes was genius. people needed a place to organize and play their music. apple needed a place to sell the people music. hence, itunes. much like other apple products, what separated itunes from winamp and other “competitors” was its ease of use and beautiful simplicity in design.

16. DVDs. much like many other items on this list, dvds weren’t invented in the 2000s, but they became the standard over the past decade. from movies to data storage to backup discs, much like flash drives, life before them is hard to remember. we’ve yet to see if blu-ray will push out the dvd format any time soon, but either way, it’s a worthy technology.

15. GPS. seriously, how did we get anywhere prior to gps? if not for google maps on my iphone, i would be lost when traveling. gps brought a military technology to the masses and has transcended a mere technology and become something that empowers people to travel and brave exploration.

14. BitTorrent/File Sharing Proliferation. just over 10 years, we all reveled in the greatness of napster. and then our world came crashing down. lars and the music industry came huffing and puffing. what they didn’t realize, though, was that the mass thrust forward in file sharing was just taking off. torrenting proved to be the ultimate whammy, aided by advances in networks such as kazaa, limewire and sites like rapidshare and megaupload.

13. Mac OS X. pc users have somehow become convinced that mac users are a part of some great conspiracy to dupe people into believing macs are great. there’s no conspiracy, but here’s the reality: macs have the most full-featured, beautiful, user-friendly, virus-free operating system since the dawn of personal computing. in september 2000, the first mac os x public beta was released and it was literally shocking to see the overhaul from os 9.

12. Laptops. mac, pc, whatever, laptop innovation has been incredible. in the beginning of the decade, laptops were bulky, lacking in hard drive space and generally slow. laptops were only a consideration to those whose jobs demanded constant work outside of the office. now, laptops are often considered before desktops and have the power and size to back it up.

11. Hybrid Vehicles. george bush was correct when he famously said that we’re addicted to oil. a key part of our addiction was huge gas-guzzling suv’s. hybrid vehicles, enter stage left. while hybrids began appearing just prior to the new millennium, the technology has skyrocketed and only looks to become more and more advanced. we have probably seen just the tip of the iceberg.

10. Digital Cameras. i distinctly remember, in 2001ish, having a conversation with an award-winning, incredible photographer friend about how a lot of people are selling out to digital cameras and how they’ll never be able to even come close to film cameras. ummm… yeah…. well, i will say that there’s still something great about film cameras, there’s just not much place for the slowness and cost of film these days.

09. Facebook. facebook started as an exclusive website intended to network college students. now, 5 years later, your mom and your grandma are on it. 🙂 in many ways, facebook can thank myspace. on the heels of the myspace boom, facebook built on myspace’s success by doing several things: cleaning up the ui, allowing for greater privacy and focusing on networks. going into the next decade, facebook only seems to be gaining steam.

08. Myspace. speaking of the devil… in 2003, a few people decided to duplicate the idea of friendster and within a matter of days, launched myspace. within a matter of years, myspace was the most highly visited site on the web. its explosion was unparalleled and ushered in the craze of social media. while it’s clear that facebook is more lasting and just better than myspace, it can be overstated how absolutely huge myspace’s impact was on the decade.

07. Youtube. one of the chief descriptors of the 2000s is that everyone became a celebrity. from reality tv to social networking, anyone could become famous. but nothing was more at the forefront of everyday celebrity than youtube. wanna be a rockstar? upload a video of you singing a backstreet boys song. wanna be an instant internet meme? just upload a video of you doing something wacky. youtube continues to be a leader in instant video gratification.

06. Tivo/DVR. remember when you had to incessantly fast forward, rewind and, god forbid, watch commercials??!! that was life before tivo and the proliferation of dvr’s. tivo didn’t just duplicate the vcr experience. it absolutely, fundamentally changed the way we interacted with tv and each other. i don’t have to watch survivor on thursday night at 7 p.m. sharp. i can take the phone call at 6:54 and watch survivor later. i don’t have to hold it until a commercial break. i can run late in getting home from work. why? i have tivo.

05. iMac. sure, there was already a self-contained computer (the original imac). sure, there are computers with better out-of-the-box specs. BUT, in 2001, when steve jobs revealed that hemispherical base with the rotating neck, the computer game changed. since that time, the imac has evolved into simply a thin monitor that is fully-contained. ultimately, this is more of a symbol of apple’s innovation and commitment to beautiful, functional design throughout the last decade.

04. Twitter. twitter is the baby of the list…and it’s #4. that alone should tell you about the impact. facebook is huge. myspace is huge. there’s blogs and tumblr and all these other things, and twitter beats them all. why? because of its immediacy of impact and cultural saturation. while it certainly got annoying, over the last several months, you couldn’t go an hour without hearing some news outlet run a story about it or a talk show do a segment about it. twitter is everywhere and that isn’t changing any time soon.

03. iPhone. i almost put this #1 and i think it could be, but we may have to wait a year or so more to see its greatest peak. the iphone simply revolutionized the cell phone industry. in literally the span of a keynote by steve jobs in 2007, the iphone became the standard-bearer for an industry in which it had never been a part. the iphone is innovative, beautiful, forward-thinking and just plain cool.

02. Google. what more can we say about google? it’s incredible simplicity is almost what makes it so great. how does a simple homepage with next to nothing on it become a cultural and technological sensation? google now runs the world and it’s everywhere. besides the website, they have a mobile platform, apps and, of course, they own youtube.

01. iPod. much life google, how does a little white box that holds music become such a global phenomenon? from the little white earbuds to the catchy commercials, the ipod is one of the most ubiquitous and recognizable technological innovations of all time. since its inception in 2001, apple has continued to innovate and introduce new features. what’s next for the ipod? who knows, but i’m guessing it will continue to push the bounds of technological creativity. and, of course, sell zillions.

so there you have it. there’s the list. what do you think? i’ve certainly missed some big stories. what are they? i’ve, no doubt, ranked some things too high or too low. what are they? help me to flesh out and “correct” my list.

see you in a few days with my next list: sports moments.