How amazingly fast our tech habits change

Things we used to live without

It’s interesting how quickly we humans start taking things for granted. In a fast-moving landscape like technology, especially IT, this becomes all the more obvious.

When you start thinking back to how things were just a few years ago, it’s amazing how different things were. So many of the gadgets, services and sites we all take for granted today simply weren’t around.

In that spirit, let’s take a few steps back in time and look what you DIDN’T have a few years ago. We’ll jump back five years at a time.

Five years ago (2006)

  • No Facebook, unless you were a student in the United States. The site opened “for the rest of us” in late 2006.
  • No Twitter. It launched mid 2006 but hadn’t yet caught on.
  • No iPhone or Android smartphones. The pinnacle of smartphones came from the likes of Nokia (Symbian-based smartphones), RIM (good old Blackberry) and companies like HTC (with Windows Mobile).
  • No mobile app ecosystem. Ok, third-party mobile apps technically did exist at this time, but it wasn’t until Apple opened up the iPhone for developers that mobile apps as we know them today really took off. The iPhone SDK wasn’t released until March 2008.
  • No iPad.
  • No Google Chrome. The vast majority of all web surfing was done using Internet Explorer 6. Firefox 2.0 and Internet Explorer 7 were released late in 2006.

Ten years ago (2001)

  • No YouTube. It didn’t launch until 2005.
  • No Google Docs. It wasn’t launched until 2006.
  • No Wikipedia. Well, ok, it launched this year, but remember, it had not yet filled up with information and become the resource we take for granted today.
  • No Gmail, which didn’t show up until 2004.
  • No Blackberries. RiM introduced its smartphone in 2003.
  • Online social networks as we know them today were just starting to show up, but none of the services that are big and popular today existed.
  • No WordPress. It was forked from the b2 blog software in 2003.
  • No Firefox, which wasn’t launched until 2004. IE completely dominated the browser market at this point, reaching version 6.0 in August 2001.
  • Smartphones were exceedingly rare and exceedingly expensive. Almost everyone had “dumbphones.”
  • Mobile Internet access was a nightmare. Remember WAP…?

Fifteen years ago (1996)

  • The Web was something very new to most people, and the majority didn’t use it at all.
  • None of today’s web browsers were in popular use. Internet Explorer existed, but wasn’t widely used. If you surfed the Web, you probably did it on Mosaic or Netscape Navigator.
  • No Google. Sergey Brin and Larry Page were tinkering with something they called “Backrub” at Stanford University, which would later become Google. It was the era of Altavista.
  • No Blogger. The blogging service didn’t show up until 1999.
  • The whole “blog” concept had barely begun to take root. There wasn’t even a word for it yet.
  • No iPod. In fact, no portable MP3 players at all.
  • Many people didn’t own a basic cell phone, and pretty much no one had anything qualifying as a smartphone.

We could go on and on and on…

This was just a short leap back in time, but it does make you realize how massively our world has changed in a relatively short time period. Yet we take these things utterly for granted today.

It almost gets ridiculous when you continue looking farther back in time. For example, another five years back (in 1991) Tim Berners-Lee had only just invented what would become the World Wide Web.

We haven’t even gone into the general boost personal computing has received in everything from performance and screen resolution to features and form factor. Compare today’s computers to those of ten years ago. Look at your sleek, high-performance laptop and compare it with those of yesteryear. In short, sitting down with a computer from ten years ago would quickly prove a frustrating experience for almost anyone.

And how about how we all used to connect to the Internet, with those old dial-up modems? That used to be the norm not too long ago. Today, most of us have some form of broadband connection to the Internet, and those continue to get faster every year. Here in Sweden, for example, download speeds exceeding 10 Mbit/s are quite common today. Same thing with how 3G networks have spread across the globe, finally giving reasonable speed for mobile Internet access. That has also happened extremely fast. Look back 10 years and we were firmly in 2G land.

We’re pretty much all tech geeks here at Pingdom, so we’re highly aware of this phenomenon. It’s like a mix of living in the now, “early-adopteritis” and sheer convenience that sets in incredibly fast.

And when we say fast, we mean fast. For example, some people are already taking Google+ for granted, as if it’s always been there even though it just launched this summer. It’s like our brains simply hit a switch.

What are your recent “for granteds” that you were doing fine without just a few years ago?

1 comment

  1. “No Facebook, unless you were a student in the United States.”
    Not completely true. You could request for your Non-US University address to be added. I did that and it took 4-6 weeks for them to approve it. Afterwards I was able to register:)

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