The ‘90s was a significant era to have spent your childhood, both technologically and culturally. I love Technology, and recently, I have been fascinated by how Technology and culture co-exist.
Much of what we have turned up to be today was shaped by the rapid changes in technology that took place in the ’90s and the 2000s. Remember the dreaded Y2K? Yes, those were the defining moments of technology back in the ‘90s.
We had just been introduced to computers, everybody was new, naïve and a lot of controversies surrounding the existence of computers.
There was very little information in the public domain about the intricacies of computers, how they function, and their benefits. Not only did this affect the computer industry only, but also the motor vehicle sector was hit. The introduction of self-driven cars was met with strong objection.
It is around this time that many movies featured the wars between robots and humanity. Remember the Terminator, Men in Black (MIB), etc. All these movies depicted some elements of the clash between technology advancement and humanity.
I need not mention the '90s music mix on tape recorder!
We were not forgetting the Alien invasions, which was also attributed to the advancement of Technology in the alien world. You would see aliens using their advantage of being technologically advanced than us to wreak havoc on earth and trying to take over the planet and exploit our resources.
This may be fictional movies, but the message in them was pretty straightforward. It illustrated the pros and cons of Technology and how well people should be prepared for a future that is dominated by technology, gadgets, and robots.
We have come a long way in terms of technological advancement. Think about phones, cars, home equipment, TVs, even the movies we watch have considerably evolved. We have seen the changes from real-world interactions to virtual interaction via social media and related gadgets.
Retro Count Down: Nostalgia of the Best of ‘90s Technology
The 1990s were a decade when innovative new technologies were introduced. The innovations range from excellent music, film, video games, fashion trends, and many other things.
In this article, we will count down some of the best and most unique technologies that emerged in the 90s and how they shaped us. I will select a few that I fondly remember and interacted with during the time.
I was fortunate to have enjoyed my childhood in the ‘90s; thus I have seen most of the technological transitions take place. Being an ardent fan and addict of Technology, I paid attention to the details. This article will just scratch the surface, because if I delve into the details, we may end up writing 100,000 words eBook!
Recently, I have been hit with nostalgia and memories of the ‘90s. When I look back, I realize how those things defined our life in the ‘90s, and yet we were unaware of them as they happened. The 1990s were a revolutionary time in Technology that we can all look back with nostalgia.
Here are the 11 technologies that defined the 90s.
1. Retro Video Game Consoles Wars of the 90s
Now you are well aware of my love for the video games. And mostly the retro games from back in the days. That explains why this count down will start with looking back at the retro game consoles wars of the 90s.
Starting with the 16-bit wars between Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis, the wars between consoles became a vital part of the decade’s gaming history in the early 1990s and in the Mid-1990s. The battle between Sega Saturn, the Nintendo 64, and the Sony PlayStation was rife at the time.
In 1990s, video game consoles were costly, and buyers at the time (our parents) had just enough disposable income to spend on a game console. It was the birthday present that every kid wished for. I remember the endless schoolyard argument we used to have back then with my friends on which console was the best.
As the ‘90s progressed, there was an increase in the adoption of the internet. And the consoles wars went online with many gaming forums erupting around that time. At this point, gamers could chat with each other all over the world; the console creators were also able to get live feedback and suggestions from the fans directly.
It around this time that the disputes concerning which console is the best became even more intense. It was a heated discussion in all the gaming discussion boards of the ’90s through to the 2000s. The war intensified and went into the console commercials wars of the 90s. Do you remember the commercial that said “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.”
Sony released the first PlayStation in December of 1994. It cost a whopping 387 US Dollars back then. That was a lot of money at the time. It quickly became the most famous product from Sony after the Walkman.
Two years later, in 1996, Nintendo unveiled the Nintendo 64. It was famous for being the first console with an analogue stick. This was a massive breakthrough in the gaming world as it allowed gamers to aim with precision.
2. The Internet
The internet was the primary driver of Technology. But at the same time, it was itself evolving, and the ‘90s saw a giant leap on the internet’s availability and access.
The internet was a powerful tool that revolutionized the ‘90s computer and communications industries. The internet incorporated its capabilities to what is now arguably the most outstanding technological development of the 20th Century, leveraging on the structure developed by innovations like the telegraph, telephones, radio, and personal computers.
Earlier in the ‘90s, most of us were using the internet for free music downloads, TV shows, and Pirated software. Websites like Napster was filled with teenagers who wanted to get a copy of Blink-182, Foo fighters, Goldfinger, or the Green Day single. The files were downloaded from the slow dial-up connection overnight.
Our chat apps back then were ICQ, AOL, and MSN Messenger. These were the mode of connection and socializing. This is where we coined terms like will be right back (brb) and laugh out loud (lol). The internet access back in the ‘90s was pretty dull and involved disconnecting all other telephone communications so that you can enjoy your dial-up session. Those were the days when Chicago Bulls was the most popular professional sports team. We could discuss and share photos of the Chicago bulls all day.
If you were in grade school in the 1990s, you must have killed hundreds of Tamagotchi Monsters. The toy industry was just getting busy around that time.
More and more toys based on TV series and movies were released around that time.
The Tamagotchi was handheld digital pets that took the ‘90s, kids, by storm. The egg-shaped doohickeys originally came from Japan and helped us learn some important facts about life: loving, caring, and that if you don’t feed your pets, they will grow angel wings and haunt you. These were an amazing kind of toy that we should talk about in detail in the future.
5. The 1998 iMac
This all in one computer looked cool to me. I know many hated its shape and all that. It had a bulbous behind that some considered ugly. But then again, if I were given a choice between a bulbous iMac and a CPU and with a bulky CRT monitor, I would still go for the iMac.
6. The Motorola Beeper
When someone says beep me today, it doesn’t have the real meaning like back in the 90s. Back then, you would get an actual beep from a “beeper”! And it was a cool thing to own. Using the beeper, someone would page you; then you could either find a phone or fax to get in touch with them. Or maybe write them a telegram. That was way before smartphones. We used to call them beeper pager
7. Do you remember the Personal Digital Assistant (PDA)?
Let us take a moment to reminisce about this essential companion of the ‘90s called the PDA. They came in very many brands, but the Palm Pilot was the most prominent at the time. It marked the beginning of the evolution of smartphones as we know them today.
The PDA was a vital tool for business people back in the days. It was the mother of all handheld devices at the time and a game-changer of all the inventions of the 1990s. The device would enable you to organize your work in a fancy style, and most importantly, it was portable. You could take it to your meetings.
The PDA had a futuristic lure of a parking meter. The screen was not lit and had an internal memory of a few hundred Kilobytes (KB).
To paint the picture well, if you currently have a phone with an internal memory of 16GB, that means you the memory capacity of over 32,000 PDA of the ‘90s! Strange, right? But we were contented with PDAs back then; in fact, they seemed high-end at the time.
8. Video Quality of Computer Games
Video games of the ‘90s were epic, even with pixelated images. Playing Mario on Nintendo 64 classic had a naturally soothing feeling when you hear the monophonic sounds. Now the graphics have advanced that you feel as being part of the game.
Do you remember Super Mario 64? The game that blew our minds back in the ‘90s. This is how it looked back then. The graphics of the game were;
And we loved it all the same. We didn’t even notice something is missing. Neither did we think that it could be any better.
This is what we have now, several years down the line, this is what we have:
Cool, right? But let us not forget it all started from that pixelated caricature. We may have close to reality graphics today and the ability to play games online with a whole library of background music that you can change at will, but still, they cannot match the feeling we got from the classic games of the ’90s.
8. Remember Windows 95?
Windows had been around for over ten years by 1995. But it was the year that the desktop environment was changed to what we know of windows for the next 20+ years.
Windows 10 users may have a hard time using Windows 95 or Windows 3.1 that came even much earlier. The earlier Windows used the old MS-DOS prompt. The prompt was a black screen with a command prompt only user interface.
Windows 95 was the first Windows update to feature Internet Explorer (IE), the dominant browser for more than ten years. Although Windows 95 network setup was still awkward, Windows 95 eventually gave Microsoft the foundation for what would become the modern-day Desktop (Windows 10).
9. Notable Tech inventions of the ‘90s
The ‘90s saw the invention of many things. Both in software and hardware. It is the year that Software like Adobe Photoshop was created. It is around the same decade that Google (1998) came into being.
In 1991, Linus Torvalds developed Linux as a second-year student at the University of Helsinki.
10. Development of the Mobile Phone
The development of mobile phones started way back in the 70s when Motorola invented the first cell phone on earth. The first mobile phone to be developed was the Motorola DynaTAC 8000x. It is nothing close to the smartphones that we see today. You could only use it for 30 minutes and took over 10 hours to charge!
But it is only until the ‘90s that Technology became available to individual users. Initially, it was only affordable for Multinationals and big corporations.
It is amazing that 20+ years later, you can own two phones. Back then, that would have cost thousands of dollars to acquire and several hundred more for maintenance.
Nokia released its first mobile phone, the Nokia 1011, in 1994. It is remembered as the first GSM phone to be produced. They were so bulky that you could not carry them around.
11. In came the DVDs, and Out went the VHS
Image: Daniel Dodson
Around the mid-90s, the Digital Video Disks (DVDs), as we know them today, came into existence. They were officially put in the market in 1996. It is around the same time that the first-ever DVD player hit the market, the Toshiba SD-300.
Perhaps everybody thinks that the decade that they were born was the best. I am convinced that the Mid-to-late ‘90s was an iconic period, and those who enjoyed their childhood around this period witnessed a monumental technological and cultural shift in the world.
I could not list them all in this one post; it would make it unnecessarily lengthy. Maybe we shall delve deeper into more technologies and inventions of yesteryears in another dedicated article.
Which technologies do you remember from the good old days?