Sunday, January 3, 2010

Technology in the First Decade of the 21st Century

Others may look back on the years 2000 to 2009 and remember elections, wars, global warming and Michael Jackson, but for a gearheads like me, this was the decade that mobile tech grew up.

During the first decade of the 21st century, we saw a whole slew of new mobile technologies capture the our imagination: the smartphone, the MP3 player, the USB stick, touchscreens, Wi-Fi, 3G wireless, pocket camcorders, digital SLRs and more.

Thanks to these inventions, people got increasingly plugged into an always-on, totally portable, always-connected existence. Where we stand now, notebooks outsell desktop PCs, people spend more on mobile phones than on landlines, and portable game consoles outnumber the ones plugged into your TV.

2000: PlayStation 2
Console gaming in the late 1990s kind of sucked compared to what we have today. The PS2 is the highest selling console in history with more than 138 million units sold. And it’s still growing, even though it’s technically obsolete.

2001: Apple iPod — Gadget of the Decade
The original iPod weighed 5.5 ounces, had a tiny monochrome screen, and featured a mechanical wheel for scrolling through its menus. It seems ancient to me now with the iPod Touch and the iPhone. But the iPod, combined the iTunes Store for purchasing digital music that same year, giving birth to a cultural phenomenon.

More than any other gadget, the iPod opened the doors to the always-connected, always-online, all-in-one-device world that we live in today.

2002: Microsoft Xbox
What made the Xbox the greatest gadget of 2002 was how it revolutionized playing videogames online, thanks to the launch that year of Xbox Live.

Cheap, fast and, above all, simple, Xbox Live transformed online gaming, my son and his friends lived in my basement playing kids from other states every weekend. I'm not sure they even ate all weekend.

2003: Nothing really came to the forefront that year. But 2004 was a different story...

2004: Nintendo DS and the Palm Treo 650
For the longest time, Nintendo had two distinct product lines: home consoles and the Game Boy. With the Nintendo DS these lines merged, putting a powerful, 3-D console in your pocket.

With its secondary touch-sensitive screen and microphone, players could draw and blow their way to the high-score table, as well as doing the usual button-mashing. But it was the games that made the DS the best handheld you could buy. Mario Kart DS did what even the Nintendo 64 and GameCube couldn’t: It managed to equal what is possibly the best videogame ever made, Super Mario Kart. And then it put it in your pocket

Before the Treo 650, smartphones were an ugly bunch, hard to use and generally clunky. Many people would even carry a PDA (remember those?) along with a “dumb” phone. Palm’s Treo 650 may have been pedestrian by today’s standards, with no Wi-Fi, just 32 MB of memory, a 0.3-megapixel camera and a stubby external antenna, but it was so popular that many owners only threw them out when the iPhone came along.

2005: Motorola Razr
Motorola’s Razr, an impossibly thin clamshell phone, sparked the trend of anorexic mobile devices. The Razr was the biggest sensation that the mobile phone industry had seen before the iPhone came along. The Razr went on to sell 110 million units over its four-year run. And it left us all with a permanent feeling that anything bigger is, well, just sorta clunky.

2006: Apple MacBook
The MacBook was Apple’s bestselling Mac ever. It debuted in 2006 with new Intel chips and a complete industrial makeover, doing away with many design and performance flaws of other Mac notebooks. The success of the MacBook helped Apple brave the economic recession without even delivering a cheap netbook

2007: Apple iPhone
The iPhone changed everything. It started out at $600 as an overpriced luxury device with few features setting it apart from the competition: a multimedia player, a web browser, a touchscreen and a phone. A year later, with the second-generation iPhone, Apple opened the App Store, which opened the door to an army of third-party software developers, adding their own quirky capabilities to the device. We’re still witnessing the killer effects of Apple’s everything-in-one device. There’s an app for practically everything the iPhone is technically capable of, and this is only the beginning. Just wait...

2008: Canon EOS 5D Mark II
In many ways, Canon’s follow up to 2005’s EOS 5D was incremental. It boosted the full-frame sensor from 12.8 to a whopping 21 megapixels, added a bigger, sharper LCD screen and generally did things faster. But the Canon 5D Mark II added one thing that made it the defining gadget of 2008: Full, 1080p HD video.

Kids and adults alike can shoot HD movies with Hollywood-style likeness. My best friend has one with the crazy-sensitive ISO 25,600 sensor (which let it practically see in the dark), and you would think he had another child he is so giddy with excitement. But I do have to admit, it is pretty awesome!

2009: Amazon Kindle 2
This one surprised me with all the consumer excitement. Amazon is very smart and doesn’t stop with the device — it lets you read your e-books on its free apps for the iPhone and the PC, adding a whole new dimension to the concept of “mobility.”

What's next?

1 comment:

  1. I can only imagine what's in store for the future. Educators have a monumental task of staying on top of these changes in preparing our kids for these ever changing trends.