Ten years ago …

This is really a fun exercise.  Just try to remember the situation as it was ten years ago. You can do this for several topics, but as this is a technology blog I will focus on technology. Beside of fun it has some nice side effects like improving your long term memory or giving you a better feeling how fast things are really moving. That’s something which is easily missed if you only look at short term events. And if you forget this you might be surprised by things happening faster than you thought.

So here are my points. They are completely from my memory and not guaranteed to be accurate.  This will of course describe the situation where I lived, which was in Germany.

Ten years ago …

Hardware

  • My private PC was a 233 Mhz Pentium with about 64 MB of Ram and a 6 GB HD. At this time it was already more than 2 years old. I think a good PC at this time would have had a 600 Mhz Pentium 2. It used Windows ME, which was still DOS based but the only possible choice if you wanted to occasionally play a game. I had a second partition with SUSE Linux, but just to experiment. Using it as the primary desktop OS would have been a masochistic experience.
  • My business Notebook was a Compaq  with something between 300 and 400 Mhz, a 13 inch Display and about 4 GB hard drive. That was pretty good at this time. Buying a notebook like this for private use was unlikely as they were priced at about 7000 Deutsche Mark (ca. 3500 Euro)  each. The Euro was not used 10 years ago, but price tags already had to include it.
  • Apple started to become popular again. The iMac (the colored one with a CRT Screen) was the first Mac that was available in general electronic stores (like Media Markt) in Germany. It still used System 9. I thought it might be a nice toy for my girlfriend, but for serious computing?
  • Speaking of CRT. This was the dominant Display technology. A 17 inch display with a screen resolution of 1024 * 768 was the standard. The first 15 inch LCD Displays were available but they were ridiculous expensive and were only useful for showing static pictures. As soon as something started to move on the screen you did know you just burned money.

Internet

  • My Internet Connection at home was an ISDN line. (64 kBit up and down) This at least allowed to get a phone call, while browsing the net at the same time.
  • I think at about this time I ordered my first DSL. I had to wait more than one year to get it. Transfer rates of 768 kBit download  and 128 kBit upload were revolutionary at this time. Even more important was the flat rate, as you usually had to pay per minute.
  • Google was the new kid on the block. Beside better search results it had a revolutionary interface. Just a search box and a logo. All other search engines (Altavista, Excite, Lycos …) tried to be portals to the internet including news, ads and much more. They sometimes took minutes to load on a dial-up connection.

Mobile technology

  • Mobile Phones just started to become popular for the masses. Until then they were seen as status symbols. I had two phones at this time a Siemens S25 as company phone and a C25 as private. The S25 even had a color display (the only one on the market). It had stunning 4 colors.
  • SMS just started too. People learnt how to use this strange 160 character message thing. It was priced 0.39 DM each. There are still phone providers today that charge 0.19 Euro, which is even a bit more expensive than 10 years ago.
  • Mobile data transfer was only possible in GSM-dailup-mode which meant 9600 bit/s up- and download. The first GPRS-phones which allowed package oriented transfer and 48.000 bit/s download were available about a year later.
  • Palm PDAs were wildly successful in Business. It was a status symbol to have one. The Palm V had a really nice design, but had a monochrome LCD Display. The latest invention was the Palm IIIc which was the first to have a color display (240*240 and 256 colors). I had one and the most annoying thing was that you could not read anything on this display when you were outside.

Consumer electronics

  • Most people used CD-Players for listening to music. Portable CD-Players were pretty common.
  • There were the first dedicated MP3 Players. But they used Flash-RAM which was very expensive. A 64 Mbyte Compact Flash card did cost about 500 Deutsche Mark (ca. 300 Dollars) and did not store more music than a CD. That was not really a competition for CD-Players or even the classic Walkman.
  • TVs were usually CRT. There were the first flatscreens based on plasma technology. But they were priced at the same range as a small car. A lot of the CRT TVs were already 16:9. But you needed several strong men to move one. Some of these monsters had more than 100 kg.

Software and Programming

  • Java was a huge hype. It was used in a lot of places, especially on the server side. It was not very successful on the desktop. (Deja vu?) Java was also recognized as being very slow. Which is funny because today many people compare new programming languages like Groovy, Scala or even Ruby to Java as the benchmark.
  • Java already had some IDEs. I think the most prominent was the Borland JBuilder. Things like automated refactoring were still unknown.
  • There were some rumors about a strange thing called Extreme Programming. Those guys were supposed to call programming the most important thing when creating software. Scary!
  • Open Source software was used in some companies. Especially as web servers. It was ok to use it for this unimportant piece of infrastructure. But using open source for some mission critical stuff would still have been a revolution.

I could write on for hours but that’s probably enough for now. I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing. Please share your own memories about ten years ago in the comments or on your own blog!

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