The ‘90s nostalgia is on full blast these days, and we thought it would be fun to look at some of the most important tech items from yesteryear. If you lived through it, you will remember.
If you didn’t, you might learn a few things. We launched the series with a look at video games from the decade, and now we will bring you the best gadgets from the ‘90s.
Fire up the DVD player and grab your Beanie Baby, because it’s time to go back to ‘90s gadgets.
Toys of the ‘90s were fads, but they had some impressive tech in there too
Before Pokemon Go and even Pokemon itself was the release of the Tamagotchi and Nano digital pet devices.
They were certainly a fad for a year or two for kids across the world, but they represented an important innovation in the way the youth thought about things that existed only in the digital realm.
They were easy to carry around and helped usher in a new era of on-the-go, real-time attitude that is almost an afterthought now.
A good portion of ‘90s kids may have not had actual pets, but they did have these digital creatures.
Two of the biggest toy products of the ‘90s were the Furby and the Tickle Me Elmo.
Both had their moment in popular culture and both utilized fairly advanced technology for products that were anything but your basic stuffed animals.
The Furby could learn language to some extent while the Tickle Me Elmo was touch sensitive and could vibrate. While they are both seen as largely gimmicky products now, their impact is still seen today.
The ‘90s marked a huge shift in the way music was consumed
The Sony Walkman once had an undeniable grip on the market of mobile music consumption.
Before the iPod, smartphones, and the like, walking around with a Walkman in town was the norm.
No, it couldn’t hold millions of songs or even thousands, but it could play whatever Compact Disc (CDs for those of you who are too young to remember) you wanted.
As the decade neared its end, new emerging technology began to uproot the CD.
Napster allowed users who were tech-savvy enough to download individual songs at no cost in MP3 form.
The influential company shook up the music industry and certainly changed the landscape at the close of the decade.
It also marked the idea of peer to peer file sharing and that has not slowed down in the years since.
Oh yeah, computers were a thing…
Microsoft was unstoppable in the ‘90s and it was for good reason. MS-DOS was already a fairly developed product at the beginning of the decade, and after Windows 95 was released it really catapulted the software company to unfathomable highs.
Anyone who lived through the period knows the “blue screen of death”, “MS Paint” or “Minesweeper”.
Microsoft and Windows are synonymous with the birth of the Internet (more on that later) and made Bill Gates a household name.
The beginning of the decade was thus not kind on Microsoft’s main competitor, Apple.
Today, they are the preeminent leader in tech, but it took the return of CEO Steve Jobs and the iMac to get there.
The iMac brought the world a look into what was to come: a beautiful and simple product that was ahead of its time.
There is no other computer on par with the iMac from the decade that was all about personal computing.
Media consumption reached new heights
Much like video games and music, discs began to really take off throughout media.
This meant computers could add compact disc drives (replacing the floppy disk) to play games or use software that was never before possible.
It also gave gamers an advantage with graphics and the ability to use more space on a computer, and games like Sim City 2000, Civilization, Flight Simulator, The Oregon Trail, and many more could stay relevant and even outdo the video game consoles of the era.
It also allowed schools to take advantage of the new technology to provide a wide array of educational software that is still seen to this day.
DVD players also took advantage of the disc format to offer a higher quality, longer lasting way to watch movies and television shows.
VHS was the format up until the DVD player in the later part of the ‘90s and is now on its way out, but was a tremendous upgrade at the time.
The ‘90s was also a very important time for the expansion of cable news media.
FOX News, MSNBC, and many more were launched during this time and they gave millions another outlet to consume media.
There’s this thing called the Internet
What would this list be without mentioning the importance of the Internet during this decade?
The Internet literally changed the entire tech landscape then and for good.
It was anything but perfect, but it had to start somewhere. The entire concept of email, chatrooms, “surfing” and so on was launched at this time, and they have helped shape where we are today.
A few companies that are almost taken for granted today played a key part in all of this, including Amazon, Google, Yahoo, and eBay.
A few were relevant for a while, Altavista, Netscape Navigator, Web crawler, America Online, Pets.com, and so many more.
But the dawn of the Internet in the mid to late ‘90s was the ultimate “tech gadget” that we use each and every day. It has changed the way we live and will likely do so forever.
If you don’t know the sound of a dial-up modem, look it up. This is the true sound of change and can be widely felt to this day.