As I was reflecting back on the tragedy of 9/11, I was struck by how different our world is today from what it was just twenty years ago. Especially from a technology perspective.
In September 2001, nobody had a smartphone, unless you considered the earliest generation of BlackBerry phones to be “smart.” And if you wanted to take a picture back then, you needed to have a dedicated device known as a camera and you had to load the camera with film and send it out to be developed. Now photography, except for the old school purists, is done mostly on smartphones and it’s virtually all digital.
If you wanted to access the internet — known then as the World Wide Web — in the days before broadband was widely available, you had to connect via what was known as “dial-up,” which used a telephone landline to connect to the internet. This meant that you could only use either the phone line or the internet at the same time. Prehistoric, right?
Social media didn’t really exist back then. In 2001 Microsoft released MSN Messenger and Friendster was in its infancy. No Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, SnapChat, or Tik Tok. No YouTube. Not even WordPress, which started up in May 2003. Texting wasn’t even a word in 2001. And if you said the word “emoji,” people would think you were speaking a foreign language.
In 2001, you could subscribe to Netflix and have DVDs of movies delivered to your home. You remember DVDs right? They superseded video cassette tapes that you would get at your local video store. Remember? Netflix’s streaming service was introduced six years after 9/11. And that flat screen, high def TV you probably watch Netflix on were just introduced in the late 1990s and had barely scratched the surface of television sales.
Google was a relative newcomer to the search engine field. The most popular search engines at the time were Yahoo, AltaVista, Lycos, and Excite. I even remember using Ask Jeeves!
In 2001, biometrics like facial recognition were in their infancy. Now every smartphone uses facial recognition to unlock it. Alexa and Siri were girl’s names. “The cloud” was a weather term.
Tracking someone by satellite via street cameras or GPS on their phone still seemed like science fiction. If you needed to figure out a route to get from point A to point B, you needed a physical map. The Garmin Street Pilot was one of the first standalone GPS devices, and that was introduced in the late 90s. It wasn’t until 2005 that Google Maps was introduced as a desktop utility and as a smartphone app in 2008.
Security at airports was mostly privately run, and may have included walking through a metal detector. Passengers could take baseball bats and blades up to 4 inches long on the plane. Family members could go through security to the gate to say goodbye. Identification wasn’t always required and nobody took off their shoes. Passengers typically needed to arrive only 30 minutes before their scheduled flight time.
These are just a few of the changes that occurred to me off the top of my head. How about you? How different is your life today due to technology than it was just twenty short years ago?