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From i to Wii: The Decade in Technology

31 Dec

I was recently asked to contribute a short piece to a London-based magazine’s “noughties” roundup. The assignment? Sum up the decade in technologyeverything from new media and music, to gadgets and games. In 300 words. Here’s what I came up with:

In November, Forbes magazine pronounced Apple’s Steve Jobs “CEO of the decade.” The runners up? Microsoft boss Bill Gates and Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin. At a time in which financial giants, manufacturing moguls and media barons are cutting their losses, the geeks have inherited the earth.

This was the decade in which technology went mainstream. Gadgets and gateways—some loaded with “apps” and run in the “cloud”—fill our pockets, furnish our living rooms and power our offices. For most of the decade, it was all about “You.” From iPods and iMacs to MySpace and YouTube, the noughties made technology personal. Blogs, search engines and aggregators turned newspapers and other mass media “old.” On-demand entertainment made movie and television watching into custom experiences. eBay, Amazon and online banking transformed your laptop into a private commercial hub. And file sharing and MP3s rendered music labels and number one hit records unnecessary. In 2006, “You” were even named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”

Then came social media and Web 2.0., and suddenly it was all about “us.” With a world of knowledge at our fingertips, we rediscovered our desire to connect to the world (and not just to our friends via email or instant messenger). Enter Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Google Wave. Even the iPod—that perfect vessel of bespoke gratification—morphed into the iPhone, a humanistically-designed connector and communicator.  Napster and “Just Do It” gave way to Wikipedia and “Yes We Can.”

But this decade’s achievements have also raised the bar for what comes next. In an age where everyday people can point a cursor at an image of the globe and zoom in on their kitchen window, we’ve become hard to impress. We’re shocked and appalled when our GPS doesn’t recognize a new roundabout or when a Blu-Ray disc won’t play on our Nintendo Wii. Google, Apple and Microsoft have proven that anything is possible. These days the only thing surprising about technology is its limits.

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