The 1990s was the decade in which the world got a whole lot smaller thanks to a slew of technological innovations that changed the way people interacted with each other on an international scale. Inventions in the 1990s would include
some of the most important
communications advances to ever find their way into human hands, as well as revolutionary digital devices that would change the way we approached music and movies forever.
One of the first real revelations found in the science and technology of the 1990s was the emergence of the internet, the world wide web and email as the glue that
would bind the global village together. Suddenly, information became democratized, and anyone with access to a personal computer and a modem could post news and personal opinions on a bulletin board that was free to be read by millions of others.
Email let families and friends stay in touch electronically across enormous distances, and encouraged new connections as people made new ‘pen’ pals from far away countries and different cultures. The internet also invented a new way to work – no longer would individuals be imprisoned in cubicles, slaving the day away. Instead, they could ‘log in’ to the office from home and explore a different lifestyle that would have been inconceivable even ten years beforehand.
On a more personal level, the ubiquity of cellular telephones made it that much simpler to keep tabs on our more intimate circle of friends. Once the bulky, exclusive accessory of drug dealers and Wall Street traders, cell phones shrank down to a pocked-sized marvel that enabled phone calls to be made from almost every possible location. By the end of the decade, it was the norm for parents to equip their children with their own phone to help them keep track of their offspring throughout the day. Cell phones were also vilified for stealing away the attention of drivers and causing a huge number of accidents, a popular topic for car pool complainers and standup comedians alike.
Two more inventions in the 1990s would capture headlines and consumer dollars. MP3s, which were digitally-compressed music files, allowed anyone to share their entire music collection across the internet quickly and with CD-quality sound. This would ignite huge controversy as record labels fought for the right to control their intellectual property and music lovers defended their choice to do whatever they wanted with the songs and albums they had purchased. The second important digital development of the decade in terms of entertainment media was the DVD. Also known as a ‘digital versatile disc’, this popular storage format was the size of a regular CD but could cram more than ten times as much information onboard, making it viable for the distribution of crystal-clear digitally-encoded movies that would never wear out no matter how many times they were played. DVD players quickly outpaced VHS sales, and by the turn of the new millennium this new method of preserving television and film was pounding the final nails into the video tape coffin.
The science and technology of the 1990s would pave the way for the lifestyle that most people take for granted today. Whereas few modern teenagers could conceive of a world without MP3s, cell phones and emails, those who grew up in the 1990s not only experienced the first stumbling steps towards these products but also saw how they came to change the very fabric of our culture, keystones of modern life that were born from the imaginations of the 90s generation.