In the last ten years, technology has grown by leaps and bounds. Thanks to advances in various industries, including military, physics, and even agriculture, consumers have ended up with some amazing gadgets in their homes. As the year winds down, 3D TVs that don’t even require special glasses are all the rage. This past decade has seen a major push into the world of consumer-level convergence that was once only barely imaginable. The FutureHouse envisioned in the 1950s is finally becoming a reality.
Here’s a brief review of the ten most important retail gadgets from the last ten years. Each of these either enabled something wonderful or simply is that wonderful:
10) X-Box Live, 2001
In 2001, Microsoft released the X-Box amidst a sea of competitive home video game consoles. What they did that changed the gaming landscape, though, was introduce X-Box Live. Suddenly, gamers that normally stayed isolated in their homes could be fully interacting with other players all over the world. No longer did one have to visit a public video game arcade to hear another player cursing the mother of the alien beast that had just destroyed their battalion. Such interactivity was an early stepping stone toward actual physical interaction a few years later.
9) Flip Video HD, 2007
The last few years have followed an old, but awesome, trend. Technology gets better and cheaper at a faster rate. The epitome of that trend is the Flip HD camera. Now, anyone with $100 can buy an easy-to-use High Definition digital camcorder that fits in their pocket and lasts for hours on a single charge. Full-length independent films have been shot using just this camera. Family home videos will never be the same.
8) Nintendo Wii, 2006
Trashed by hard-core gamers and loved by families far and wide, the Nintendo Wii sprang up as the little white box that could. The games were simple, quick, and highly accessible to non-gamers and the coolest innovation to hit gaming since 2001 shocked an industry: wireless motion controlled gaming. Though sales have slowed, the innovative thinking at Nintendo has led to an evolutionary step for home gaming with competitors coming out with motion control that doesn’t even require a hand-held device. Virtual Reality is closer to being in-hand now than it was in the hey-day of the ’80s.
7) ASUS Eee PC, 2007
Late in 2007, we experienced the birth of the consumer netbook. Though many will argue for years over the true prime creator, few will argue about the first gadget to popularize the netbook concept and create that middle ground between smart phone and laptop that no one knew existed. The release and success of the Eee PC created an entire industry. The popularity of the netbook only seemed to last a couple of years, but it cleared the path for new devices that would take over that middle ground with a vengeance, led by number five on this list.
6) RIM BlackBerry, 2002
In 2002, Research In Motion released their first smart phone version of the BlackBerry, a truly converged device. By combining two-way paging technology, personal data asistant technology, and cell phone technology, the BlackBerry became what everyone had hoped for: an office in a box. Suddenly, you were never tied to your desk since you could take it with you. Suddenly, you were always tied to your desk since you could take it with you. A double-edged sword, indeed, that led to a revolution in productivity and irritable thumb syndrome.
5) Apple iPad, 2010
The last year of this decade of technology saw the release of the vaunted iPad from Apple. This tablet device took over the niche filled by the netbook and spawned massive envy and competition. Though it is likely that the iPad will eventually lose its lead in the tablet world, it will forever be the device that sparked the explosion – a claim Apple is getting used to.
4) Google’s Android OS, 2008
One out of every four cell phones in the world runs on an operating system built by an internet search company? Yes, indeed. Google’s Android operating system is the second most popular phone operating system in the world and it is often considered the David to iOS’s Goliath. It may seem an odd comparison, considering how little market-share Apple’s iPhone actually has, but marketing is truth and Apple spins it well. With a push into netbooks, tablets, and just about every wireless device imaginable, Android will likely take over the application-based world of the next decade.
3) Apple iPhone, 2007
Ah, the iPhone. Never has there been a more sought-after device. Customers stood in line for days when the device went on sale, only to be turned away empty handed when inventories ran out. A design powerhouse, the iPhone has set the direction for cell phones, tablets, netbooks, and even TVs and video games. Again, it’s a product that never really had the lead in the market, but it has stood as the gold standard for competitors since its release. Without its innovations, the converged device market wouldn’t be the same.
2) Apple iPod, 2001
Many may say that the iPod is the coolest gadget of the century, and I would agree it’s close. The ability to take digital files with you wasn’t new. The ability to utilize those files without a computer? That was huge. The simple act of squeezing ten of your favorite CDs onto one portable music player, and then shrinking that player down to fit in the change pocket of your jeans was the precipice of tech greatness. Such realization of possibilities launched the tech wave of the new millennium. It told every consumer in the market that they could have their cake and eat it wherever they wanted. No wires, no power cords, no limits. Welcome to the 21st century, folks.
1) USB Flash Drive, 2001
The lowly flash drive: a mere after-thought on your desk. It’s that thing that made floppy disks obsolete. It’s the reason some of you have never even seen an actual floppy disk. It’s the reason everything on this list is possible. The commodotization of small, inexpensive, and robust solid state long-term memory is at the core of every modern miniaturization technology today. No USB flash drive means no MP3 players, smart phones, tablets, game consoles with memory, or pocket-sized video cameras. The next time you plug a flash dive into your car stereo and take your entire 600-CD music collection with you on a road trip, remember to say thanks to a little piece of tech that caused a revolution.