Remembering the tech that left an indelible mark through the ages


A great game for escaping reality and building your own fantasy world, SimCity has come a long way since 1989. — AP

A great game for escaping reality and building your own fantasy world, SimCity has come a long way since 1989. — AP

They say that new tech comes and goes but here are the ones that have stayed in our lives and minds for a decade or three.

Technology is ever evolving, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with the changes. There are many instances when a device turns obsolete just as quickly as it became famous, never to be remembered or spoken of ever again.

However, there are also some that stand the test of time – be it a product, brand or just the memory of using a gadget “back in the day” – and are celebrated even decades after they were first launched.

Here are a few that turn the big 2-0 or 3-0 this year.

Thumbdrives

There is more than one name for this device – flash drive, ­thumbdrive, pendrive, memory stick. Whatever you call it, the ­purpose remains the same – to be used as portable data storage.

Identifying which company ­created the USB flashdrive is rather difficult as several companies have laid claim to the patent, and ­specifically in 1999. Tech company M-Systems and IBM, as well as a Singaporean and Chinese company have claimed to be the first to have introduced the device 20 years ago.

Can you believe that thumbdrives could once only hold 8MB of data? — Pendrive
Can you believe that thumbdrives could once only hold 8MB of data? — Pendrive

Even Malaysian Phua Khein-Seng, the CEO of Phison Electronics Corp based in Taiwan, is credited with introducing the pendrive.

Though we can’t tell which is the first company to give us this ­technology, what we know for sure is that the storage capacity has definitely increased from the initial 8MB to 2TB in just two decades.

BlackBerry

The BlackBerry smartphone made waves in the 2000s, but did you know that the Canadian ­company, Research In Motion (now known as BlackBerry Ltd), started out by selling two-way pagers in 1996?

It then released the BlackBerry 850 in 1999 which was able to ­connect to the Internet wirelessly and featured email – a super big deal back then for a pager.

What were the 2000s without a Blackberry in your palm? — Reuters

BlackBerry went on to become one of the most popular ­smartphone vendors in the market, ­mostly for the keypads on its ­devices and the BlackBerry Messenger service, and during its peak, it reportedly had 80 million subscribers worldwide.

BlackBerry phones are still in production today, although they are no longer as popular.

Napster

Before there were Spotify, Google Music and iTunes, there was Napster – the go-to place to get songs of any genre or era – though it wasn’t totally legal.

Created by Sean Parker and brothers John and Shawn Fanning in 1999, it was a peer-to-peer file sharing network.

Users only needed to create an account for free to start ­downloading and sharing songs. And Napster reportedly garnered 70 million users at its peak.

If you didnt Napster, did you even listen to music back then? — Napster
If you didn't Napster, did you even listen to music back then? — Napster

In 2001, Napster had to ­shut down its network due to a court injunction but it tried to make a comeback as a subscription ­service.

It didn’t last long – in 2002, a court forced it to liquidate all of its assets and at the bankruptcy ­auction it was picked up by Roxio which later sold it to Best Buy.

Napster then merged with online music store Rhapsody and is now a legal service that’s still alive.

Bluetooth

You’d be hard pressed to find a smartphone that doesn’t support Bluetooth, a short range wireless technology that connects devices.

Bluetooth was introduced to allow users to easily connect their devices without wires. — AP
Bluetooth was introduced to allow users to easily connect their devices without wires. — AP

All appreciation should be ­directed towards the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) – ­initially made up of Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba – which unveiled the Bluetooth 1.0 ­specification in 1999.

The technology was first ­introduced in a hands-free mobile headset a year later.

SimCity

The first game in the SimCity series hit PCs in 1989, thus making it 30 this year. Popular for decades, the legendary SimCity game – later renamed as SimCity Classic – allowed players to escape reality and create their own world.

The player who is the mayor of a city has to create a place that is worth living by providing housing, amenities and services for the ­residents.

Initially, the game was only available on Amiga and Macintosh, but was later ported to the Commodore 64, PC and other ­platforms.

The series spawned other ­successful SimCity titles such as SimCity 2000, SimCity 4, SimCity Societies and more.

Game Boy

The first handheld game ­console from Nintendo made its debut in 1989. The 8-bit game console was created by Nintendo and the team that was behind the popular Game & Watch series.

Portable gaming: the Game Boy from Nintendo brought portable gaming to the masses and also made Tetris one of the most popular games ever
The Game Boy from Nintendo brought portable gaming to the masses and also made Tetris one of the most popular games ever.

It was preloaded with Tetris, one of the most addictive games, and also featured other games such as Super Mario Land, Alleyway and Baseball.

It was discontinued in 2003 but not before several redesigns were released, including the Game Boy Colour, which accumulatively sold over 118 million units ­worldwide.