It's hard to believe that Y2K was 20 years ago. I might just be getting old (which is true), but what's even more astonishing is how much of the technology we depend on every day wasn't even around yet when the calendar closed out on 1999. 

In no particular order, here are 20 things we use every day that weren't around on January 1, 2000:

1. iPhone

There are, of course, other smartphones. But without the iPhone we'd all still likely be walking around with flip phones or Blackberries. The iPhone changed everything about mobile phones which, at the time, were mostly used for actually making phone calls. It's hard to believe it's only been around since 2007.

2. Wikipedia

Sure, you could look stuff up online before Y2K, but the place most people end up today when looking for information about everything from essential to arcane didn't come online until 2001. Before that, we actually used volumes of books to look up research for, well, anything.

3. Alexa

Alexa isn't the only digital voice assistant, but she was the first mass-market version for consumers. Today, whether it's Amazon's version, or Siri, or Google Assistant, more and more of us have come to depend on them for everything from setting reminders, checking the weather, and shopping online.

4. Nest

The beauty of the Nest was that it took something boring and complicated and made it simple. Most people barely cared about their thermostat until Nest proved you could build one that not only learned people's patterns but also saved energy. It also happened to be the first "smart home" device that was simple enough for people to want in their home. Today, Nest is a part of Google and has spawned an entire industry of connected smart home devices from light bulbs to doorbells to security cameras.

5. Gmail

When Y2K passed with little fanfare, most of us were using either AOL or Hotmail for email. The world's most popular email service wouldn't launch until April 2004. Even then it remained in beta until five years later, when its most useful feature was the fact that you got an entire gigabyte of storage for free. Now it's used by more than a billion people for personal and business email. 

6. Facebook 

It's debatable whether we wouldn't actually be better without Facebook, but there's no question that it has become deeply integrated into our everyday lives. We use it to connect, share photos, sell our old stuff, and even find jobs. But it wasn't until 2004 that Facebook became a thing. It was two years later before anyone could sign up, not just students. 

7. Unlimited Data

I remember my first cell phone. It was a Nokia 5165 (if my memory is correct). I was in college, and the reason I got it was because it had "free nights and weekends," meaning I could call home from Indiana to Michigan without paying long-distance rates. There was no data. I don't even remember if there were text messages. Today, of course, we use ridiculous amounts of "unlimited" data posting pictures, sharing messages, streaming video, and navigating online. Ironically, I still don't use it for actually making phone calls. 

8. Netflix

Technically there was Netflix before Y2K, but it was a website that you created a queue of DVDs and they would send them to you one or two at a time, depending on your subscription. Streaming video was seven years away, which seems crazy considering we now have five streaming services in our home, only two of which we pay for, and we haven't paid for cable TV for years.

9. Wireless Earbuds

Remember when people would walk around with big Bluetooth earpieces hanging off one of their ears? You probably made fun of those people, which is fair, it looked pretty goofy. They worked fine for talking on the phone, but you couldn't use them for music. Today, however, we still walk around with Bluetooth devices hanging out of our ears, many of them shiny and white and made by Apple. They also happen to play music well-enough that there's really no need for those pesky wired versions anymore.

10. Uber

I'll be the first to admit that Uber has a few problems. I've even written about plenty of them. Still, it's hard to deny that ride-sharing, and the entire gig-economy for that matter,  hasn't completely changed our daily lives. 

11. iPod + Digital Music

While the iPod itself was revolutionary at the time, it was probably iTunes that was the bigger deal since it set in motion a digital music industry that hadn't existed in any meaningful way. And while no one really uses either iPods or iTunes anymore (since Apple killed the latter), their legacy lives on in everything from the iPhone to Spotify and Pandora. 

12. Free One-Day shipping

There wasn't any such thing as free shipping. For that matter, there were very few things you could get with one-day shipping, regardless of the price. In 2002, Amazon introduced free shipping on orders over $99. Then, in 2005, the company introduced Amazon Prime, a $79 annual membership that included two-day shipping for free on all orders. Online shopping has literally never been the same since. 

Published on: Jan 1, 2020
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