It's hard to believe that 2010 is already almost halfway over. For some of us, it feels like only yesterday that the calendar flipped to the year 2000, and with it, a brand new millennium. But ten long years have passed since then, as have a number of fads, trends and genres that defined the turn of the century. A moment's reflection on what life is like now vs. then makes clear that the mid-late 1990's truly was an era unto itself.
Also known as "The Year 2000 Problem", Y2K was a buzzword referring to fears that the world's computer systems would crash on, or shortly following New Years Day of the year 2000. Remember how some people predicted that UFOs would visit, the lights would go out and computers would go berserk? Since most computer systems at important institutions, like banks and government offices, abbreviated years with two digits instead of four, there was concern that 2000's arrival would erroneously be recorded as simply "00", or 1900, by the computers. No one knew exactly what would happen, but as it turns out, nothing did happen.
Every decade has its defining musical genre, and for better or for worse, that genre in the late 1990's was what are now known as "boy bands". Boy bands such as 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees worked their way into the hearts of millions of teenage girls with their good looks, syrupy sweet lyrics and heavily choreographed music videos. Unlike the defining genres of the early 1990's (grunge alternative) or the 1980's (hair metal), boy bands generally do not play instruments or, often times, even write their own lyrics or music. Despite these differences, few would argue that boy bands were music's hot ticket at the dawn of the new millennium.
Gen Z-ers probably don't remember MTV and VH1 before they were inundated with tacky reality shows, but Gen Y-ers remember this all too well -- before streaming Internet video, the main way people interacted with new musical releases (other than CDs, which also peaked at this time) was by watching music videos on channels like MTV and VH1. The forthcoming release of a new music video was considered a major event by fans of the band and was hyped up for days or weeks ahead of time by the two music channels. Daily TV shows like MTV's Total Request Live played to the public's love of music videos by letting fans vote on their favorites and by counting down the top ten every weekday.
Ah, the return of baseball. After a series of heated battles between the player's union and team owners produced a strike-shortened season in 1994, America's pastime became an afterthought. Attendance plummeted, TV ratings vanished and it appeared as though baseball was in for a long, uphill battle to regain the common fan's support. However, a series of events toward the turn of the century brought MLB back to life. Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa's year-long chase toward the single-season home run record in 1998 became a nationwide spectacle. The New York Yankees also forged one of the game's most memorable dynasties, capturing three World Series trophies in four years to close out the 1900's.
Here's Mark McGwire chatting with David Letterman in 1998:
Mainstream Internet use in the home and workplace began around 1995. Mass-market, cookie-cutter ISPs like America Online thrived by carving the early web into bite-sized chunks like "Sports" and "Entertainment", such that their growing non-tech savvy audience could easily surf the net. The turn of the century also witnessed a veritable explosion of interest in all things tech. Seemingly every company whose business involved the Internet thrived for that reason alone. It was often joked by financial journalists that simply adding the "e" prefix to a company's name caused that company's stock to go up. Unfortunately, all of this tech-related mania culminated in a gigantic stock market crash in the early 2000's.
Check out this 1999 AOL commercial. Archaic, no? Oh, and look at the fashion.
If digital communication is defined by Facebook and Twitter in 2010, it was defined by chat rooms in the late 90's. While today's chat rooms are mostly filled with viruses and porn-spewing robots, they were just ten years ago filled with lively discussions on virtually any topic conceivable. In fact, countless marriages still in effect today began in online chat rooms that existed to let strangers meet one another. Ah, such an innocent time compared to -- oh, I don't know, Chat Roulette and Craigslist?
Take a gander at this IRC tutorial. Oh, and remember ICQ?
Professional wrestling may never surpass the level of popularity it enjoyed during the mid to late 1990's. Wrestling fans and non-wrestling fans alike followed the "storylines" of the WWF (now WWE) and WCW via highly-rated, prime-time TV shows twice weekly. The runaway success of pro wrestling helped launch the ongoing movie careers of several wrestlers, including Dwayne Johnson ("The Rock") and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin. It was a rare day that one could go out in public without seeing t-shirts, hoodies and baseball caps with wrestling logos and slogans on them.
Few games were as popular in the 1990's as pogs. Played in schoolyards around the country, pogs was a simple game involving milk caps with various logos, cartoon characters, sports logos and band pictures painted on them. Each player contributes some of their pogs to build a stack and then takes turns throwing a "slammer" (a heavier pog) on top of the stack. Whichever pieces land face up after that throw were kept by that player. Like I wrote in my 20 Awesome Toy Fads Flashback list, I'm drawing blanks when it comes to remembering the appeal of these things.
...Which leads to wonder, why did anyone ever want to create their own?
Started in 1996, Pokémon rapidly became the early 2000's big gaming craze after pogs faded away. The game consists of various creatures possessing different strengths and powers. You played by collecting cards for each creature and using them in "battles" against other players. The popularity of the game spawned an anime series, several movies (some released only in Japan) and a massive product line of t-shirts, caps and other merchandise.
The Macarena was thrust onto the airwaves in 1995 and became one of radio's biggest all-time hits. A corresponding video was released, containing an infectious dance for the song which was imitated in schools, offices and other public places for years. Fifteen years later, the Macarena remains the top-selling debut single of all time in the United States.
Before watching this video, I must warn you -- could very possibly get stuck in your head for days.
When I'm not Lunching, I'm a jeweler, and an all around, self-proclaimed web geek. My passions include social media, the interweb, technology, writing, yoga, fitness, photography, jewelry, fashion, … more