What happens with time? It passes. And it passes quickly.
To quote one of my favourite songs, “And then one day you find ten years have got behind you” (Pink Floyd’s Time from the album The Dark Side Of The Moon).
Oftentimes, it seems like we did something only a a few months back, only to realise, on deeper reflection, that years have gone by. On this page, I’m going to list 10 technologies and services that are way older than you probably think!
Facebook is the youngest in our list, but doesn’t it seem that we’ve been using it for ages? The site was launched on 4th February 2004 making it 13 years old. The new generation will wonder how the 70s and 80s kids ever got to connect with each other.
Facebook was developed by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends (Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes and Eduardo Saverin) while they were at at Harvard. Initially the service was restricted to only the student of Harvard. Soon it was opened to other Ivy League colleges. Facebook’s popularity soared only after it was made available to everyone.
Incidentally, Facebook wasn’t the first social networking web site – there had been several before it. Ease-of-use, smart marketing and nifty features helped it surpass other services in just a few years.
A couple of little known facts about Facebook – the name of the service comes from the book distributed at colleges which carries information and photos of students, and the very first Facebook logo had the face of Al Pacino, the Hollywood actor.
Apple launched the iPod on 23rd October 2001. It wasn’t the first portable music player but it, along with the online iTunes Music Store, certainly changed the industry. It has become the largest selling music player in history surpassing the Sony Walkman by millions of units.
Originally released in two versions with 5 and 10 GB storage, the first iPod was sold on 10th November 2001, a few days after the launch.
A freelance copywriter, Vinnie Chieco, is said to have named the iPod. However, the name was already trademarked for Internet kiosks by Joseph Grasso who later assigned it to Apple Computer, Inc.
Over the years, the popularity of the iPod has decreased because of integration on the smartphone and increasing storage space on those devices. After all, who wants to carry two gadgets when the handy mobile phone can do almost everything nowadays.
Windows XP was made available by Microsoft on October 25, 2001 making the operating system more than 15 years old. The surprising thing is that, as of November 2016, XP has the fourth largest market share of Windows operating systems and is still widely used in several countries of Africa and Asia.
The “XP” in the name stands for “eXPerience” and was chosen because Microsoft wanted to push the idea of a homogeneous user experience across varied devices. The user interface on Windows XP is called Luna.
FYI, Windows 1.0 was introduced by Bill Gates on 10th November 1983.
The world’s favourite search engine started off as the PhD project of Larry Page when he was at Stanford University. Page, who named his project “BackRub”, was assisted by another PhD scholar, Sergey Brin. Both later went on to found Google on 4th September 1998.
By the way, Google wasn’t the first search engine. In fact, there were tens of others, including Yahoo!, which were being used extensively. However, because of its relevant search results and its simple quick-loading web page (in contrast to the portal like look of others), Google soon became extremely popular.
The name Google is a misspell of “googol” which means a very large number (1 followed by 100 zeroes). They booked the .com domain name because googol.com was already in use. And, as you may know, the word “google” has now entered the vocabulary as a verb which means “to search on the internet”.
The largest online marketplace was incorporated as “Cadabra” (from ‘Abracadabra’) on 5th July 1994. Founder Jeff Bezos soon realised that this sounded similar to ‘cadaver’ and changed the name to “Amazon”(after the South American river).
Amazon.com had started as an online bookstore – the first product sold on the site was Douglas Hofstadter’s “Fluid Concepts And Creative Analogies: Computer Models Of The Fundamental Mechanisms Of Thought” for $27.95. The purchase was made by John Wainwright on 3rd April 1995 (before the company was incorporated). Now the site offers everything under the sun.
Though in the very first month, Amazon had received orders from all the 50 states in the United States and 45 different countries, profits came only after 6 years of operation.
The Fraunhofer Society released 13enc, the first MP3 software encoder on 7th July 1994. A year later, they changed the filename extension from .bit to .mp3. The first real-time software MP3 player was WinPlay3 released on 9th September 1995.
FYI, the first song to have been converted to MP3 format was Suzanne Vega’s Tom’s Diner and, because of this, she is regarded as the “Mother of MP3”.
The world’s first text message was sent on 3rd December 1992 by Neil Papworth, a developer and test engineer at Sema Group Telecoms. The message was sent from a computer and not a cell phone. Richard Jarvis, who was a director at Vodafone, received the message on his phone. And, probably because the holiday season was approaching, the message read “Merry Christmas“.
The World Wide Web, fondly known as WWW, was invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in the December of 1990. He developed the world’s first web software – the browser and the server. By the way, the world’s first browser was originally known as WorldWideWeb and the name was later changed to Nexus to differentiate between the software and the network. The world’s first web server was called CERN httpd and is now known as W3C httpd.
Sir Tim announced his invention in the middle of 1991 and the news spread via newsgroups. Interested developers soon joined in, and so began the WWW revolution.
Incidentally, the World Wide Web is a subset of the Internet – the latter encompasses many more technologies such as email, newsgroups etc.
First call from a handheld mobile phone was made by Martin Cooper on 3rd April 1973. This makes it 43 years old. However, the technology became mainstream much later.
Cooper, who is regarded as the “Father of the cell phone”, was the driving force behind the development of Motorola’s DynaTAC 8000X, the world’s first handheld mobile phone. FYI, the recipient of the first cellphone call was Joel S. Engel of Bell Labs.
Though the technology to send messages to other users of the same computer had already been developed and was in routine use, it was only in 1971 that “true” email was invented by Ray Tomlinson. He was the first to send a message from one computer to another.
Tomlinson developed the technology at ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), the place where the Internet was invented. The first email message was sent from from BBN-TENEXB (BBNB) computer and received on BBN-TENEXA (BBNA). As per Tomlinson, the first message is lost in time and was probably “TESTING 1 2 3 4” or the characters of the first row on the keyboard, “QWERTYUIOP”.
However, fearing backlash from his colleagues, he played-down his invention because it wasn’t a part of his directive at the organisation. But it soon attracted a lot of attention and, as they say, the rest is history.
Contrary to popular belief, Ray Tomlinson didn’t invent the “at” (@) sign. It had been in use for centuries. He, however, was the first to use he symbol to separate the username from the machine name, thus, giving birth to the format of the email address which we still use today.
For several years, email was restricted to only a “chosen few” – those in government and academia. It became popular only after the launch of Hotmail (1996) and Yahoo! Mail (1997), the first two free email services. The world’s best email service at the time of writing is probably Gmail which was launched by Google in 2004.
Hope you all enjoyed the list. Do comment and tell us what you think. And please do share the page!
The original hardware and software associated with the birth of the web have been preserved at the CERN museum. The NeXT computers still have some of the original code of the WorldWideWeb, the first web browser developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. [more...]