Do you remember the time with digital innovations when we walked around with our Walkmans and CD players, watched movies through a VHS player, and had to rewind the tape to the beginning before we were done? Any memories of the sounds from the modem connecting to the internet? Have you owned the absolutely coolest mobile, Nokia 3310, that kept you sitting in front of a small screen playing Snake for hours? Then, finally, 1996 came with the MP3 player, DVD player, and mobile phones with emojis.
This year we turn 25! We are officially half a century old and we are proud of what we have achieved and how we have developed over the years! With this in mind, we want to talk about major digital events that have happened during the 25 years of our existence. We start our blog series with what happened between the years 1996 and 2000. What were the major digital innovations we experienced during those years?
1996 was a big year for us
One late afternoon in September 1996, Softhouse Consulting was founded in Malmö. Its name at the time was Erebus, a name we changed to Softhouse Consulting four years later. And we made a few other changes as well: create a new logo that would symbolize that we push boundaries and that they are actually adaptable and that we stay at the forefront of technology through its flexible shape. The founders of our company are three developers, Tord Olsson, Staffan Persson, and Michael Reinholdsson and they are still active in the company after 25 years and work regularly on various projects around the company. Right from the start, our focus was on digital innovations and offering expertise in system development, programming, project management, and smart methodology for efficient teams, something we have not stopped working on to this day. The timeline of Softhouse development is clear, but, what was happening in the world at the same time?
The same year that Softhouse was founded, the web’s “face outwards” was launched, the language for designing web pages; Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). The purpose of CSS is to be able to separately design a web-based on the content contained in an HTML document. At that time, CSS was a format that not all browsers could handle, so in other words, it was not entirely easy to design an attractive website in the 90s.
The programming languages we still use today
At the same time when CSS was launched, “I Seek You” (ICQ) came and we were able to send messages, images, and files to each other. Many of us sat up at night and chatted with each other, as long as the modem allowed. Now you could also save your images in “Portable Network Graphics”, known as the PNG format, which made it easier to send images to each other.
A few years later, MySQL was launched – an “Open source relational database management system”, a system widely used even today. At the same time came a new programming language, XML, that is similar to HTML but slightly different. The language allows tags to define themselves and describe the content of a page instead of just showing it as HTML does. With the help of XML, we could now develop other programming languages such as RSS, MathML, and tools such as XSLT.
From modem to broadband
In 1996 emerged the opportunity to switch from modem to broadband. But let us briefly remember the modem that made that “lovely” ringing sound to get out on the internet. It was impossible to surf for several hours straight if anyone in the family was to be able to use the telephone. Those of you who had the internet at home at the time probably remember that the internet connection was cut off as soon as someone picked up the phone.
That year, the top Christmas present in Sweden became an internet connection and we started using the internet more and more. Both when it comes to sending emails and surfing but also playing different games. Hardware development with sound and graphics cards took off and now we were able to create more advanced games with 3D graphics. In connection with this, games such as Wolfenstein 3D, StarCraft, and Counter-Strike were launched. We could play against several people, (even from other countries) and the term “esports” began to be used in South Korea and eventually spread to the rest of the world.
During these five years, “Electronic mail”, in other words, email, took off and we started sending more emails through the computer than we sent letters by post. Maybe it was thanks to the different email servers that we got access to during this period that made it easier for us to send emails. One of these was “Hotmail” by Microsoft which meant that we were able to send and receive email wherever we were, as long as there was access to an internet connection.
At the beginning of the millennium, Hotmail had over 100 million users and had become the most popular server to use when emailing. In other words, we started using the computer and the internet more than ever. Now, we could also start paying via PayPal, an online payment service where we could easily receive and transfer money.
Another big event that happened this year was that a search engine called Google was created in a garage in California by Larry Page and Sergey Brin. Google, which today is the world’s largest search engine on the internet. The same year, Apple launched the iMac, a popular “all in one” computer where only one screen is needed in addition to the keyboard and mouse, a popular computer that continues to be manufactured to this day after some model upgrades.
This year, we also got the possibility of not having to walk around with our Walkmans and portable CD players, and instead, we started using a MPEG-1, the so-called MP3 player. Here we could save audio files on a small device that could fit in our pocket and take it with us wherever we went. MP3 was the fastest growing music format ever and as a result, CD sales dropped drastically in Sweden.
Now you can surf the internet with the new Nokia 7110
While playing Backstreet Boys on our headphones, sales of mobile phones also picked up the speed. In 1999 came the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) which allowed us to surf through our mobile phones. However, it went slowly and the screens were small and usually in black and white. The first WAP phone was a Nokia 7110 and had 6240 pixels, which may not say much, but if we compare it with today’s mobiles which are around 727000 pixels, it’s a bit of a difference. In connection with WAP came the mobile technology GSM, in other words, 2G which today has been upgraded to 4G and is over 100 times as fast. You can probably remember how slow it was to surf on a mobile phone in the late ‘90s, unlike now when 5G will soon be on the market.
It was not just the internet on mobile phones that took off. Another thing we often use today on our phones is smileys, also called emojis. Emojis have been used in Japan since 1928, but in the late ‘90s, the world’s first digital emoji came on the mobile phone by the Japanese company, SoftBank, which became an immediate success and has been developed to this day.
From VHS to DVD player
The VHS cassette was beaten as a film medium when the DVD was launched in Japan in the late ‘90s and its sales increased globally. The movie “Twister” was the first movie turned into a DVD and if you wanted to rent a DVD movie, you now had the opportunity to do it. In 1997, a movie-providing platform called Netflix was launched and it turned out to be one of the most popular streaming services we have today. In the beginning, Netflix worked as a DVD rental through email. If you wanted to exchange and share movie information after 1996, you could use “Internet movie database”, Imdb.com. IMDb is the oldest and the largest online film database where people rate films according to taste.
During the late ‘90s, lots of technical innovations happened, many of which we are very grateful for today. We have mentioned just a few major ones that came into existence between 1996 and 2000. Want to know what happened between 2001 and 2005? Look out for the next article to be published in April.