CNET This story is part of CNET at 25, celebrating a quarter century of industry tech and our role in telling you its story. Twenty-five years ago next month, just as the original dot-com boom was starting to gather steam, CNET was born. That first boom went bust five years later, but the tech industry, while certainly not unscathed, adapted and charged ahead. More of the planet’s population went online, small startups like Facebook and Google went on to become industry giants, and gadgets such as phones and laptops got cheaper, smaller, faster and ubiquitous.
Now playing: Watch this: Celebrating 25 years of CNET 3:58 Through it all, CNET was there to tell the stories behind this remarkable industry. Join us as we relive some of the biggest technology stories, products, companies and people of the last quarter century. (As 2020 isn’t yet half-old, I don’t have an entry for it yet. But I suspect you know what’s been happening.)
Now playing: Watch this: Start me up: Watch CNET’s early coverage of Windows 95,… 4:25 1995
CNET’s debut wasn’t the only thing that made 1995 a big year for the internet. Netscape Communications was the first browser company to launch an IPO, Yahoo was incorporated, Amazon opened its online bookstore and eBay and Craigslist went online. Among the tech giants, Sony launched the PlayStation outside Japan and Microsoft debuted both its Internet Explorer browser and Windows 95.
Now playing: Watch this: A look back at the launch of CNET.com 1:22 A quote about the year: “The Internet is the printing press of the technology era.” — Jim Barksdale, then-CEO of Netscape
Top films of the year (the three highest-grossing worldwide, according to IMDB): Die Hard With a Vengeance, Toy Story, Apollo 13
The tiny, trendy Motorola StarTac.
Mobile pioneer Motorola revolutionized handset design with its StarTac “clamshell” phone. The first “it” phone, the StarTac was smaller and lighter — just 3.1 ounces — than any previous mobile, it had a vibrate mode and was dead simple to use. The price? $1,000. The year also brought version 1.0 of Sun Microsystems’ Java language, which could run on a variety of computing devices without customization; the first DVD player in Japan; and the birth of Dolly the sheep, the first mammal to be cloned.
A quote about the year: “Motorola’s StarTac ST7867W is small, light, and loaded with features. Operating this phone is quite simple, even if you don’t read the manual.” — CNET’s Motorola StarTac review
Top films of the year: Independence Day, Twister, Mission: Impossible
Gary Kasparov during one of his less successful moments of the chess battle between him and Deep Blue.
Stan Honda/AFP via Getty Images After a long exile, Steve Jobs returned to Apple as CEO as the company verged on bankruptcy. IBM’s chess-playing Deep Blue defeated world champion Gary Kasparov, the first version of Wi-Fi was introduced and long before the spread of smartphones, PDAs like the PalmPilot took your data and calendars digital. And for those who just wanted to have fun, you could play with a Tamagotchi virtual pet or try your hand at the first version of Grand Theft Auto.
A quote about the year: “I lost my fighting spirit.” — Kasparov as quoted in The New York Times
Top films of the year: Titanic, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Men in Black
Now playing: Watch this: Apple 40th anniversary: Looking back, Apple launches… 1:02 1998
Brett Pearce/CNET One of the first products designed by Apple’s Jony Ive, the eye-catching iMac revolutionized computer design with its translucent case in a range of colors like tangerine, with a USB port (the first Mac to have one) and with no floppy drive (the “i” stood for internet). Google launched its search feature, Furbys caused a holiday frenzy and Meg Whitman began her decade in the top role at eBay. In Washington DC, Microsoft fought the Justice Department in an antitrust trial and Congress passed the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which extended the reach of copyright law online while limiting the liability of ISPs for copyright infringement by their users.
A quote about the year: “The internet-age computer for the rest of us.” — Apple CEO Steve Jobs announcing the new iMac
Top films of the year: Armageddon, Saving Private Ryan, Godzilla
A Napster screenshot from 2001.
Wikimedia Commons As the millennium neared, the tech industry and governments around the world spent hundreds of billions of dollars to ready computers for the year 2000 date change and the potential chaos that might be caused by code that relied on only two digits to denote years. Thanks to that investment, the Y2K disaster failed to ensue when the calendar flipped, save for a laughably bad TV movie. This year also saw the launch of both the first Bluetooth device and Napster, the free peer-to-peer file-sharing program that mainstreamed digital music piracy on a mass scale.
Now playing: Watch this: CNET 25: A young Jeff Bezos on the future of Amazon 4:08 A quote about the year: “The Y2K problem is the electronic equivalent of the El Niño, and there will be nasty surprises around the globe.” — US Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre
Top films of the year: Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace, The Sixth Sense, Toy Story 2
Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer at the All Things D conference.
Dan Farber/CNET Fed by eye-watering venture capital investments in startups the likes of Pets.com and Kozmo.com (both of which managed to last until 2002), the dot-com bubble collapsed spectacularly like a deflated souffle. It took until March 2015 for the Nasdaq to climb back above 5,000 again. At Microsoft, Bill Gates handed the CEO hat to Steve Ballmer before shifting his focus to his charitable foundation. The millennium also brought us the PlayStation 2, the first USB flash drive and the first camera phone, the Sharp J-SH04.
A quote about the year: “The online retail space is the last place investors want to be today.” — Jupiter Research analyst Ken Cassar as quoted in The New York Times
Top films of the year: Mission: Impossible 2, Gladiator, Cast Away
Unlike (the very few) other digital music players at the time, the first iPod was portable, it had a high capacity and a mechanical scroll wheel.
Apple Apple launched both iTunes and the original iPod and opened the first Apple Store in Tysons, Virginia. All three initiatives rocketed the company out of the computing space and hastened its legendary comeback. Wikipedia went online, AOL and Time Warner completed their merger, the Code Red worm wracked havoc across the internet and Microsoft released Windows XP and the Xbox.
A quote about the year: “A thousand songs in your pocket.” — Jobs announcing the new iPod
Top films of the year: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings, Monsters, Inc
The iRobot Roomba S9+ is a descendant of the original Roomba, one of the first smart appliances.
Brian Bennett/CNET A frisbee-shaped robot vacuum called the Roomba heralded the integration of tech into your home. Handspring launched the first Treo device, HP CEO Carly Fiorina won a hard-fought battle to purchase Compaq and Napster filed for bankruptcy. Months after its IPO, eBay acquired PayPal for $15 billion. PayPal’s largest shareholder before the sale? A guy called Elon Musk.
A quote about the year: “Walter [Hewlett] is a good and decent man. And he has a right to disagree. But we have every right to disagree with him, too.” — Fiorina in a speech at a 2002 Goldman Sachs Technology conference
Top films of the year: The Lord of the Rings: The Twin Towers, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Spider-Man
The BlackBerry 6210 kicked off a new way to work out of the office.
CNET After years of building pagers, RIM introduced its first real smartphone, the BlackBerry 6210. (On the earlier 5810, you had to use a headset to make calls.) With it, the “crackberry” physical keyboard and “BlackBerry thumb” for email addicts were born. On the internet, Skype launched, Apple opened the iTunes Music Store and the debut of Friendster and MySpace brought the age of social networking.
A quote about the year: “Friendster grew too fast. They had this great profile page, but that was it, whereas MySpace kept adding features and expanding the core culture network.” — Forrester Research analyst Charlene Li, speaking to CNET in 2006
Top films of the year: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Finding Nemo, The Matrix Reloaded