1995: The year the future began
The year “1995 was a watershed moment in consumer technology,” the CEO of Intel Corporation, Brian M. Krzanich, declared the other day in the keynote speech to the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
And he was quite right.
But never has the watershed character of 1995 in technology been displayed in such a glitzy and entertaining fashion as it was at the outset of Krzanich’s remarks Tuesday at the ballroom of the Venetian Hotel.
Krzanich took to the ballroom stage and predicted that 2015 will mark “the beginning of the next technology-consumer wave” and added:
“The last time we’ve seen a wave of change this big was exactly 20 years ago, today.”
With that, the huge screens behind him came to life to play a flashy video that recalled 1995 as a decisive and pivotal time in computer technology.
Numerals spelling out “1995” appeared on the screen, followed by a splashy sequence of images (such as the Windows 95 logo) that evoked the year. The narrated voice declared:
“The year is 1995. A revolution in consumer computing is about to unfold. Intel launches the Pentium Pro processor, powering a new generation of consumer applications. With the first commercial browsers, consumers discover the power of the World Wide Web. The first search engines appear, making it easy to explore the Web. The era of e-commerce is born. Intel introduces USB, creating an industry standard for connecting devices and sharing files.
“Together, these technologies launched the first wave of consumer computing that enabled richer experiences, unleashed mobility, expanded possibilities, brought us closer together, and enriched our lives. Today, we stand on the threshold of the next revolution, made possible by innovations that will soon deliver amazing experiences that are even more personal, connected, and intelligent. Welcome to 2015.”
One certainly could quibble with some of the video content. The back-patting for Intel was more than a little obvious, for example. The Universal Serial Bus connecting device, or USB, was developed by several computer and electronics companies in the mid-1990s, Intel important among them. The video’s reference to the “first search engines” included the logos of Alta Vista (which was introduced in 1995) and Google (which was not).
Such liberties notwithstanding, the video was an impressive testament to the watershed character of 1995.
The video over, Krzanich resumed his remarks: “1995 was a watershed moment in consumer technology,” he said. “But 2015 will be another important turning point. We’re going from a two-dimension world to a three-dimensional. This additional dimension will change how we experience computing.”
But he got 1995 right. As I discuss in my book about 1995, which recently was released by University of California Press, the year was defined by no fewer than five watershed moments or developments — in new media technology, domestic terrorism, crime and justice, international diplomacy, and political scandal.
I write that “extraordinary developments … took place online in 1995,” noting it was “when the Internet and the World Wide Web moved from the obscure realm of technophiles and academic researchers to become a household word, the year when the Web went from vague and distant curiosity to a phenomenon that would change the way people work, shop, learn, communicate, and interact.”
I further point out:
“Nineteen ninety-five saw the emergence of powerful if conflicting sentiments still associated with the Internet: a cocksure swagger encouraged by novelty; a promise of vast treasure to be found in the digital marketplace; and a spirit of collaboration and community that an online environment could uniquely promote.”
It was very much a watershed year.
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