2000 Was a Red-Letter Year for High Technology

The World Wide Web went public Aug. 6, 1991. Very few people noticed. The internet was not a big thing.

Fast-forward to 2000. That year, for the first time, more than half of the households in America had internet access Aug. 17, according to Nielsen. In the nine years since its launch, the web had become so widely used that as 1999 came to a close, many thought something called the Millennial Bug, or more commonly Y2K, would shut down computers and bring banks, computer-driven power plants and other vital  businesses to a halt (not to mention your personal computer), according to National Geographic.

The fears came from the way dates were established when computers were in their infancy. From the 1960s through the 1980s, computer engineers used a two-digit code for the year. The “19” was left out. Instead of a date reading 1970, it read 70. Engineers shortened the date because data storage in computers was costly and took up a lot of space.

Leading up to 2000, businesses and governments worked on fixes that they hoped would avert a disastrous shutdown of the internet as the new year arrived and computers interpreted 2000 as 1900.

But when the ball fell in Times Square, no bug infected our computers.

So technological advances (and threats) filled the next 12 months. Some of these noteworthy tech events include:

  • A glitch in a computer in the Washington, D.C., air traffic control caused a shutdown of air traffic across the U.S. East Coast on Jan. 6.
  • The first massive computer virus, delivered via email, started spreading throughout the World Wide Web on May 4, 2000. The ILOVEYOU virus caused more than $10 billion in damage because of the procedures required to clean a computer after it was infected, according to Computer Hope.
  • Google launched Google AdWords in October 2000 with 350 customers; in 2018 Barn Raisers estimated 1.2 million firms advertised on Google AdWords.
  • EA released “The Sims” on Feb. 4, 2000, the best-selling PC game in history; as of May 2018, there were an estimated 80 million players, according to Video Game Stats.
  • M-Systems announced the USB flash drive in September 2000 and were first sold to the public in December 2000 by IBM with a capability of 8 MB, Computer Hope reported.

Other 2000 milestones reported by Computer Hope are:

  • The domain com came online Jan. 21, 2000.
  • Verizon was formed April 4, 2000.
  • The domain com came online July 31, 2000.
  • AT&T announced in October 2000 it will restructure over the next two years into a family of separate publicly held companies: AT&T Wireless, AT&T Broadband and AT&T.
  • Both Intel and AMD pass the 1 GHz CPU barrier in 2000, something many people in the computer industry thought would never happen.

Take another 20-year leap on the calendar and the technological breakthroughs just keep coming, according to CNBC. Tech advancements expected for 2020 include:

  • Smart dust, which is a collection of sensors that can gather data from an environment and wirelessly transmit it back to the cloud, all packaged within particles the size of a grain of sand. These particles can sense anything from light to vibration to humidity.
  • 4D printing, an advance on 3D-printing that enables a product to be printed in 3D and then be delivered flat in an envelope. Once exposed to light, the product rearranges itself into the actual item.
  • 3D bioprinting will allow scientists to artificially replicate human organs for such procedures as transplants. In addition, advancements in stem cell research have already made it possible for scientists to increasingly grow tissue in a laboratory. That might cut down the 8,000 deaths each year of patients awaiting an organ transplant.
  • Quantum computing: The flexibility this new data storage option allows much more information to be stored in a quantum bit – called a “qubit” – than in a traditional bit. This will make computing much more efficient and less energy intensive. Google recently claimed it had achieved quantum supremacy, designing a machine that needs only 200 seconds to solve a problem that would take the world’s fastest supercomputer 10,000 years to figure out.

If that’s the case, the future is now.

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