Digital Rewind: Small Tech of Yesterday That Spawned Today’s Tech Giants

We’ve all seen the news lately. Each day, there are technological breakthroughs that make the tech that you have in your hand right now obsolete. And it happens so fast that most people can barely keep up with the advancements of our time.

Today’s technology was yesterday’s innovation. While it might not seem like it, we owe much of our modern conveniences to the pioneers of yesterday and all of their grueling efforts that took several years of development in some cases.

Some of the technology we use today many people take for granted. Internet browsers are largely a standard feature of every smartphone, and it’s hard to find a household without a wireless Internet connection in the United States today. 

Here, we’ll revisit some of the most groundbreaking technologies that made our modern communication methods possible.


The Internet as we know it went through many changes along the way. But, it all started as a means to communicate across computers. 

In 1969, the United States Military developed the Advanced Research Project Agency Network, otherwise dubbed ARPANET. This was an exclusive government-run system that allowed for super large computer processors to send messages back and forth. At the time, the processors themselves were the size of small houses, and in fact, the entire system crashed before sending a complete message.

Based on technology used by the military, in 1979, Jim Ellis and Tom Truscott of Duke University used two Unix to Unix proxy servers to send files to a colleague’s computer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The project was successful, and the trio dubbed the system Usenet. 

Usenet gave rise to a communications system used largely by academics, and then it spawned the chat rooms of the early 1980s. Many people agree that the technology used to develop Usenet laid the architecture to build the Internet, which was officially born four years later. 

Today, Usenet is still operational, and you can subscribe to Usenet via a Usenet service provider.

Zero Generation Mobile Tech

Just about everyone has a cell phone nowadays. In fact, for many people, it’s hard to imagine life without one. 

Just as everyone once thought it was complete science fiction, like the flip style communicators used on Star Trek, mobile technology was developed in the early 1970’s. But, the mobile technology from this era wasn’t like mobile apps or anything we know of today. In fact, they were more like super sophisticated two-way radios.

In April of 1973, Motorola was the first company to mass produce these devices and make the first public mobile phone call, and renamed them as mobile phones. At the time, the technology was called Zero Generation, but this was the decade that spawned the mobile technology that everyone uses today.

Then, in 1983, the DynaTAC 8000x was the first mobile phone that was made available in a handheld style. And we’ve all come a long way since then.

Portable Music Players 

Another element of technology that many people take for granted today is the means to play music whenever and wherever you desire. This ability was not the case until the later half of the 20th century.

It wasn’t until 1979 that Sony released its Walkman, and this was considered the first actual personal cassette player. 

During the 1980’s, Walkmans were all the rage. And, they came with a hefty price tag that lasted until the compact disc became the preferred method for recording and listening to music in the early 1990’s. 

After portable CD players hit the market, numerous advances were made in digital storage devices which gave rise to the MP3 player, then ultimately to the iPod. Today, however, nearly everyone can download, share, and listen to music of all genres right from a smartphone. 

Though the technology of yesterday was large, cumbersome, and not quite user-friendly, it was these early ancestors that gave us the devices that we all love today, some of which we still use and many believe they couldn’t live without.

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