HomeTechnologyNewsThis Month in Tech History: January – Review Geek

This Month in Tech History: January – Review Geek

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The history of technology in January sees many alterations in the old ways of doing things. We see the birth of a new monetary system, a new way of broadcasting, a new way of distributing knowledge to the world, and even a new way of watching movies. Read all the details below.

January 3, 2009: Cryptocurrency is born

A bold coin with the Bitcoin logo on a black background
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The move towards decentralized digital currency officially began when pseudonymous developer Satoshi Nakamoto mined the genesis block of the Bitcoin blockchain. Nakamoto stated that he had been working on the Bitcoin code since 2007. On August 18, 2008, he and a university registered the domain “bitcoin.org” and published the Bitcoin white paper titled Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System 12 days later.

Throughout the rest of 2008, as the world reeled from the global financial crisis, interest in a decentralized currency not controlled by governments grew exponentially. The idea of ​​the blockchain, a distributed ledger technology that no central authority controlled or could alter, was a breakthrough in monetary technology.

Nakamoto took advantage of the increased interest and called on governments around the world with the message embedded in the genesis block: “Chancellor on brink of second bailout for banks.” This is a reference to a headline in The times since that day. The chancellor in question was Alistair Darling, Chancellor of the Exchequer of the United Kingdom.

Since its launch, Bitcoin has become the world’s largest cryptocurrency and has become a common asset for investors and everyday people alike. At first bitcoins were worth just a fraction of a cent, but in 2011 a bitcoin was worth a dollar. Now, a bitcoin can be worth tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the exchange rate of the day, which still fluctuates.

As for Nakamoto, he never revealed his true identity and stopped actively developing for Bitcoin in 2010. However, he still owns over a million of the world’s Bitcoins, making him a potential billionaire if he ever decides to convert his coins into fiat currency.

January 9, 2001: iTunes announced

In early 2001, playing music on your computer was still a relatively new idea. When Steve Jobs announced iTunes at MacWorld, he began by stating that there was a revolution underway in digital music, and explained to the audience what would become basic technological terms like “ripping” CDs on your computer, and even explained what an MP3 was.

However, during the announcement, he admitted that Apple was late to the digital media player party and that the company would “jump in” to the current MP3 players on the market. iTunes would launch not only as a CD ripper and track player, but also as a playlist creator and disc burner. That’s pretty basic stuff by today’s standards. But, at the time, having all those tools in one window was revolutionary.

iTunes went on to get a lot more features. In October 2001, the software became the iPod’s management tool, allowing you to store all the music you wanted on a mobile device. In 2003, the iTunes Music store was launched, reinventing the way the world bought music. And when Apple made the software available for Windows that same year, it became one of the most popular apps in software history.

The show was also instrumental in the development of podcasting. In June 2005, iTunes gained support for podcasts, and the fledgling podcast industry took off. The word “podcast” itself is a portmanteau of “iPod” and “broadcast,” since most people listen to shows on their iTunes-managed iPods.

As iTunes gained more and more features over the years, the program became bloated and cumbersome. In 2019, Apple officially split iTunes into three programs: Music, Podcasts, and TV. However, you can still download iTunes for Windows.

January 11, 2001: Podcasting is invented

A broadcast microphone plugged into a laptop.
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There are differing opinions on the internet about who should get credit for inventing podcasting. Some say it was former MTV VJ Adam Curry, while others insist software developer Dave Winer should get sole credit for the technology. But the truth is, no single person developed the technology needed to make podcasting work. However, both Curry and Winer made critical contributions and deserve shared credit.

Even if who made what and who should get the title of “podcasting inventor” will be a perennial debate, one thing is for sure. The first demonstration of podcasting technology as we know it today came when Winer added the RSS sandbox feature and sent out a dignified death song to his Script News blog subscribers.

Alternative technology aficionados slowly embraced podcasting over the next two years. Dubbed an “audio blog” at the time, it gave content creators a new venue to express their ideas. However, it wasn’t until Curry introduced the RSS-to-iPod feature in 2003 that the service became truly and automatically mobile. Pushing episodes directly to an iPod allowed users to grab the content without manually transferring it to a mobile device.

Since then, podcasting has become a mainstream way of consuming media. As of June 2022, there are more than 2.4 million podcasts and 66 million episodes, with more than 383 million listeners worldwide.

January 15, 2001: Wikipedia goes online

The story of one of the world’s most popular websites begins as a side project for another site. The site’s founder, Jimmy Wales, was running another online encyclopedia site, Nupedia, to rival Encyclopedia Britannica in the online knowledge space. His goal was to see that everyone in the world had access to a free encyclopedia. Or, as he put it, “Imagine a world where every person on the planet has free access to the sum of all human knowledge.”

However, Nupedia’s model was drastically different from its successor. All articles were written by experts in their fields, preferably PhDs, and had to go through a rigorous approval process before they could be published on the site. In 2000, the first year of its existence, Nupedia only published 21 articles. Wales turned to developer Larry Sanger to help him create a feeder website that anyone could contribute to augment the content published on Nupedia.

The pair settled on a wiki model and chose the name Wikipedia, a portmanteau of “wiki” and “encyclopedia,” for the effort. Wikipedia.com and Wikipedia.org were registered on January 12 and 13, 2001, respectively. The service launched on January 15 and almost immediately eclipsed Nupedia. The “anyone can edit” model proved to be an unexpected success compared to the exclusive failure of the experts at Nupedia. The sites coexisted for about two years, but in 2003, Nupedia closed and its text was incorporated into Wikipedia.

January 16, 2007: Netflix ushers in the streaming era

A cup of coffee and a television remote in front of a television displaying Netflix options
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People who love Netflix these days may not remember that the company wasn’t always a streaming service. In fact, it started as a competitor to video rental stores like Blockbuster Video in the 1990s. But then it didn’t follow the traditional brick-and-mortar retail model. Instead, you’d go online, order the movies you wanted to rent, and Netflix would mail the DVDs to you. And when he was done, he would simply return them in the prepaid envelope.

The strategy proved to be a disruptive influence on the established video rental industry because Netflix did not charge any fees for late returns like Blockbuster and other companies did. It was a huge success that ultimately contributed to the decline and eventual extinction of the video rental retail industry. Ironically, during the bad times of the bursting of the dot-com bubble, Netflix founders Marc Randolph and Reed Hastings offered to sell the company to Blockbuster for $50 million. The offer was rejected by Blockbuster boss John Antioco, who considered it a joke.

But Netflix wasn’t done changing the nature of home entertainment. In 2007, the Netflix website began offering movies streamed over the Internet, with around 1000 titles at launch. But it soon proved to be more popular than the mail service because it allowed users to watch unlimited movies with the $5.99 subscription plan. In 2010, Reed told investors, “Three years ago, we were a DVD-by-mail company that did some streaming. We are now a streaming company that also offers DVDs by mail.”

Netflix’s success in the streaming space quickly inspired competitors. Hulu, a joint venture between Disney and Comcast, launched in October 2007. And Amazon rebranded its video-on-demand service, Amazon Unobx, as Amazon Prime Video in September 2008 to compete with Netflix. But Netflix’s dominance of the streaming market wouldn’t be seriously challenged until the late 2010s, when various media companies launched multiple streaming services to tap into the market that Netflix proved to be there.

January 22, 1984: Macintosh commercial debut at the Super Bowl

It is rare that a commercial that advertises a product is as well remembered as the product itself. But Apple managed to do it in 1984 when it debuted its famous Super Bowl commercial introducing the Macintosh computer to the general public.

Appropriately titled “1984,” the commercial draws heavily on the themes of George Orwell’s novel. 1984. It depicts a dystopian future with a projected image of Big Brother giving a speech of conformity and equality to a room full of factory workers. A female athlete breaks in and smashes the older brother’s picture with a brass mallet.

The commercial was directed by Ridley Scott, whose film Bounty hunter it was a huge box office success two years earlier. And while the commercial didn’t feature any images of the Macintosh or promote its abilities, it generated a lot of interest in the machine.

When the product launched two days later, it became Apple’s biggest success to date. Macintosh was the first successful all-in-one desktop computer with a graphical user interface. Apple sold the computer in various iterations until 1997. And the company still uses the “Mac” moniker for its lines of computers.

Although the success of the Macintosh cannot be attributed entirely to “1984,” advertising professionals consider the ad to be a milestone. It is also believed to be a turning point for Super Bowl commercials, ushering in the era of highly produced, expensive motion picture commercials.

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