A major reason that the generation people refer to as ‘X’ is so special has a lot to do with the fact that they/we are the last generation to grow up in the era before the technology boom of the mid to late 1990’s changed how human beings communicate, forever. It’s the generation that remembers life BEFORE cellular phones, hell we remember life before cordless phones. The generation that remembers life before personal computers, Google, and social media. The generation that remembers what a ‘busy’ phone signal sounds like. Technology has grown up with ‘Generation X’ as either the original contributors and/or primary witnesses. With that being said, there have been many modern inventions to appear within the last 30 years, of those there are at least 10 whose effect has been so profound they have changed our lives for better and/or occasionally worse, forevermore. The inventions, and product releases that have changed the landscape of human interaction and/or efficiency and/or development. Idiots Guide presents our list of the 10 absolute greatest modern inventions/product releases that have forever changed our lives.
#10. The DVD Player / Released: March 26th 1997
It’s hard to imagine/remember now but there was a time when the term ‘high definition’ was non-existent in our lexicon. When you would rent a movie (VHS) from a Blockbuster Video type store, the image quality was fairly terrible unless you were lucky enough to be among the first say 3 people to rent the movie. VHS movies would quickly wear down and their image quality with them (remember the ‘tracking’ button?). I remember the very first time that I watched a DVD movie in my Hollywood, CA apartment, circa 1999. It was the opening scene of a movie called ‘Blade’ with Wesley Snipes. Vampires, a rave, fighting, blood, music…I was completely spellbound. The image quality was otherworldly, the sound amazing. I will always remember that moment. The best part about DVD technology is that there is little to no deterioration of picture quality and no chance of tape being erased by magnets or destroyed by misadventure. My life has been better because of DVD technology. I love movies and being able to watch them in superior quality is orgasmic. Now we have Blu-Ray and HD DVD, and that’s great, but the jump from VHS to DVD is unparalleled in history. The introduction of DVD tech into our lives is the #10 greatest.
#9. ESPN 24 Hour Cable Sports Network / Launched: September 7th 1979
Before ESPN launched in 1979-80 sports fans had no choice but to be fiercely loyal to their local team(s) and players, largely because that is all we had access to. Before the 24 hour cable sports network, it was newspaper box scores, the Saturday afternoon game of the week, and Monday Night Football to be able to watch players and teams from other cities and states in pro sports leagues. In many ways the ‘SportsCenter’ highlight show is the best thing to happen to professional sports in the history of professional sports. It is also the best thing to ever happen to sports fans. Today, there are dozens of sports networks with more on the way, but ESPN is the ‘Grandaddy’ of them all. Let’s not forget that without ESPN and the Internet, the proliferation of ‘Fantasy Sports’ doesn’t happen. The launch of the ESPN 24 hour sports network is #9 on our list of best modern inventions that have changed our lives.
#8. Portable GPS Navigation Systems / Released: 2002 (TomTom Navigator)
Remember how frustrating it used to be to have to stop and ask people for directions? I’ll remind you, it was extremely frustrating. 1/2 the time people would get you more lost, the other 1/2 of the time people had zero idea where they were. In fact, it’s one of my biggest pet peeves, people who have no clue about directions, and/or streets in their own neighborhood(s). Really? So many clueless people walking the streets. You live here and don’t know where Main Street is? I digress. The advent of the ‘TomTom’ and the subsequent flood of GPS technology has changed how we travel forever. Gone are the days of relying on the moron on the corner who doesn’t know shit about shit. Gone are the days of getting lost for 3 hours looking for a gas station attendant with a minimum I.Q. before figuring out where the hell you’re going. Why? Because, GPS baby! So much time saved. So many arguments averted. There’s a lot of power in knowing exactly where the hell you are on this planet. GPS technology is for certain the #8. greatest modern invention that has changed out lives forever.
#7. Uber – Lyft – Online Transportation Network / Launched: May/June 2012
During the mid to late 1980’s and into the early 1990’s there was the serious problem, almost epidemic issue of fatal drunk driving accidents. So many avoidable tragedies. Groups like M.A.D.D. and many others along with public awareness and zero tolerance traffic laws stemmed that dark tide. Today, with the advent of your ‘Uber’ and ‘Lyft’ services there is absolutely zero excuse for intoxicated/impaired driving. There are people to pick you up and drive you wherever for the paper change in your pocket (bank account). There is a great social value to these new driving service companies, and the reduction of drunk driving is one of the unsung benefits. Not to mention the convenience, the creation of jobs, and environmental benefits. These new ride sharing services are an amazing addition to societies the world over, and a solid #7 greatest new tech thing in the world.
#6. I-Tunes – Music File Sharing -Downloads / Launched: January 9, 2001
I-Tunes has improved the way in which we listen and/or consume our music in ways that have been nothing short of amazing. For the low low price of the sacrifice of the traditional album format, but the again, every evolution has it’s side-effects. The digitization of music has made it’s consumption far more efficient. Gone are the days of searching for your CD book for that CD that you forgot that you ‘loaned’ to that friend, who’s name you forgot, and whom you haven’t seen ever since. I love my ‘I-Tunes’ library, and my ‘Spotify’ library, and my…you get it. I-Tunes, et all means that you can take your music, all of your music with you, everywhere you go. Music is such a profound part of so many people’s lives, it’s almost impossible to imagine a life without it. This new technology has been among the greatest because anything that improves our consumption and enjoyment of music has to be great by definition.
#5. Personal Computers – Laptops / Launched: Circa 1981 -1983
What did we do with our time before our first introduction to the personal computer? Especially those of us who spend multiple hours in front of a computer, and do business from a computer. What the hell did we do with our time? Personally, I forget. What I know for sure is that the liberation that is the p.c. has been transformative for the individual and for society at large. Whether or not people utilize the power and creativity that computers give them, the fact of the matter is that it exists. The world is now connected in a way that is unprecedented in the history of human-kind. Have there been negative side-effects? Sure. But the benefits outweigh them, and by many miles. When it comes to expression, information, and productivity, no other modern invention really comes close to the personal computer. Computer tech is still growing in power and influence. The people of this world have, and will continue to benefit.
#4. DVR – Digital Video Recorders / Launched: 1999 (Dish Network )
I don’t know about you, but the DVR has changed the way that I watch television. forever. From the moment I started to use this invention, until this very day, I thank the technology gods for bringing it into my life. The ability to fast-forward, pause, rewind, and record live television is an ‘X-Men’ superhero type of power that brings a smile to my face on a regular basis. It’s one of those simple pleasures that nobody talks about, but everyone knows about. It’s just so very cool, I can’t stand how cool it is. So naturally, being an American I still have a complaint. I need more space for my recorded programs. I’m a t.v. show hoarder. I need more space, please. That notwithstanding, the DVR is the #4 greatest modern invention that changed our lives.
#3. Social Media – FaceBook – MySpace – Twitter / Launched: August 2003 (MySpace)
What can you say about social media, that you don’t say everyday by the fact that you constantly use it? Some call it an addiction, I respectfully disagree. It’s like e-mail on steroids. You check into your community once (several) times a day and see what going on with folks, and also tell folks what’s going on with you. That’s not an addiction, it’s a tool. Social media has allowed for human connections that 25 years ago wasn’t possible, short of a private investigator, and a carrier pigeon. Sure there are people who abuse it and cause drama, but then again we are talking about human beings, it’s kind of what we do. At the end of the day social media has been a wonderful invention and has changed society in ways that are still being discovered. For now, it is definitely safe to say that social media has been an absolute hit. As such, it is our pick for #3 greatest modern invention. Btw? Did you get my friend request?
#2. Cell Phones – Pagers / Launched: March 6th 1983 ( DynaTAC) Cell Phone
I remember being a teenager and feeling like the coolest human being on earth when I got my first pager. The feeling of being a boss is almost as good as being a boss, right? It didn’t dawn on me the inconvenience of having to find a phone once I got the page, I just liked the idea of getting a page from someone. As technology would have it, the pager was quickly overtaken by the ‘Real McCoy’ cellphone before I knew what was going on. Nevertheless, the cellphone that is always on your person, is still among the most conveniently awesome things about modern society. Before cellphones it was about scheduling meetings before hand, and not being able to adjust and/or reschedule on the fly. ‘Meet me under the clock on Main Street’. Then you had to hope that they showed up. Cellphones are amazing for so many reasons, that the unintended negative side-effects will never come close to being relevant. Whether it’s safety and/or efficiency of communication, the cellphone is capital ‘A’ awesome and the #2. greatest modern invention that has changed our lives.
#1. Google – Internet Search Engines / Founded: September 4th 1998
Alright, just hear me out about the ‘Google’ search engine being #1 on our list. Think about this…Because of Google (and other search engines) but mainly ‘Google’ any human being with unfettered access to the world-wide web, has access to the entire knowledge base of information in the history of humanity. Knowledge is power, information is knowledge, and ‘Google’ allows access to all the available information the world has to offer. What else on God’s green earth could be more valuable to humanity (except health)? The short answer is either nothing, or not much. It’s true that I am slightly biased as a person who has an insatiable appetite for information, however, the fact that it’s available so freely is nothing short of the most amazing revelation of the modern era. It’s humanity’s overall knowledge that allows for progression and innovation, and access to information is that backbone to that end. The ‘Google’ search engine is in our opinion the single greatest modern invention that has changed our lives.