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Blast from the past: the 5 best tech trends of the 90s

Written by a NortonLifeLock employee


There’s no generation quite so good at nostalgia as the children of the 90s. The cartoons were better and the Spice Girls were a sacred institution. But was it really all it was cracked up to be?

From popper pants to jelly sandals, the 90s definitely wasn’t a kind time for fashion. But it was an excellent time for tech, with blogs and wireless networks entering the mainstream for the first time. Today, we’re taking a look back at the tech things we loved best.

Caveat: this list is built on nostalgia and opinion. Feel free to disagree with us!

1. Furbies

First released in 1998, Furbies were a massive hit with sales peaking at 40 million in the three year boom that followed. Speaking both ‘Furbish’ (essentially gibberish) and English, Furbies interacted with people and each other. Hours were spent ‘teaching’ them things that their poor brains weren’t built to retain.

Furbies were so popular that retailers ran out and online scoundrels sold them on for hundreds of pounds. A peculiar security scare wasn’t even enough to curtail their popularity. In 1999, the National Security Agency in the US identified Furbies as a threat and banned them from the NSA and the Pentagon.

Furbies made a brief comeback in 2012 and were widely available in 16 different colours, though all 90s kids will agree that they just weren’t the same.

2. The Game Boy

Before the Nintendo DS and the PSP, there was the Game Boy. Released in 1989 (which is technically cheating as that doesn’t quite count as the 90s), the Game Boy was a game changer.

While many gamers will swear blind that the Game Boy was the first handheld console, the origin of handheld gaming actually goes all the way back to 1977 and Mattel’s LED-based handheld console. Mattel were the first company to take games away from the halcyon era of dusty arcades and blocky TVs with a handheld that came equipped with a single game.

The Game Boy is actually the most successful handheld video game console ever—largely due to the excellent range of games. From Mario to Pokémon and Tetris, the Game Boy was brilliant. Many evenings were spent curved over a blurry, greyish-green screen as we blasted pixel aliens and answered the time-honoured question of whether to choose Charmander, Squirtle, or Bulbasaur.

3. Tamagotchis

Another tech toy that made an inevitable comeback in later years was the Tamagotchi. Both an irritant and an endeavour of love, Tamagotchis managed to frustrate and delight us. Something of a cultural touchstone, Tamagotchis were virtual pets who lived in a colourful egg-shaped device.

Our digital pet inspired much grief as they were particularly prone to illness and death. Miss a feed while you were asleep and you’d wake up to find that your darling Tamagotchi had passed away during the long, cold night.

It was okay though, as one push of the reset button meant you got another go at Tamagotchi parenthood.

4. iMac G3

Alongside Furbies and the Game Boy Colour, 1998 was an excellent year for tech as it also saw the introduction of the very first iMac. An all-in-one desktop, the iMac was gumdrop shaped and came in six distinct colours. Even all the way back in 1998, Apple were making all the right moves to be cooler than their rivals.

The iMac introduced the world to the Mac OS and boasted decent specs for its time, with 64 or 124 MB of RAM and a PowerPC processor. The hard disk drive was between 4 and 60GB. Skip forward 17 years, and the standard iMac comes with a 1-3TB HDD. Isn’t technology great?

Fun fact: Steve Jobs wanted to call the iMac the MacMan. Doesn’t sound quite so cool, does it?

5. Nintendo 64

While you might be annoyed with us for mentioning another Nintendo product and ignoring the PlayStation or the Sega Mega Drive, the N64 deserves its place on this list because it was ahead of its competitors.

While Sega and Sony were slumming it with 32-bit consoles, Nintendo had embraced 64-bit with the N64. You won’t find a gamer out there who would argue against the fact that Super Mario revolutionised 3D gaming on the N64.

The N64 is responsible for another first, as it was the first home console to use the analog stick as the main control. So when you hold your Xbox or PS4 controller in your hand, remember that the N64 started it all.

Granted, there was only one analog stick and it wasn’t until the PS2 that two became the norm. In the late 90s Nintendo was king of gaming. No doubt, Nintendo remembers the 90s with a sense of fondness too.

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