In 1996, there were about 100,000 websites on the internet. In 2021, it is estimated that over 1.7 billion websites exist, but this number varies on a daily basis as sites are lost or launched. At the end of 1996, there were 0.9% of people using the web.
During 1996, people connected to the World Wide Web using noisy modems, and a page took minutes to load. Yahoo! Was king of the search engines, and Google was just an idea in Larry Page’s head.
The technology in 1996 looked a lot different than it does today, but huge progress was definitely being made.
Advancements of the Technology in 1996
Used in offices, schools, hospitals, and homes, computers are a crucial tool of modern life, and it is hard to imagine how people lived without them. Below, we are going to look at several important milestones in technology in 1996.
The First Popular Machinima Film
Diary of a Camper was created in 1996 by a gaming clan called the Rangers, and it was the first popular machinima film. Machinima, originally known as machinema, created a cinematic production by using real-time computer graphics. Most often, to generate computer animation, creators utilized video games.
Diary of a Camper was a short demo file that lasted 100 seconds. Many other “Quake movies,” as these movies were called, were inspired by Diary of a Camper.
Introduction of Palm Pilot
When talking about technology in 1996, Palm Computing, founded by Jeff Hawkins, Donna Dubinsky, and Ed Colligan, created the first generation of personal digital assistants.
The original purpose of this company was to create personal information management software and handwriting recognition software for Zoomer devices. However, through their research, they were convinced that they could create hardware as well.
Hawkins carried a block of wood the size of the potential Pilot in his pocket for a week before starting the development of the Pilot.
Voodoo Graphics Chips
As more companies started to create games with complex audio-visual requirements, the demand for high-quality video cards for PCs grew.
In 1996, the Voodoo Graphics chipset was released by 3Dfx, a company founded by three former Silicon Graphics employees. Arcade games started using the Voodoo Graphics chips, including Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Ice Hockey and San Francisco Rush, which brought immediate success for 3Dfx.
3Dfx eventually sold its intellectual property to Nvidia due to the company’s decline.
The Domain imdb.com Came Online
IMDb was founded in 1990 by Col Needham. Needham had a passion for movies, so he hadn’t thought about making money from IMDb. In 1996, the site of IMDb was finally incorporated in the United Kingdom, and the domain imdb.com game online.
Introduction of PNG
Version 1.0 of the PNG specification was released in 1996. PNG, or Portable Network Graphics, was developed by an Internet working group which was led by Thomas Boutell. When W3C, an organization that defines web standards, promoted its use in technology in 1996, its popularity hit a huge boost.
The First Flip Phone
Talking about technology in 1996, Motorola created the StarTAC, the device that started the whole flip phones revolution. Before the iPhone was introduced, most people starting from college-age had probably had some type of flip phone in their lives.
The main difference between this phone and any other phone in its time was its mobility and size. Besides being the first clamshell phone, it was also one of the first phones that had a display screen featured. About 60 million StarTACs phones were sold, and it was among the first mobiles phones that gained widespread consumer adoption.
This phone was introduced at the price of $1000. Its key features included:
- Vibrate alert, as an alternative to a ringtone;
- An optional lithium-ion battery, while most of the phones at this time had a NiMH battery with lower capacity;
- The weight of about 88 grams;
- The ability to receive SMS text messages;
Launch of Hotmail
Speaking about technology in 1996, Sabeer Bhatia and Jack Smith launched Hotmail, originally named “HoTMaiL” as a reference to HTML. In the year that followed, it was acquired by Microsoft for an estimated $400 billion. The same year, Hotmail was relaunched as MSN Hotmail. The limit of free storage was 2 MB, and it originally ran on a mixture of Solaris and FreeBSD operating systems.
Hotmail quickly became the world’s largest webmail service, and by February 1999, it already had 30 million active members.
The First Public Release of Opera
In 1994, Geir Ivarsoy and Jon Stephenson von Tetzchner created the web browser Opera. A year later, they founded Opera Software AS. In 1996, Opera was first publicly released with version 2.10. Opera was called MultiTorg Opera until version 2.0.
Opera grew in popularity over the years since its release. It is one of the oldest web browsers that are still active today. This browser can be used on Linux, macOS, iOS, Android, and Microsoft Windows, and there are mobile versions called Opera Mini and Opera Mobile.
Other Honorable Mentions
When it comes to technology in 1996, there were several other things that happened that are worth mentioning. Some of the main events were:
- Expedia Inc., an online travel agency, was introduced by Microsoft;
- The Internet Archive (an American digital library) was founded by Brewster Kahle;
- Blizzard released the video game Diablo, also known as Diablo I;
- The first Tomb Raider was released for personal computers. It quickly had a commercial and critical success, which led to many comics, feature films, and spin-off games;
- A 200 MHz Pentium chip was released by Intel;
If it wasn’t for the internet, the Earth would not become what it is. Technology touches every aspect of how we live, shop, socialize, and play. The internet is a recent phenomenon for us that reshaped the world they live in for an amazingly short period of time.
If technology and the internet were so completely different a quarter of a century ago, can you imagine what will become of them in the next 25 years?
If you want to know more about how technology progressed throughout the years, make sure you check out our knowledge base section!