Do you remember when you starved and saved your meagre pocket money to get that cool and sleek MP3 player? Do you remember feeling overwhelming jealousy when you see friends from affluent backgrounds getting these items with a snap of their finger?
These are the gadgets millennials grew up with – the older ones at least.
We go back to a time before high speed fiber internet, music streaming, cloud gaming, and mirrorless cameras. This was a time when phones actually looked different from one another.
Here are 10 gadgets that defined the lives of teenagers of the early 21st century.
1. Creative Zen MP3 Players (2002-2012)
Who can forget the intense rivalry between Apple and Creative back in the day?
Singaporean brand Creative churned out countless updates of its Zen MP3 with the sole purpose of crushing Apple’s market share with its sole iPod.
Well, we all know how that ended.
Against the white and silver slab by Apple, Creative came out with players of varying sizes, colours, and specs to fit any kind of user. They were plugged and playable on any computer operating system, and you were able to transfer music easily even without software, unlike the ubiquitous iPod.
Personally, I owned the Zen Micro, Neeon, and V Plus.
Those simpler times were unforgettable – when I bought CDs from HMV and uploaded the songs onto the player. These were the days before the convenient, but impersonal iTunes and Google Play Music. Portable music actually needed effort, but it made the music so much sweeter.
Why It Was Cool: Everyone had a side they were rooting for, and Creative was the underdog that made Singaporeans swell with pride.
2. Original iPod (2001)
Now we’ve arrived at the other side of the MP3 wars in the early 2000s.
Steve Jobs announced its arrival in 2001 as a response to a market where digital music players were “big and clunky or small and useless”. Jonathan Ive and his team designed and engineered it in one year. The first iPod came with a 5GB hard drive at its core, with the promise of being able to fit 1000 songs in your pocket.
As the device was only supported on the Mac OS in its early years, it only got a boom in popularity in 2004 . That didn’t stop it from going on a warpath to rule the world with its colourful ads and celebrity endorsements.
Today, you can only buy an iPod in Apple’s refurbished store. The death of the iPod was unfortunately due to another Apple product in this list that took the world by storm.
Why It Was Cool: Because Apple. All your favourite celebrities and musicians had one too.
3. iPhone 2G (2007)
Of course, the iPhone.
The very first iPhone, popularly known as the 2G, was announced at Macworld in 2007. It immediately became a sought-after tech commodity worldwide, Singapore included. Apple fans and geeks would be always be finding ways to import it locally. Mind you, this was a time when online shopping was still at the ‘startup’ phase.
Here’s the headline specs of the first iPhone: 320 x 480 pixels 3.5 inches screen, 2 megapixel camera, 412 MHz processor and 4GB of internal memory. All of which was kept running with iOS 1, the very first of Apple’s iPhone operating systems.
A far cry from the monstrosities of today, like the iPhone 6s Plus which is able to crunch through high resolution 4K footage without breaking a sweat, it was still an incredible feat then. The introduction of the iPhone also spawned the evolution of the iPod, favouring the use of a touchscreen instead of the famous scroll wheel.
Why It Was Cool: Because Apple (again). Limited availability in the international market means that you’d be uber cool to have one, and people will also know that you’re loaded.
4. Motorola RAZR V3 (2004)
Let’s rewind back three years, to 2004, before the iPhone ruled the world.
This is the phones all the cool kids had and Motorola hit a home run with.
The Razr V3 was slim and beautifully designed, chiseled from magnesium and aluminium. It was the phone that made the clamshell design chic. At launch it used to cost as much as an iPhone 6s today. In spite of the hefty price tag, it gained widespread popularity, even having some of the limelight at the 77th Academy Awards in an exclusive matte black colour.
Ah, the myriad of colours! There was no shortage of the colour variations available for this phone.
From the understated and classy silver, to the gaudy and loud hot pink, there was something for everyone. There was even a Dolce & Gabbana exclusive in fully blinged out gold priced at a mighty premium.
If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane, there’s some still on sale at Lazada the last time I checked.
Why It Was Cool: One of the first phones to popularize the use of premium materials. It’s sleek razor thin design. It also set precedence for luxury fashion brands to collaborate with phone manufacturers.
5. Original Xbox (2001)
The 2000s wasn’t just about Creative vs Apple.
The console wars had heated up too, with Microsoft taking on Sony head on. Microsoft decided that gaming on desktop computers using Windows wasn’t enough, and thus, the Xbox came into the forefront.
It was first announced in the Game Developers Conference in March 2000 and immediately wowed audiences, but didn’t go on sale until November 2001.
A true rival to the Playstation was born.
Along with the console came an exclusive title, Halo: Combat Evolved, with a title character that has achieved a legendary status since.
Halo brought us the venerable Master Chief as he took us on an adventure to alien planets as a one-man army. For a genre that gamers usually associate with PC gaming, first person shooters have now become mainstream on consoles, all thanks to Halo.
The Xbox was later succeeded by the Xbox 360 in 2005.
Why It Was Cool: Being a Playstation rebel. Halo, need I say more?
6. Nintendo Wii (2006)
While Sony and Microsoft fought on the traditional console battlegrounds, Nintendo had other plans in store, so along came the Wii in 2006.
This was a time when the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 were trading blows for the majority market share.
The Wii took a chance, and provided an approach far from the usual couch gaming environment. It allowed users to physically participate in the games they play through using a movement-sensitive controller.
A year later, WiiFit was introduced to fully take advantage of the Wii hardware. It was still technically a ‘video game’, but the Wii was now accompanied by a Wii Balance Board where gamers were able to participate in yoga, strength training, aerobics, and balance games.
Why It Was Cool: No longer were you stuck on a couch with friends playing your favourite games. A healthy lifestyle WHILE having so much fun? Count me in!
7. Canon EOS 300D (2003)
We now head into the realm of photography, more specifically towards the Canon EOS 300D.
Released in 2003, the Canon 300D pretty much kick-started the entire budget DSLR category. AtUSD$899, it was the first camera under USD$1,000 . This was no mean featm considering that DSLRs were still in their infancy stage. To compare, Canon came out with the professional grade EOS-1D, and that cost nearly USD$6,500!
In those days, when people thought of digital cameras, the first thing that came to mind were the compact non-SLR cameras. DSLRs were mostly regarded as a professional tool, so to own a DSLR, it would’ve meant that you are a professional photographer or just very wealthy.
Why It Was Cool: USD$899 was a sum that most people would not spend on a camera in 2003, but if you took the plunge, chances are you’re the only one.
8. Thumbdrives (2000)
Saving the second homegrown hero for last, we have the humble USB flash drive.
It was first invented by Trek 2000 International CEO Henn Tan in the year, you’ve guessed it, 2000. Launched at the CeBIT international trade fair that year, it received an overwhelming response.
Essentially, it brought final death onto the floppy disk almost immediately. A typical song file these days is around 8 megabytes, but that was how much storage the first thumbdrive offered. Compared to 3 1/2 inch floppy disks which could only hold 1.44 megabytes, the thumbdrives were a huge step forward.
I still remember the time when I was using 3 1/2 inch floppy disks and CDs to bring my data around, especially in primary school. That all changed after I got my first thumbdrive – the convenience it brought to me was astounding.
Why It Was Cool: Thumbdrives may be commonplace now, but back then, showing off this tiny storage device was guaranteed to wow most people.
Did you owned any of these? Or were there others we missed out? Feel free to let us know.